Factors to consider when choosing a hotel – the most important ones

Having a good hotel is quite important if you want to have a pleasant vacation. Yes, of course, people don’t generally spend a lot of time in their hotel rooms when on a trip, but still, it’s important that you have a place where you can relax after a day of exploring.

But how to find good accommodation?

Well, it’s not exactly easy and there’s a lot of luck involved as well.

But there are some factors to consider when choosing a hotel that will help you raise the odds of having a nice time in your home away from home.

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Factor 1: price

Of course, we all dream of staying in 5* resorts, but if you can’t afford it, it remains just a dream.

So that’s why it’s very important to look for the best value for money that you can afford.

Generally, more stars mean better accommodation, but in our experience, that’s not a rule. Some 4* hotels we’ve stayed at have been worse than 3* ones.

That’s why, although the price is a very important factor to consider when choosing a hotel – because the budget is as it is -, there are some more that can ensure that your stay is pleasant.

Factor 2: location

serviced apartment, or cottage, in Hawaii
This cabon was located really close to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Location is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a hotel. It’s quite nice to have a centrally located place to stay so that you can limit your transfer time.

If all of the places you want to visit are a long drive away from your accommodation, you’ll be losing a lot of time which could otherwise be used for exploring or relaxing.

Plus, if you plan on using public transport to get around, it might not be running at late or early hours of the day, thus more time for exploring lost.

For example, in Venice, it’s better to stay somewhere near San Marco’s Square, as it’s both central and has a public transport stop close by.

Factor 3: what’s around the accommodation?

A hotel on a central street in a city might get quite loud, which, for us at least, is a dealbreaker. A busy street means lots of people and cars going places at all times of the day.

So, when checking out the location of the hotel, check what’s around it as well.

If there are a lot of bars and cafes, know that it might get quite loud, plus there might be problems with parking if you have a car.

It’s always nice to have restaurants a walking distance away for convenient mealtimes. And a shop nearby means that you can buy snacks and drinks without overpaying.

Factor 4: reviews

This is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a hotel – and where you can research the other factors as well.

Make sure to read the reviews that were written recently, though, as those that are like three years old most probably will not be relevant anymore.

Some places where you can read reviews are hotel-booking websites such as booking.com and hotels.com. Lately, I’ve liked checking reviews on Google maps as well.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard bad things about TripAdvisor deleting bad reviews on behalf of the hotel owners, so I’m really taking what I see there with a grain of salt. Tripadvisor is quite good, though, for seeing – and comparing with other booking sites – what amenities the hotels have.

It’s very important to actually read the reviews, not just check how many there are. Sometimes the expectations of people are quite interesting.

Factor 5: amenities

a private beach with umbrellas of a hotel in positano, italy - one of the factors to consider when choosing a hotel
Hotels on a beach sometimes have umbrellas included

Is there anything special you would like from the hotel?

How about a spa and wellness or at least a pool?

Something much more common such as breakfast, WiFi and parking included in the price or a 24/7 reception?

How about room service and daily cleaning or even towels and bed linen included in the price?

Don’t think that these things are always there – it took us ages to find a hotel with Wifi in Sardinia, plus most of them had breakfast for an additional 10 euro per person per day. That for our group would have added 50euro per day to the price, which was actually more than the room itself cost.

Before booking your hotel, make sure to check that everything that you’d like is included or at least available, to avoid unpleasant surprises.

When checking the amenities, make sure to check pictures to see if they’re up to your standards. For example, in many cases when breakfast is included in the price, it’s actually so small that it doesn’t make any sense. Or the “pool” is tiny, and the “wellness” just has one run-down sauna.

Check not just pictures that the hotel has posted, but from people who have stayed there as well. Those can be found on Google maps and different travel blogs.

It’s especially important to read the reviews if you’re staying in self-catered accommodation. That way you get an idea of what is actually in the kitchen to know what to add to your packing list.

Factor 6: check in and check out times

hummingbird drinking from a flower
A hummingbird near our hotel room in Costa Rica. We were lucky that the hotel had a 24h reception, as we arrived like 3h later than planned.

This is one of the factors to consider when choosing a hotel that is often overlooked.

Make sure to know what time you can check in and what time you have to leave, as different hotels have different rules.

If your flight arrives at 10 in the morning, but the check-in for the hotel that you’d like to stay in has a check-in from 2pm to 8pm. And if you arrive after the check-in closes, they might actually cancel your reservation – without a refund in some cases!

The same is true for checking out – if your flight departs late in the afternoon and you need to check out at 9am, what then? Or maybe you have a flight very early (hello, Ryanair!) so make sure you can just drop your keys off somewhere.

If it’s the case for you, make sure to contact the hotel before booking to see if they allow for an early/late check-in or check out to avoid problems. Maybe they at least will hold your bags for free?

Factor 7: cancellation policy and other fine-print details

Speaking of cancelling your reservation without a refund, it’s a good idea to book a hotel that you can cancel without losing your money.

You never know what can happen, especially during these times when the situation in the world is so uncertain.

So check the fine print of the hotel before you make a booking so you don’t lose your money!

Another thing that’s worth checking is if the hotel takes a deposit on your credit card before your stay. I don’t mean the payment for the room itself, but for things like a minibar. It’s not nice to have a huge sum blocked on your card, especially if you have quite a limited budget for your trip.

And for that matter, check if your card is charged before booking the hotel online so that you’re not requested to pay for it on arrival once more.

Factor 8: the room itself

Futon bed in a ryokan
One of the coolest places we ever stayed at was a ryokan in Japan

Make sure to double-check that you’re booking a room that you’d like.

