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Pro Tips for Booking Hotels that Make You Happy

Booking hotels for a big trip is often super stressful. You want to make sure you’re not disappointed when you arrive.

In my early days of travel, I didn’t know what I wanted from a hotel. I knew there were different star ratings that meant the hotel was either low-end or super fancy, but that was about it. I figured all hotels were clean and had standard features, like a pool and room service. Boy, was I wrong. Now, I have a different view on booking hotels.

I figured out soon enough that there is a lot more to booking hotels that are right for my tastes. These days, before I start looking at options for accommodations, I make a list of must-have amenities. And that list is different for every trip. Sometimes I know I’ll have more time to hang out at the hotel. I may want a lot of recreational activities. In that case, I’m willing to shell out bigger bucks to have them on site. Other times, I plan to be at the hotel only a few hours a night for a shower and to sleep. I need a clean bed and nothing more.

Here are a smattering of things to consider when booking hotels. They’ll help keep you from spending your hard-earned cash on a place that leaves you in tears.

Booking Hotels

1. No matter how well you think you know an area or a hotel chain, never book a place to stay until you check what people have to say about it on TripAdvisor. I don’t care how much it costs or how good it looks on the website, it’s vital to read reviews. See how many stars real people give the hotel. Take a look at their pictures, not the professional, Photoshopped pictures from the hotel itself. Another good thing to look at is how the hotel ranks for the city where it’s located. If it’s number 244 of 245 hotels, you may question why.

A few years ago, I got a smoking hot deal on a little hotel just a few blocks from a Disneyland. I was sure it was this cute little place I had been dying to stay at. I didn’t bother doing my research. Upon arrival, I realized the error of my ways. I mixed up the names of two hotels, and it was a dive. The furniture was falling apart, there were stains on the 1970s shag carpet, and I’m pretty sure I saw a roach. I cringe just thinking about it. Now, no matter what I think I know, I always do my research when I’m booking hotels.

Booking Hotels

2. Most hotels post how close they are to the nearest attractions right on their websites. But even the most reputable establishments often fib just a little. Some fib a lot. In my experience, hotels sometimes say they are within “walking distance” of a certain sight. In reality, they are quite a bit farther away.

Always go to Google Maps to view the walking directions to the nearest landmarks. Simply type in the hotel address and the name of the sight you want to see. Then click the person icon at the top. You’ll see the different routes you can take to get from point A to point B . You’ll also get the approximate time it will take you to make the trek. You can often catch a glimpse of the area using street view. If the walk is short but has a lot of major roads to cross or is in a seedy neighborhood, you may not want to walk it after all.

Booking Hotels

3. If you have limited travel funds, try a lower budget hotel for trips where you plan to be out all day and night. Sometimes I’m disappointed to learn I’ve spent a lot of money on something I don’t have time to really use. If you’re not going to be around to enjoy a fancy hotel, don’t waste your money. Save the big bucks for when it matters. For example, I go to Disneyland for a few days each year, and I know I’ll be leaving at dawn and out until after midnight.

I usually stay at the Holiday Inn Express or similar. The walk to the park is five minutes longer, but the cost is considerably cheaper than one of the closer, more upscale hotels. Why blow your budget booking hotels that are beautiful but you don’t have time to enjoy? Know when it’s right to stick to the basics: clean, safe, close to the sights. 

Booking Hotels

4. Don’t assume every hotel has a pool or gym. My husband hadn’t traveled much when we first got together. He thought every hotel had these amenities. He was so disappointed the first time we stayed at a hotel that didn’t have a pool, even though he almost never goes swimming. He still likes to have the option. If you like to stick to a workout routine or enjoy relaxing by the pool, make sure your hotel has the appropriate facilities.

Booking Hotels

5. Do you like breakfast in bed? Perhaps you’re prone to the late-night munchies. Make sure your hotel offers room service or has some place to buy food nearby. It’s not a given a hotel will have places to eat on premises or even on the same street.

If you don’t have a vehicle, finding food can be a chore. One time, I stayed at a hotel just outside of Frankfurt, Germany, that was a 40-minute walk to the nearest anything. And when I did finally find food, it consisted of prepackaged pastries from a gas station. I won’t make that mistake again.

Booking Hotels

6. While most hotels are hopping on the free WiFi train, some still charge for the service, especially in extra touristy areas. I’m always surprised when I find out there is anything from a $5 to $20-a-day charge for in-room Internet services. I simply refuse to pull funds from my travel budget to pay for what I consider such a basic service. Check that your hotel offers free or reasonably priced WiFi if you plan to do a lot of web surfing. In the event you find yourself without it, look for the nearest coffee shop where you can take your laptop or phone and catch up with the world. 

These are just a few things you can do when booking hotels to make sure they live up to your expectations. These tips will help ensure you’re not disappointed when you arrive. Have other tips to share with travelers? Head over to the Facebook page and start a conversation.

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