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How to Choose a Hotel

Mary loves to travel and shares her discoveries about the places she found fascinating.

Criteria in Choosing a Hotel

Check the stars. Most of us look at the stars when we choose a hotel. And now some of the top-enders have gone to diamonds to rate their properties. An escalation of exaggeration that only brings hysterics. What about those ones of a kind boutique hotels where one gets the feel of being transported into another era? Or another home? The choices can be overwhelming.

Maldives Resort

Maldives Resort

How Do You Choose a Hotel?

Now that stars are no longer that reliable, choosing a hotel often takes time. At least for me, I have to read the reviews and glean what's manufactured or paid for from the many pages of those top rankers in Trip Advisor, or Orbitz.

In the places popular with tourists, the choices are many. But the places are also taken almost immediately making your heart beat faster as you see on the screen that someone is viewing exactly the same one you are interested in. And how many rooms are still open at those bargain prices? Relax, there are always alternatives.

We had our Christmas holidays in the Western Cape of South Africa and we booked ourselves into 4 hotels: one in the vineyard, another one in the trendy place of the town, another in a private reserve park and for Christmas, one full of history. It made our travel experience much more interesting.

The Ritz, Madrid

The Ritz, Madrid

Key Criteria in Choosing a Hotel

Travel is personal and the choice of hotels is also personal. Remember, though, that your hotel is part of your travel experience or adventure. So, here are some of the key things to consider when choosing a hotel:

  1. Location
  2. Reviews of hotel guests
  3. Recommendations of people you trust
  4. Your must-haves in a hotel
  5. The range of rooms and services
  6. Commitment to green
  7. Throw in health
  8. Interesting history


Like buying a house, go for location. It's often better to stay at the centre of town where restaurants and shops abound. It makes it easy, each day, to get transport or walk to the action and this is especially for shopaholics, drop off purchases or broken shoes in your room. You save time and money as you can just walk or take a short ride to the hotel from wherever you are.

If you are a mature traveller, you can take rest breaks in your room before savaging the next shop, cathedral or bar. Sometimes, even a difference of $50 will be worth spending given some of the wild taxi costs and fees that hit you to go to museums or restaurants.

If you have a car, you would want free parking as most fees in old cities are steep and difficult to find.

Well, of course, where you can have a panoramic view of the mountains if that is your destination. Or, be at the waterfront in the lake or the beach if you are on the ocean. Or, right in the hotel where the conference you are attending happens to be.

Sheraton in Dubrovnik

Sheraton in Dubrovnik

Reviews of Hotel Guests

Read reviews before you book hotels. There are so many sites now offering the latest reviews of hundreds of guests real and pretend. Do a list of the top five. You never know. sometimes rooms go so fast in places that are popular.

Get the home websites of your top 5. Check these out, not just the reviews of others. You can view pictures and read about amenities and facilities. Remember, we view things with varied colored lenses. Some folks like the monster properties with all the business services. Vacationers often avoid these and search for "unique properties".

Going to the home sites of these hotels sometimes lets you book a room directly with the owner and you get lots more information. If they don't have to share their margins with agencies, they may be able to offer you better deals. But, for heavens sake Jose, don't make a hotel decision on a few pesos!

Cheap is sometimes the dumbest bargain you'll ever make. If it is a smaller hotel, when you book through them you are their guests and so they feel greater responsibility towards you. Big chains, on the other hand, when you call them sometimes refer you to their internet deals as these are better.

Be careful with some websites. Some don't even have agreements with hotels they list on their site. In a crowded situation, you may just lose your booking.

Hotels enhance your experience and if you choose to travel during the non-peak season, you can really avail of luxury hotels without paying top prices. Hotels in Europe can be very expensive especially during the peak season so plan your trip on non-peak times and pay less for luxury.

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Maldives Hotel

Maldives Hotel

Hotel Recommendations of People you Trust

People in your circle may have been to your destination. They may know of places that are not listed. Because these places have no stars or any other identity, they don't make the radar screen. Some of the greatest and most successful small places are careful about who they accept and add to "the hotel family". Some even ask for references!

In some holiday spots, a pool is just a delight. In others, a hot water bath in a tub may be just the luxury needed. Or a spa, a cinema, a game room, a play room with nannies on hand. Or a snug bar with a chatty host and a chance to meet other guests. So ask those who had been.

