Many of the most typical travel purchases are pretty simple commodities — albeit commodities with wildly varying prices. Unless you are upgraded somehow, on the whole a flight is a flight. Similarly, unless you are upgraded (or downgraded, as the case may be) for your car rental, a car is a car.
But hotel rooms are a different thing entirely. A wet/small/ugly/smelly/poorly located hotel room, or a room with no Internet, a lousy view and/or a broken TV, can easily ruin a trip. While even a long-haul flight is over soon enough, and even a cramped car is a fairly comfortable form of transport compared to some alternatives, a hotel room is different for one simple reason: you have to live in it.
1. Don’t forget to check the exact hotel location.
I once stayed in a great hotel that seemed to be in an ideal location — except that it was surrounded by extremely busy roads, including an on-ramp and off-ramp to a highway on either side of the hotel. It felt like I was staying in an interstate rest stop. I couldn’t really walk anywhere, and just stepping outside was not just annoying but borderline dangerous.
2. Don’t skip the review sites.
Knowing as much as possible about any given property is your best strategy for getting a hotel and room that you actually enjoy staying in. When checking review sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp over the years, almost inevitably I have switched my preferred hotel after a bit of research, as there is always something you would never know without the help of folks who have already stayed at a property.
These might include noise, lousy food, iffy Internet, dated rooms and more — even the fact that the hotel is pretty much on a highway median.
3. Don’t forget to check if the hotel has an airport shuttle.
I am a big fan of using public transportation when zooming around at your destination, as it puts you among the locals in a simple, straightforward way.
I’m not a huge fan of public transportation to and from the airport, however. Starting and (especially) ending a trip by hauling massive bags through an unfamiliar subway system can be a grueling experience, especially when you are trying to get some rare R&R.
4. Don’t fail to check parking availability and cost.
If you will have your own car, you will want to check both availability and pricing on parking at the hotel. Even if the hotel has parking available, it often comes with a price tag, and can add anywhere from $10 to $35 or more to your daily hotel cost (the last two hotels I stayed at with a rental car cost $31 and $36 per day, respectively).
If a hotel doesn’t have its own parking, the cost can be even higher in some places where you are forced to use private lots, and you have to worry about the car getting dinged or broken into — not to mention the hassle of having to find a spot every day.
5. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of breakfast.
The actual per-night difference between a hotel that offers a solid continental (or even full) breakfast included in the rate compared to one that offers a 23-euro buffet can be significant, to say the least.
You can usually find out this information on the hotel website or by calling the front desk directly. Since most folks prefer to breakfast at their hotel, this is an important question if you are concerned about your budget. Sure, you can always try to find an affordable cafe nearby, but you can’t beat a free hotel breakfast for convenience.