5 Steps We Take In Choosing Travel Accommodation

Ever since Tripadvisor website grew popular, we had benefited from using the accommodation reviews written by travellers. However, not everyone have the same taste so some reviews could range from extremely bad to extremely good. There are also rumors of competitors posting fake reviews so it’s good to get more opinions from different sources. It would be sad to have our trip spoilt by a bad stay.

With so many options, we often get headaches. Where do we start to choose? How do one make their choice in an accommodation?

 

Last year, I had to choose several different accommodations in several countries in Europe. With some ideas and self-organisation, I managed to work out a routine in choosing our travel accommodation and ended up with fairly good choices.

Of all the different sites linked to Tripadvisor, I found Booking.com a good site to use because of the clear information presented for each hotel. This site allows me to grab a handful of choices and ultimately, narrow down to just one in a quicker way.

This was what I did to make my efficient selection:

1) Select Hotels Using A Location Map

Once you selected a hotel, the page on the hotel would open and review the address with this “Show Map” Function. This has helped me in choosing accommodation several times when we were in Europe. As I often choose only a few days before we were due to go to a place, many places were already booked.

This map helped show the rooms available, location and the pricing we could take.

My Steps Would Be:

1) Open a hotel page (any) after inputing the travel dates and a selection pops up.
2) Click on “Show Map”.
3) Scan the hotel location and see whether it’s close to a Metro/Subway or Places of Attraction. (Depending on our purpose)
4) Scan the surrounding buildings and narrow down on a select few hotels in the area.
5) After selecting, read more details on each hotel

Reading In Depth

2) Check the Room Size, Pictures, Bed Type and Amenities

Booking.com showcase a gallery of room pictures from all angles. It also list the bed types and every amenities clearly. I like the list of “bath”, “shower”, “Air-conditioned” or “Free Wi-Fi” on top of every room type.

These come in handy for us because we often need two beds and knowing whether it’s a double-bed room with space for extra bed or a king-sized bed helps.

If there is really no choice of a twin-beds room, we would squeeze into a double-bedded one and the way they list the “dimensions” of the bed helps – for example, once you click on the “room type”, moving the mouse over shows “90-130cm bed” or “151-180cm” bed or large bed, more than 180cm. Once we tried, we knew it’s too squeezy for us on a certain dimensions and would avoid choosing it and look for other options.

Dar also enjoys bath more than shower so we would prefer getting a room with a bath if we could. The air-conditioning would help in selecting the hotel during Summer as many hotels in Europe do not have air-conditioning and certain European countries could be quite hot.

As for payment, we could book it and cancel our choice within a limited period with no charge.

3) Scan Reviews from Previous Patrons

Next, I click on “Reviews” to read positive and negative reviews from travellers. Many times, I found the comments on Booking more sincere than those on Tripadvisor.

It’s easier to scan through also because they give precise specific comments about the structure and some things we care about instead of writing a long essay complaining about the service. The review is divided into two sections: Positive / Negative.

When choosing, I have to quickly scan through comments and have no time to read “mini-blogs” of their hotel stay on the Tripadvisor site. A lot of things that were complained were also specific to the person and may be a one-off incident.

Often, I read hotel reviews with an open mind because I feel it stemmed from the attitude that you have as a guest. If you are demanding and nitpick over little things, causing agony for the hotel staff, do not expect customer service to be great. If more than ten people enjoyed the hotel accommodation, why is it that there is only one bad review from a person? Similarly, if a large number found it bad and the same complaint keeps popping up, I wouldn’t even give it a second thought even if there are one or two positive comments.

Reviews We Check When Choosing A Hotel

1. Location

“Ideal location in the centre of town” , “Close proximity to metro”, “Walking distance to places of attractions”.

Our top priority is the location. Depending on our needs, we would sometimes choose an accommodation close to the metro so we could leave easily in the morning by public transport. If we are staying for a few days in the same place, we would choose a hotel close to one place of attraction we want to go to. We did this for “Deutsches Museum in Germany” and “Blue Mountains“.

2. Budget

There would be a select few with good locations. The next step is to eliminate by “the amount you would pay”.  Obviously, a 5-star hotel usually offers a better service and comfort but if we could choose a 3-star to 4-star hotel with positive reviews, we save a significant amount of money!

