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10 Tips for Choosing a Hotel: Picking the Perfect Hotel

10 Tips for Choosing a Hotel: Picking the Perfect Hotel

Choosing a Hotel: 10 Ways to Book Smarter 

Choosing a hotel in any city is really not that hard and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time and research. Perhaps this is something I’ve become refined at over time, but it’s a pretty cut and dry strategy I use to maximize efficiency. Once my flight is booked, my usual strategy towards booking a place to stay is quite simple. Over time, I can usually accomplish this task in a nice fifteen to twenty minutes. Because seriously, time is valuable!! So perhaps we share the same strategy, but maybe you can also pick up a thing or two from my tips as well.

1. Choosing a Hotel by Location

First, I figure out which sites I want to explore the most, then Google search hotels relative to that location. I make a note of those. For me, it’s always worth spending a bit more money to be close to somewhere central, especially if time is of the essence. For example, we stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney recently, but it was in the heart of The Rocks district. Since we were only in Sydney for just a few nights, it was MORE than worth being in the heart of this beautiful city and waking up to a view of the Opera House every morning. So that’s why I always start with location rather than price. If a hotel can offer a significantly better experience, we don’t mind shelling out a few more bucks.

2. Choosing a Hotel by ‘Ranking’ on TripAdvisor

Once I’ve narrowed down my location, I usually go back to TripAdvisor and sort all the listings for the city based upon ranking and I check-mark prioritize “luxury.” Yes, honestly, we like our fancy hotels…I guess it’s something about being in your thirties, but those twenty-something hostel days are over. I analyze the prices from here and read the reviews for the top 10 ranked places. If I see a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Winner, I first review those. Depending on where I’m staying, I’ll also look at bed and breakfasts. I love these because you can still get a customized experience but for a lot cheaper too. While traveling to places in smaller areas like New Zealand, we often prefer staying with a family. There’s really no better way to interact with the locals. Plus, this stay below was beyond magical…

Tips for Choosing the Best Hotel(Location: The Croft Bed & Breakfast, Te Anau, New Zealand.)

3. Choosing a Hotel by Guidebooks or Magazines

If you have a guidebook on lodgings or hotels, definitely use it. After I’ve read some reviews on top-ranked places or TripAdvisor Winners, I’ll then consult my SLH book that I own because sometimes their recommendations are pretty good. I take those into consideration and see how they review as well on TripAdvisor before choosing a hotel.

4. Choosing a Hotel by Experience Desired

Sometimes your hotel is actually a large part of your travel experience.  Perhaps you’ve always wanted to stay in a castle in Scotland?! That’s my dream…But sometimes, the hotel itself constitutes the majority of the travel experience. Case in point: the first time I went to Bali, we splurged and got a room for a few nights in a beautiful villa called The Komaneka at Bisma. It wasn’t tremendously expensive, but it was a splurge if you look at how cheap other options to stay are in Ubud, Bali. There are times to splurge, especially when there’s an exceptional experience at the hotel.

I guess to be completely honest, I do choose my hotels based upon the pool. If the hotel has an incredible infinity pool or location, then it changes everything for me.

5. Choosing a Hotel by Membership Perks

A couple of years ago, my husband spent several months in South Korea at the Westin Hotel and ended up racking up some serious SPG perks. For a while, we used to try to book SPG hotels simply to use those perks. I guess I’m not a huge fan of this all the time because it monopolizes a lot of your options. But if you travel a lot and desire platinum status, then I guess this makes your choice a lot easier! Membership perks are a definite factor when choosing a hotel.

6. Choosing a Hotel by Price

I save price for last because I firmly believe that in my years of traveling, some of my best experiences were because of the amazing hospitality at places I’ve stayed at (e.g Japanese ryokans), and often there’s a certain refinement of hospitality that unfortunately does cost a little more. Some folks may not care a bit about the quality of hospitality, but it’s something I appreciate.

And of course not every place that costs more will offer you a better experience, and I’ve stayed at bed and breakfasts that were super cheap but beautifully run. BUT, I never let price dictate my options in the beginning and it goes both ways in terms of cost. Why shut yourself off from potential experiences from the get-go?

If I find lodging that I truly feel justifies more money in terms of experience or location provided, then I’ll definitely weigh that into consideration. For example, we stayed one night at the Phulay Bay Ritz-Carlton in Thailand. Let’s just say, it wasn’t cheap. That said, it was worth every.single.penny.

TIP: Booking with early-booking rates a month or more early on the hotel’s website always saves a lot of money.

7. Choosing a Hotel With Raving Reviews (Most Important!)

Ok, so I’ve saved my favorite tip for last. This sounds obvious, but it’s almost always a flawless indicator and a strategy that saves me a ton of precious time in researching. If I see a hotel with an absolute ton of raving reviews, and it’s within my budget and preferred location, I usually just don’t waste much more time and I book it. That little bar graph on the top of every hotel listing on TripAdvisor is what I like.

A hotel that has either a high ranking or a clear majority of (A LOT of) 5 star or Excellent votes is my biggest indicator. Usually, these kinds of places are marked with a series of raving reviews that are all raving because it has the perfect location, hospitality, infinity pool, and everything else that makes it a magical experience. But these places are also very popular because the cost is also really good! So it’s all about finding that sweet spot, that’s how you know you hit the jackpot.