If you need an accessible room, make sure to book one.

If you want a non-smoking room, again, check that you’re booking a non-smoking room – preferably on a non-smoking floor. Or better yet, in a non-smoking hotel.

If you’d like to have a room high up, you can write to the hotel to request one. Booking.com, for example, has a place for special requests where you can write anything. I usually write things like “parking” or “crib or additional bed for a baby” just in case, although you can check these things in other places as well.

Factor 9: parking or how accessible is the hotel

If you’re driving your car (or a rental car for that matter), check that there is a parking spot available.

A “street parking” is usually quite iffy – it might happen that you need to park a 10-minute walk away – like what happened to us in Tenerife. Some hotels have quite expensive private parking, so make sure to double-check if you have to pay additionally.

If you’re not using a car, make sure that you can easily access the hotel from wherever you arrive.

Some hotels offer transfers from the airport. But make sure that you can get a transfer that’s included in the price both from and to the hotel – or at least know in advance that you have to pay for it before. Yes, it actually does happen.

Or, if you rather use public transport, check where the nearest stop is from the hotel. If you have a heavy suitcase, I believe you wouldn’t want to carry it for long. Ehh, and again, this happened to us in San Francisco, haha.

Some advice about choosing a hotel and having a pleasant stay

swans swimming on a lake with mountains in the background in a golden sunrise light
This picture was taken next to an apartment we stayed at in Sarnico, Italy.

Besides the factors that you should always consider when choosing a hotel, let me give you some advice that might make your stay more pleasant.

If you’re not comfortable with eating out all the time, it’s better to stay in a serviced apartment

Serviced apartments are similar to hotels, but, as the name suggests, you get the comfort of an apartment.

Related: self-catered holiday packing list

If you’re afraid of all the costs associated with eating only in restaurants, it’s a good idea to check some apartments that have kitchenettes. This way, you’ll be able to eat when and what you want. And even if you have takeaway, it’s just much nicer to eat from normal plates and have a fridge for leftovers.

Print your booking confirmation

A printed confirmation is definitely one of those things that are essential for every single trip. More than once the hotels didn’t have the proper information in the system.

One of the times we had to argue with the reception to not charge us for the dinner that we had included in our booking. We showed the reception the email and even forwarded it, but it wouldn’t show properly on their computer! So instead of enjoying our stay properly, we had to fight with the reception to not charge us for the dinner for the whole length of our stay. Frustrating!

Check that the room is clean and don’t be afraid to request a new one if it’s not

Well, if not a new room, then at least request it to be cleaned or fixed.

Once when we arrived at our hotel room, it just smelled… weird. Unpleasant weird.

We told the reception and the first thing they tried was to ventilate it for a few hours while we were out. Well, it didn’t help! So we requested a new room.

I know it might feel uncomfortable, but in the end, it would be much better for you to change.

Final thoughts on factors to consider when choosing a hotel

Choosing a hotel is not the easiest part of planning your vacation.

But, in my opinion, these are the main factors to consider when choosing a hotel.

It seems like a lot, but it’s quite important to know that the hotel that you’re going to stay in is actually what you’d enjoy. If you can’t get proper rest, your whole travel experience might suffer.

I really hope your next stay is pleasant!

What’s the main thing for you when you book a hotel?

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  1. I’m glad you talked about hotels and what to consider before booking one! Recently, my cousins and I decided it’d be fun to plan a fishing trip with our families! We’re excited to start planning our trip, so we’ll be sure to read your booking tips first! Thanks for the advice on checking a vacation accommodation’s past reviews when choosing it!

  2. I do agree when you shared that it is best to read the reviews that were written recently about the hotel accommodation. My wife and I are planning to take our kids for a vacation next month as we want to spend quality time with them. I will suggest to her find a reliable hotel accommodation that has good reviews from its recent guests.

  3. Thank you for explaining that reviews are one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a hotel. My daughter is planning a trip with her husband and has been wondering how to narrow down some of her options for hotels. I’ll share this with her, since it seems like reading these could help her to find something they’ll both like.

  4. It’s good to know that you should find out what is around the hotel location as well. My brother was telling me on the phone yesterday afternoon about how he and his wife are planning on going on vacation for their marriage anniversary, and they want to make sure that they can find the right hotel to stay in. I’ll make sure to pass his information along to them as they search for a hotel room.

  5. Thank you for explaining that you should choose a hotel that is in a good location so you can spend more time exploring and relaxing instead of driving a long time for to get to attractions. I’ve been wondering what I should be looking for when I search for a hotel for our family to stay at this July for our family vacation. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind so we can spend time relaxing and exploring together.

  6. Thanks for these tips on choosing a hotel room. My brother is trying to find a good one for him and his partner when they go on vacation. I’ll have to tell him your tip to make sure to look at reviews of where they want to stay.

  7. Thanks for the tip about printing your confirmation with every trip. My husband and I are trying to plan a trip for our anniversary later this year. I’d really like to look for a hotel sometime this week to make planning a bit easier.

  8. My dad has been thinking about going on a nice vacation close to a lake where he can go fishing. He would really like to stay at a nice hotel where mom can stay if she doesn’t want to go fishing with him. Thanks for explaining how she can request a change of room if it isn’t up to her standards, and smells weird.

  9. Nice information!! Thanks for sharing such a great factor to consider choosing a hotel. Keep it up.

  10. Thanks for also talking about how the cleaning could be requested in hotels. I plan to book a room soon because I plan on having a short vacation with my husband soon. I think that a staycation would be ideal considering that the plan to go on a vacation was a bit abrupt.

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