Where you plan to rest your head on your trip is one of the more important decisions to make. It also is completely dependant on the type of trip you will be taking. You obviously won’t want to stay in a budget hotel if you plan on spending copious amounts of time at the spa or swinging golf clubs. Likewise, staying in a 5-star luxury hotel if you plan on backpacking doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. Finding the perfect lodging choice can be downright daunting, but if you tackle it with a few steps, it won’t seem so bad when you’re talking about just how perfect this place was, and your diligence is to thank.
Location is a buzz word in real estate for a reason. The best location is going to be dependant on what type of trip you are planning. Want to go to the Four Seasons spa? Well, you will be forking over some money to stay at their hotel, but you also won’t be having to otherwise schlep yourself back to some Best Western after your day of pampering. For spa getaways, weekend golf retreats, ski adventures, and the like, you may want to just bite the financial bullet and stay where you plan on spending your most time. It will add to the experience and you won’t feel like you’re settling for a sub-par bed. Also take into consideration where you want to spend most of your time on the trip, if the lodging isn’t already the main attraction, like the above listed.
If spending a weekend in Chicago with kids, you have the option of staying in the city, or on the outskirts of town where prices will be cheaper and transportation easier. Say you chose Chicago: plan on just doing destination stops like the Aquarium or the Museum of Science and Industry? If yes, I’d say staying out of town would be fine, and much cheaper. You will have the trade off though of not being able to hop easily from one place in the city to another without paying out the nose for parking and wasting time in traffic. On the flip side, if you are willing to walk everywhere and want that urban weekend, staying downtown affords the luxury of leisure. You can walk anywhere relatively easily and you are never too far from a place to eat, a store to shop in, or an event to bring on the evening. All trade-offs for the price, however. Deciding the purpose of your trip is step number one. After you’ve established that, figure out where you’d like to spend the majority of your time. Next, we’ll look at prices.
Price is a huge concern for obvious reasons. You can spend $500 a night at a posh hotel in Paris (which is half the cost of your plane ticket) or you can tone it down and go for something more conservative, say a 2-star or an Airbnb rental. It all depends on your overall budget and the purpose of your trip. Again though, there are trade-offs. When planning for Italy, I tried to stay in a certain budget, while keeping my options close to public transportation routes. You don’t want to score a $50 a night room and then spend an hour walking to a train to start your day. After all, your time has value, too. Also try and check out the neighborhoods while making a selection. You want some place you ‘ll feel safe in, and you will thank yourself later for not booking that place right next to the major train station that’s busy 24/7.
My last step is always to get online and do some digging. Doing a google maps search for “Hotels” in your given city usually shows prices for a lot of places, so you can see how price distribution is and help decide on a neighborhood. Secondly, make sure you read reviews. Hostelworld, Yelp, Trip Advisor and their competitors are all your friends. The B&B I chose in Rome made Marcus feel a little weirded out at first, but I knew what to expect from the awesome host before we even got there. How? Because he had glowing reviews and always responded to them with genuine thanks on Hostelworld. He cared about his business and it showed. In the age of social media, it’s very easy to see what other people are saying about a given business.
My final bit of advice is probably the one I take to heart the most often. If something doesn’t feel right, move on. Scrolling through hotel room pictures on the web and you get that skeezed out feeling? Close the window and continue your search. Trusting your instincts is major when doing any kind of travel. No point in booking a place anything less that what you are realistically hoping for to only save a few bucks. That’s how your trip ends up on a “My Vacation Nightmare” post on the Lonely Planet forum.
Happy hunting! The perfect getaway is out there. Trust me.