3. Lift

“There’s no lift”, “It’s a six-storey hotel and there’s no lift”.

It’s an agony for children and elderly and a pain if you are lugging several suitcases. How would you be able to climb up a few storeys to reach the room if there’s no lift? Even climbing up a storey is difficult with a full suitcase. We had no choice but to book one without lift when we were in Freiburg and ended up carrying four luggage up two-storeys and down. The service was bad as the hotel staff didn’t bother to help (that’s why we didn’t review that in our post).

4. Bed Types 

– Even though we have a child, we could still save by choosing the right room types. Some rooms have twin bedrooms with two beds of “queen dimensions” (we love this) and would choose this room type which is cheaper than choosing a “Triple Bedroom” – A queen bed and a single bed. We do not need a bigger walking space like in a suite, just bigger beds.

5. Walls

“Walls Are Too Thin, you could hear footsteps or people talking in the other room”

– Once I see this review in Booking.com website, I would immediately click away and choose another accommodation. It’s irritating to hear sounds from other people and who knows what other kind of ‘noises’? It also means what is happening in our room could be heard by others as well!

6. Room Structure

“Room without a window”, “Close to road and noisy with traffic”, “Next to a church and woken up by bells ringing”, “Window facing a wall”

– These are important to us and we would not choose such a place. Sleep is important to us during our travels as we would need energy to explore. I’m a light sleeper and would not sleep well in a noisy environment.

7. Family Reviews

– I love that reviews are segregated into Solo Travelers, Couples, Families, Groups of Friends. As a family with a child, it helps to read about what others with a child experienced in the hotel. The experience would often be similar because they might mention whether their child enjoys it or not.

8. Breakfast

“Good breakfast with a healthy spread”, “The breakfast was bad”

– We often book hotels with breakfast as it’s easier for us to head out with a full stomach to explore instead of looking for food. If the breakfast spread was bad, it would certainly spoil our day a little. Hence, we always try to look for one with good reviews on breakfast.

9. Wi-Fi

“The Wi-Fi connection in room was really bad” “Have to pay for Wi-Fi” “Wi-Fi only available in hotel lounge”

– After a whole day of exploring, we often need to get connected to the internet, either to check the news, update our social media or just surf to relax. It would be great if we could have good wi-fi connectivity in the room. (This is not our priority though but just good to have)

4) Check Second Opinions From Another Website & Blogs

As you read on, you would have selected a few choice hotel or breakfast and bed accommodations. At this time, I would go back to

a) TripAdvisor

To read more reviews and see the ratings. If reviews on both sites are generally positive, it would be my choice!

b) “Google Search” the Name of the Accommodation for Blog Reviews

Read up on personal experiences of a couple or family who had stayed in the hotel I’m looking at. Usually, this is a good and final gauge because there are more things said in the post and we could then eliminate a few selected ones to the best choice.

 5) Book via Booking site or Hotel Direct

After finalising on a hotel, we would check the pricing with the hotel directly.

a) Book Hotel Room via Booking Site

  • Situation when we only need one or two nights.
  • No time for slow emailing contact if we are going there in one or two days time and rooms are selling out fast.

b) Book Hotel Room with Hotel Directly

  • We are booking for many nights. Discount is often offered when many nights are booked in a row so we could have a better rate from the hotel than if we book on third-party websites.
  • The booking site does not offer flexibility for cases where, we stay one night, move on to another place for a day trip and come back to the same hotel for more nights.
  • We have more time for slow emailing to and fro and could arrange for best rates and arrangement with hotel staff.

That’s why we had been happy with our choice of accommodation so far. We had only a few bad experiences when we didn’t do much research due to last minute planning or when we only had a few choices due to majority of rooms booked.

Even with all the reviews, we might still be surprised at discovering certain things that were not mentioned – such as service standard, structural and amenities problems. Not all would be mentioned in reviews so these are just steps to get a general idea.

To reciprocate all this help we received, we also love to share our positive reviews in posts once we had returned from our trip, so it could benefit other travellers.

Our Posts on Travel Accommodations (written at the bottom of the posts)

  1. Tommy August 30, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your useful tips!

  2. Joan September 3, 2014 at 3:52 pm

    Accommodation is so important when travelling! Thanks for the great tips 🙂

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