Searching for a hotel can be an overwhelming process. After sifting through pages and pages of deals and promotions, we’re often left more confused than when we started. We all want to stay at the very best place but depending on how you like to travel – and whom you like to travel with – “best” means different things to different people.
Are you looking for a hotel for family vacations? Solo business trips? College reunions? To find the most ideal lodging, you need to define your priorities. Are you looking for a party atmosphere or is a kid-friendly environment more important to you? Is affordability your main incentive or are you willing to splurge on something luxe?
When booking a hotel, consider these four points first.
Lodging tends to take up the largest chunk of a travel budget. If price is your priority, there are many ways to save. Most hotel websites have a special offers section. If you are a AAA member you can also check to see if there are any exclusive benefits available. AAA members can save on a number of hotels, including Best Western.
Some hotels also have a flexible date option when searching, which will show you all the prices for that month. Prices can fluctuate according to month or day of the week so if you don’t have a strict time restraint, play around with this feature.
Experts recommend booking your hotel at least two to three weeks prior, but generally, rates drop the closer you get to the check-in date. If you’re an opportunist who can handle open-ended plans, sometimes it pays to wait; however, there are some risks involved. When you wait for prices to drop, you don’t always get the cream of the crop. If you’re just looking for a place to lay your head for the night this is a great way to cut costs, but it’s recommended for groups to book in advance. You don’t want your family of five to get stuck in a room with a single bed!
If you’re in town to see an attraction or attend a conference located in a city center, look for hotels on the outskirts of town. Hotels tend to get cheaper the further they are from major areas of activity. Compare prices of hotels near your area of interest with places 15-20 minutes away but remember to factor in the cost of transportation and make sure the overall price is still worth it.
Cash may be king, but travel is usually all about the location. What do you want to see while you’re traveling? You want your hotel to be in relation to those destinations. And if they’re not in walking distance, where’s the nearest public transport?
Always take the hotel’s location description with a grain of salt. Sometimes “can easily get to Empire State Building” means walking to a bus that takes you to a train which takes you to another bus. To be safe, check out potential hotels on a map and familiarize yourself with the area around your intended location. Looking at a map will also show you what other points of interest are nearby, such as dining or shopping. How far do you need to walk to get a late-night bite? This leads to other questions like is the area safe enough to walk at night? What type of neighborhood is it? Some quick background research can provide you with these crucial details.
Even if price and location are the only things that matter to you, you should know what to expect in terms of basic amenities and, more importantly, what to watch out for. The four basic amenities are air- conditioning, parking, breakfast and Wi-Fi. These may seem like features that every hotel should offer in 2018, but they’re not. When booking your hotel, pay attention to what they say about these amenities – especially if they don’t say anything at all.
AC is usually a given in the United States, but not in other countries. As for parking, sometimes hotels will list it as an amenity even when referring to a third-party garage off site that charges extra. Whenever a hotel lists a service like parking or Wi-Fi without a price, don’t automatically assume it’s free. The same goes for breakfast. Often one rate will include breakfast and one won’t, so choose carefully! When in doubt about any of these basic features, contact the hotel just to make sure.
If you’re going to spend most of your time at the hotel, amenities are paramount. Are you looking to lounge by the pool with drink in hand? Consider an all-inclusive resort. Want a room with a view? Check out photos of the rooms posted on the hotel’s site but, be sure to compare them with photos from guest reviewers! Pictures can be deceiving. Looking for some deep R&R? Many resorts have signature spas and offer discount packages for guests. Are you looking to get some work done while on the road? Maybe you need a hotel with room service that delivers to your door, so you can stay focused on the task at hand.
What kind of ambience are you looking for? It’s best to know the personality of a place before you book, even if you won’t be spending most of your time there. Would you be comfortable on a small, intimate property where the staff knows your name? Are you with a group of friends looking to hang out with a younger crowd? Are you bringing kids along for the trip? These are all very different vibes and you should consider what kind of experience you want. You can find this information by looking at guest reviews beforehand or checking the inspector notes if the hotel is AAA Diamond Rated.
Finding a hotel is about picking your priorities and knowing what to look for. If you understand what you want in terms of price, location, amenities and atmosphere, you’re already halfway there. Self-awareness is the difference between picking the “best” hotel, and the best hotel for you.
AAA members save 5% to 15% and earn bonus Best Western RewardsⓇ points when booking AAA rates! Click here to learn more about all AAA hotel deals.