When you search for hotels online you will be overwhelmed at so much choice (where none existed or was in form of the travel agent) that one doesnt understand how to go about getting a good deal where you save not only money (directly and indirectly), but also avoid stress and enjoy the maximum. Therefore your research will make all the difference to how much you enjoy your stay. Below are the factors you must consider when choosing a suitable hotel:
Location. This is without a doubt the most important factor, which has been validated by different surveys by travel companies and consultants. If you are vacationing, then your hotel should be near the attractions and sights like historical monuments, museums, the central part of the city etc. This way you can just walk across to the sights and not waste time and money on cabs or buses. Nowhere is it more important than in Europe where a walk around will take you to the most popular attractions and save you lot of money. In places like Middle East and South East Asian countries (Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand), where cabs are cheap or local transportation is efficient, you can look for other factors you find important. You also have to consider whether you can get some transportation to / from the hotel easily. A couple of hundred meters to train / bus stop is no issue. But if you have to explain to the cab driver using Google maps on how to get there, perhaps you need to think again. Okay, you say your resort is far away – then it should offer a shuttle service for pick up and drop not only to the airport, but also to the shopping centre or some attractions.
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Hotel Amenities & Extras. Will an offer of complimentary airport transfers and Wi-Fi entice you? Perhaps your kids want a swimming pool or a kids club with games and toys? Standard facilities in 4-Star and above include a safe (keep your passports and credit cards in it), TV, Internet (wired and / or Wi-Fi), linen (bed and bath), toiletries, iron with iron board (ask for it), hair dryer, electrical adaptor, slippers and perhaps robes. Some hotels also offer microwaves in rooms – this can come in handy when you are tired to go out for a meal and can just heat up some sandwiches or wraps for eating. Read up on the hotel website about these amenities. The more they have the better it is for you to not lug all that electrical stuff around in your bags and be in danger of being charged for extra baggage. If they sweeten the deal by offering you more like newspapers, complimentary water bottles, chocolate hamper, tea etc. that is something to consider too. Radisson at Dubai upgraded us (for a small amount) to a Club Room which had separate check-in desk (at the top floor), separate breakfast area on the same floor with views of Dubai creek, and unlimited complimentary snacks and drinks in the Club Lounge. Other extras can include allowing a child to sleep on the same bed as parents (some hotels insist on second room for children aged more than 10 or so), early check-in / late check-out, cloak room facility etc. And, yes be sure to ask at check-in time which of these are complimentary and which are not, rather than haggling during check-out.
Reviews & Ratings. Many travellers post their reviews online on the booking site or on social media, travel portals and forums. You should also check reviews by bloggers who have experienced the hotel stay. One valuable source for reviews is www.TripAdvisor.com. There are also the booking sites which feature reviews of each hotel – in fact you can filter or sort the hotels as per reviews besides cost and star rating. So, when I start my comparison, I open up TripAdvisor and at least 3 more booking sites including www.Google.com/hotels and start copy-pasting the hotel information and rank in an Excel spreadsheet. If the reviews are organic (i.e. posted by actual travellers), you will see a consistency in the ranking across all these websites and portals – it does not matter if the ranks are above/below less than 4 notches. If you find inconsistency in the ranking, perhaps the hotel is getting some help in the form of professional review posters – yes, there are people who actually offer these services for a small amount. These reviews are thus ‘corrupted’ and should be discarded. It will be pertinent to point out that reviews are subjective, in that for some travellers, the hotels location near a subway or train station is preferable, but for some it may be noisy.
Value for Money. I considered calling this one Budget, but actually aren’t we all looking for better value especially when we are on a vacation? Most hotels have packages listed on their website which offer other facilities besides the usual amenities at a good price. Most of these packages are based on the number of nights you stay (e.g. 3 Nights City Break), how early you book (e.g. 21 day early bird), when (Weekend package) and for whom (family package, honeymoon package). You might get discounts, free meals (breakfast, AP or MAP), tour packages and more. Hilton Athens offered us a Weekend Package in an Executive Room with extra bed, free breakfast and tickets to 6 museums all for 245 Euros only! Not many (including me) care for the pillow menu. But, breakfast included is what gets my vote for the most value. Consider the cost of breakfast at the same hotel or the inconvenience of searching and going outside to eat. At most hotels, breakfast is generally with options galore so you will have no trouble finding what you like and then set out for sightseeing with renewed energy.
What is AP, MAP, CP, EP?
American Plan or AP means that apart from room, the hotel tariff includes all 3 meals i.e. Breakfast, Lunch S Dinner. In Europe and some other countries the AP is also referred to as Full Pension or Full Board Plan. Modified American Plan or MAP means rates include two meals a day, viz. breakfast and either lunch or dinner. In Europe and some other countries the Modified American Plan is also referred to as Half Pension or Half Board Plan. In Continental Plan or CP only complimentary breakfast is included. European Plan or EP will have no meals and includes only noom rent.