How to choose and book a hotel online - this can be a great deal easier said than done! but not impossible. You need to just be sure as to what it is you want to book and what it is you expect in and during your overall travels. |
When booking travel, you more or less know what you are going to get when you book a flight or a car -the legacy airlines aren't really so different from one another, and an economy car is an economy car whether the rental car sign is yellow, white or green. But a bad or poorly located hotel can ruin a trip. This is where it sure does pay and add a great deal of value to do as much research on this as you can.
Look to research the following as key points:
Location, Location, Location
The old realtor's mantra applies directly to hotels; if you have to "live" there, you want to be in a safe, attractive location with easy access to restaurants, coffee shops, attractions, maybe a small park.
I suggest using Google Earth for this one - among all the competing mapping applications, it seems to have the most complete quick snapshot of an immediate area available. The checkbox "Layers" option allows you to toggle various amenities on and off: coffee shops, restaurants by type of food, banks/ATM's, gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, parks, malls, churches and many more.
Where available, the Street View option offers 360-degree snapshots of the neighborhood, which can tell you a lot: whether it's clean or grubby, busy or quiet, populated or more like a strip mall zone. These are things that just a couple of years ago you had to take on faith, and didn't really know until you arrived.
Even in the best hotels, all rooms are not created equal, and traditionally it has been very hard to tell the best rooms from the worst before you have already checked in. Changing Hotel rooms is a stressful hassle - by the time you arrive at a hotel, mostly you just want to put down your bags and decompress from all your travels, not tromp back down to the front desk for a run-in with hotel staff.
The abundance of review sites on the Web gives consumers an unprecedented voice, and although I am wary of relying too much on specific reviews, in the end the sum total of comments does add up to a formidable assemblage of collective wisdom.
I take the reviews seriously, but usually with a grain of salt, simply because folks who have a good stay at a hotel rarely rush to a computer when they get home to rave about it -- but folks who have a rotten stay can be very motivated to do so. As a result, reviews tend to over-sample disgruntled (or merely grumpy) travelers. Alternately, folks with a stake in a property's success, such as hotel managers or marketing executives, have been found to post glowing reviews on many sites (most sites have adopted measures of decreasing or at least flagging these).
With regard to the two most popular on the list, Yelp and TripAdvisor, my experience is that Yelp tends to lean toward locals posting reviews of their regular haunts, while TripAdvisor includes mostly posts from travelers/visitors. As a result, Yelp is a bit lean on extensive hotel reviews, but can tell you a lot about the nearby attractions.
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