Finding the right hotel

When traveling do you sometimes feel you sacrifice too much to get a cheap hotel or do you believe you have to sacrifice to get a hotel that is conveniently situated? Finding a hotel that meets your needs is possible but it does require some work.

The starting point is knowing your budget, the time you have for researching, knowledge about the area, and your dates of your travel. Generally speaking hotels are cheaper Monday – Thursday. Weekends, holidays, special events, and summer tend to see the highest prices for hotels. Knowing about the area especially any celebrations or events that attract a lot of people will help in identifying times when prices might be high. An example, is traveling to Israel during the Days of Awe, High Holidays. This is a time when family come together to travel and visit together. A few weeks either side of the High Holidays means you can expect hotels to be booked and during this time you will encounter hotels with less staff due to religious observances along with staff wanting time off to visit families. It is also a time when you can expect higher than average hotel prices and limited availability, especially if you are booking on short notice.

Next, once you know your dates you can do some preliminary research and record your results to help you narrow your search. Keeping a log of your searches, web sites used, prices, hotels, amenities, and location is a great way to identify trends along with helping in identifying where to focus your energy.

As you collect some information regarding hotels then next step is prioritising your needs: such as amenities, price, room type, and location. When I travel my preference is a three star; however, if I can get a four star for around the same price then I will opt for it.  For me, when I search for a hotel I generally start my search for a three star with a pool or a restaurant that includes breakfast in the price. This means for me if I am looking for a hotel in London I can expect to pay £200 – £500 per day for a room near central London; however, if I am willing to go out a bit further out, such as Greenwich or Twickenham, and travel by tube I can get a decent hotel for around £100 – £150 per day.

This raises the question, how do you decide on a hotel? Up until now you have been doing some recognizance on prices and the time to decide is approaching. There are three general web sites you can use: the hotel’s, a meta-search site that searches several hotels at once, and review sites. The first difference between a hotel’s site and a meta-site is primarily payment. Unless the hotel is running a special promotion the hotel sites will typically allow you to reserve a room with a credit card / pre-paid card, subject to certain conditions; whereas a meta-site tend to require payment at the time of booking. Being able to reserve a room with a card works well since in most case you can lock in the price and the type of you want. Plus by booking early and reserving with a card it allows you to add some certainty about the cost. Plus by going through the hotel’s site, the hotel may give you more room options such as breakfast being included, having a room with a kitchenette, or the option of adding a roll-away bed. This can lead to savings for a family and provide more flexibility.

Second difference is room availability. Room availability can be an issue when you need the room less than two months in advance or when you are booking during a popular time (e.g. summer). If you are booking less than two months in advance you may find some of the meta-sites have limited or do not have availability.

Third difference can be price. From my own personal experience I do not find a lot of difference in price unless I am booking on short-notice and if there is a noticeable price difference then the meta-sites, generally, tend to have a lower price than the hotel’s. site.

This leads to the next question, how is the choice made? A lot depends on price, personal preferences, and location. At least for me, if I am having a difficult time deciding I will use a hotel review site. Generally speaking I do not focus on a specific review but instead read all of the recent reviews to get an ideal of what people think of it. I tend to focus on reviews that discuss room quality, service, and location. It also depends on the amount of flexibility on dates and location. The more flexibility you have the more likely you are able to find a good hotel that fits your needs. Finally call a few of the hotels that are interest to you. By calling them you can get a snapshot of what they maybe like, sometimes you can specials that are not advertised, and if your stay is going to be for at least five nights then you might have some latitude to negotiate the rate by calling.

My recommendation, if you have three to six months to look for a hotel then do it because you are most likely to find a good deal that suits your needs. However if you have less than four weeks or you are booking over a busy time then be flexible. This includes the willingness to change dates, shorten dates, or consider different locations. in order to make it work. Finally invest the time to research and to make inquiries. The more you inquire and research the more likely you will find what you are wanting but remember, this should be something enjoyable.