Usually, these places are a gem and I pounce on them and mark them up in my TripAdvisor profile. For example, we just stayed at the Hoi An Ancient House Village Resort & Spa. It’s ranked the #5 place to stay on TripAdvisor, has a single $ sign, but their stats are literally almost all 5 stars with 141 Excellent votes, 29 Very Good, just 6 in the Average category, and 0 in the Poor or Terrible categories. And the reviews are all raving. Generally, once I see these kinds of stats and reviews, and it’s in a location that’s fitting, the search is OVER. However…

8. Always Read the Bad Reviews

I still take some time to read some bad reviews just in case it’s supposedly haunted or someone spotted a bed bug or bloodstains, etc. Ew. See the next point.

Tips for Choosing the Best Hotel(Location: Sydney Harbour Bridge)

9. Check the Bed Bug Registry

Yes, there’s an actual registry/database that catalogs hotels with bedbugs. Pretty cool site. Sanitation is definitely my top priority when choosing a hotel.

10. Beware of Inflated Reviews

And last, I’ve found that TripAdvisor’s reviews can be trusted more in some places than others so it’s always a good idea to keep that in mind when planning your trip. I wrote an article questioning its inflated reviews and how to prevent being a victim as much as possible.

Choosing a hotel, is TripAdvisor Reliable?

Sometimes I already know where I want to stay. But oftentimes, I have to start from scratch and this is pretty much how I book solid stays regularly without wasting too much time on research. So there’s my strategy on choosing a hotel, which pretty much consists of knowing what my priorities are, relying primarily on key TripAdvisor indicators, optimizing my experiences, and keeping an open mind. I guess I’ve learned over the years that staying at a slightly more expensive place really is worth it if you gain a lot more experience out of it, but every new stay depends on your unique travel objectives.

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View Comments (19)
  • The article makes a very good point about choosing a hotel based on what you want to experience. After all, the hotel you stay at will be a big part of your trip. Because of that, you want to make sure that they can meet your needs and provide you with a great experience.

  • I agree with you that location might be a little bit more important of a factor to consider. I wouldn’t mind spending a little extra to ensure I’m close to the attractions and places I’d like to visit. Having a hotel located close to where I’ll be spending my vacation time would likely also do a lot to reduce vacation stress.

  • I agree that It’s important that you find a hotel that is in a good location so that you can more conveniently access those areas of interest. I think that it’s important to set up a budget plan, too, so that you can make the most of your hotel stay wherever you are travelling. I think it also helps to get a comfortable hotel, though, because a fair amount of your vacation time is spent there.

  • Thanks for these terrific tips. You mentioned that certain hotels can offer special experiences. I would love to stay at a hotel that is near the beach, as that could be a really nice themed trip. Will have to look at a few websites for some beach hotels, and choose the one with a great reputation.

  • I agree that paying attention to how a hotel ranks on websites can help you find the one that best suits you. It makes sense that choosing carefully can help you find the place that offers the services you want. I would want to remember that booking a hotel in advance can help you avoid extra fees.

  • I liked when you talked about choosing a hotel that gets a lot of good reviews. It makes sense that customers would want to say good things about a hotel that treat them right. It makes sense that choosing a place that is safe and you trust can make your stay there more comfortable.

  • You advised checking the reviews of the hotel or resort online to see and to go with the place with the most raving reviews. I’ve been thinking about taking my wife on a trip, and wanted to make sure we stayed in a great place. First thing I’ll do is check online reviews of the different resorts.

  • I like your tip on choosing a hotel relative to location. I would imagine that finding somewhere close to the activities you have planned for your vacation would really help relieve any stress you may have. My family and I are going on vacation soon so I’ll have to find somewhere close to where we are visiting to stay at.

    • Thanks! Yea, location is a make or break for me. It’s great when you can do a lot close to your hotel which saves so much time and energy.

  • Finding the right hotel is vital for any vacation. I used to always pick hotels by price only, but now I try to look at reviews and location more. Although it might cost a little more, it is normally worth the extra money.

  • My husband and I are going to Tennesse and are trying to find a nice hotel that not too expensive. I’d never thought to use a guide book to find a hotel. I’ll make sure to check out a guide book before we book a hotel.

  • Listening to the majority of reviews when looking for a hotel to stay at seems like good advice. I’ll usually read what people have to say about hotels, but I usually pay attention to the positive comments when looking for a room. You’re right about how I should pay attention to both sides of how people have felt about their stay and take it with a grain of salt. I should do that to book hotels where I’ll have an enjoyable stay. Thanks for the tips!

    • Thanks Judy, I’m glad you found it helpful! I agree, I tend to pay attention to the positive reviews too but the negatives can really shed some good light!

  • Great post! This is such a great guide on getting the best hotel— I’m definitely going to be using it for booking our family vacation. One of your best points is probably checking the bed bug registry. Since reviews that talk about bed bugs are probably well-hidden in the site, a registry could help ensure that you know what kind of place you are looking into.

  • Choosing a hotel can be overwhelming if you don’t know a place! But I’m with you on the first tip – location, location, location. I’m always willing to spend a little (or sometimes a lot) more for the convenience of being right where I want to be. I figure paying more for the hotel is still less than buying a second plane ticket to go back, so technically I’m saving money? 😉

  • I think boutique hotels are so cool – the decor, the features, the hospitality.. they all seem one-of-a-kind. But sometimes they’re so expensive! Wah! But my boyfriend got into the habit of getting elite statuses in big-chained hotels like SPG and I honestly like the perks of what those statuses bring, so I will probably stick to big-chained hotels foooor now.

    • Me too! I love boutique hotels. But I always seem to find some that are more affordable where I go though they can become quite pricy as well. The perks of suite upgrades and lounge privileges were always enough to keep us at an SPG while we had those perks. Some hotels were definitely better than others though.

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