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
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
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
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
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
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?