Cape Heritage Hotel in Cape Town

Cape Heritage Hotel in Cape Town

Your Must-haves in a Hotel

Be clear about your "must haves" in a hotel room. An extra bed for your child, perhaps. A broadband internet connection in the room. Hot water, hard mattress, bamboo towels, no carpets, every fabric has to be made of natural fibre, and whatever.

The list can be endless. Many mom and pop and family run hotels build their business by going the extra mile in this area. If you're not happy, they have a problem. As hotel owners know, a grumpy ex-guest has the marketing impact of a durian!

Hotel Amenities

Hotel Amenities

Range of Rooms and Services

It is always pleasant to stay in a hotel that has a spa, an infinity pool with a bar, several restaurants offering different cuisine, a gym, a unisex beauty salon, an al fresco coffee shop, a party room, a play area, a library, a travel agency, transport, broadband connection, a beautiful garden with ample parking and excellent function rooms. Of course, a business room with efficient staff is always a big plus for business travellers.

You have to scrutinize some of these services. Breakfast can cost you $25 in some hotels is this is not included. Internet connection is the other one. Many hotels still charge for this and it is not cheap so choose one with fast complimentary internet connection.

We stayed at the Marriott in Bangkok and for our appointment at Bumrungrad Hospital, a new Mercedes S brought us there and you know what? It was complimentary. We felt really good.

Asara, Stellenbosch

Asara, Stellenbosch

Hotels Commitment to Green

Hotels are now promoting cutting-edge environmental policies and practices to get a slice of the socially conscious guests. One of the most recent step is that of Caravelle hotel in Saigon when it installed a waste water treatment facility that recycles 40% of the property's water. This recycled water is used for flushing toilets and for replenishing the hotel's cooling tower. This system helps the hotel recycle 2,500-3,000 cubic meters of wastewater every month.

Throw in Health

The wellness tourism is overtaking the hotel market so hotels are responding and some are doing it big. To woo this ever expanding market of tourists, the Intercontinental Hotels Group is launching what they'll call EVEN Hotels, focused on wellness and health conscious travelers. What to expect may include rooms designed for work-outs, coat rack that are also pull-up bars and guest relations offering advice and information on fitness and healthy options. How about that?

Hotels with Interesting History

Chateau Laurier, Ottawa

Chateau Laurier, Ottawa

Interesting History

Some hotels have interesting history. One hotel in Coimbra, for example, was where Wellesley stayed and you can stay in the room he used. There is Lord Byron's room in Sintra. Also, the range of railway hotels in Canada like the Chateau Frontenac and the Chateau Laurier. There is in Penang the Eastern and Oriental hotel built by the Sarkies brothers and the Raffles in Singapore. There are many more, of course, such as the Mayfair, the Ritz and the Claridges in London. When you stay in these hotels, you can imagine scenes in history and make yourself go back to those interesting times.

How to Choose the Right Hotel

Hotels Are Experiences

You create your own experience

Hotels are more than just places to sleep. They provide experiences. But you can create your own experience. How you relate to the staff and the other guests determines the quality of memories you take home with you. Think about it.

When travelers chat, it is the shared experiences of hotels and "lovely little restaurants" or "amazing local cafes" that really cut it. The right local hotel can give you all of these and more. Do your homework and have fun with the staff and you'll build a memory to hold and share forever.

© 2010 Mary Norton

Do you have any advice on how to choose a hotel? - Your comments will be appreciated

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2020:

Once traveling is safe and post-pandemic, people will once again be able to plan trips, and the choice of hotels will be a determining factor. Let's pray that day comes soon! Travel broadens our horizons, and is educational as well as fun. You have certainly experienced many sites and cultures in your many travels around the world!

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on August 11, 2020:

Yes, the views, when pleasant, add to our enjoyment of any hotel.

Aziasys on August 10, 2020:

When Im deciding for a hotel to stay in for a vacation. I make sure that it has a good sights. Preferrably overlooking the greens or sea or lake. Somewhere that feels serene. Hotel amenities and toiletries is a must. It so hassle to pack towels for bathing and also packing it wet when leaving. The food they serve is a great factor too. The menu should offer various cuisine to cater different taste buds and must be reasonably priced.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on January 16, 2019:

For me, too. If it's not right downtown, at least, it is very accessible to public transport.

Gregory DeVictor from Pittsburgh, PA on January 15, 2019:

Mary, you have provided a great list of what to look for in a hotel. For me, location, a free Internet connection, and “must-haves” are all important. Yes, location is probably the most significant factor.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 03, 2018:

That's good Peggy. I am sure you do take the time to choose and often, the care we take pays off.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 02, 2018:

Hi Mary,

I could not just choose one item from your polls so I did not vote. Location along with price and amenities all goes hand in hand when selecting a good place to spend the night or even an entire vacation. We have had a few clinkers in our days of travel but fortunately most of our experiences have been good ones.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on May 24, 2018:

Thank you Liz. Yes, I always look at hotels closest to the best location in the city or, at least, easy to reach by subway or metro.

Liz Westwood from UK on May 24, 2018:

This is a very useful article. I would definitely put location top of my list.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on November 26, 2017:

So right. Nowadays, safety is key. Convenience is another. We were just in Split and the hotel we stayed in was in the Old Town (no parking) but they picked us up and brought us to our car or brought our car to a convenient place. Few hotels would do this, though.

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on November 26, 2017:

Great advice and tips in choosing accommodations. I've spent many nights traveling on business trips in hotels, some that were exquisite and some that were scary. Safety is a major concern when walking from the parking lot to the lobby and proximity to my customer's location for ease on time arrival to meetings.

SS from Colombo on February 04, 2015:

a good read! really helpful when choosing my next hotel to stay in! which will be in the next few weeks! thanx

shallyc on August 04, 2014:

nice and helpful lens, as we all know when traveling finding hotel to stay at is one of the most important one. So every time I look for a nice affordable hotel for my family and I to stay at. I usually check all of the competitive search engines that try to give the best rates. Fortunately, I found this site and got the best deal.

VspaBotanicals on February 01, 2013:

This lens was mini vacation for me. Thanks!

srsddn lm on October 26, 2012:

While away from home one looks for maximum comfort and other favourable issues in selecting a hotel. Thanks for sharing all these tips. I understand you have been travelling a lot and much of it might have come out of your experience only. Great lens.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 19, 2012:

@anonymous: I like uncarpeted and clean. I just stayed for a month in a 5 star hotel in Hanoi and now for another month in a 3 star hotel in Phnom Penh but because the owners are like family and the rooms are spacious, tiled and they do our laundry, too.

Mary Norton (author) from Ontario, Canada on October 19, 2012:

@favored: Thank you. I am glad to help. I am now in a hotel here in Cambodia but one we have stayed on for years now that the owners are like family.

Fay Favored from USA on October 18, 2012:

Make sure no one else is checked into the same room (seriously). You've touched on so many things that many don't even consider in traveling. I'm glad you wrote this; it's been helpful.

anonymous on September 12, 2012:

I generally go for a 3 star hotel that is affordable, it is important that the hotel maintains standard and cleanliness.

anonymous on August 15, 2012:

My husband and I usually like to take our kids to condo's or rental homes when we go on vacation. We have 5 kids and it's hard to all share one room. We can't find a condo to rent in Hawaii so we'll be staying in a hotel. We just need to find one that can fit all of us comfortably.

LouisaDembul on April 03, 2012:

Great tips on choosing a hotel. To me the most important thing is that the hotel is clean.

WriterJanis2 on January 16, 2012:

I look for safety, a good price and free continental breakfast.

Anthony Godinho from Ontario, Canada on March 06, 2011:

Wow, quite an extensive lens on choosing a hotel and great tips. I agree, it's important to take the time to choose a hotel and sometimes just having a checklist makes a big difference. For me, one of the main things is cleanliness.

Paul from Montreal on November 02, 2010:

Nice lens but the two most important things to me we not on the poll - cleanliness and price!

ICanCook on November 01, 2010:

Your pictures are very beautiful. Made me want to take a trip to one of those places.

Cynthia Arre from Quezon City on November 01, 2010:

You have some good information on here. When I choose a hotel, location is the most important because in traveling, convenience is a must! ~Blessed~ (:

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