Hotels have been my home for the past two years, and I’ll admit that I’ve become fairly good at finding great ones around the world. When I first started traveling, I usually booked the first hotel that showed up in the search results. I’m shaking my head at that old, impatient Disha. Throughout my years of traveling, I’ve learned some strategies and tips that have helped me find incredible hotels around the world. The most common travel-related questions I get asked are about hotels. Here are the nine most important things to consider before booking a hotel. Side note – don’t limit this guide just for hotels; you can use it when booking any kind of accommodation.
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I can’t emphasize this enough, but please read customer reviews before booking your accommodation. I’ve learned from experience that you can’t always trust the hotel’s star review system. I’ve stayed in some pretty crappy four-star hotels and some pretty nice two-star hotels. Usually, you’ll see a pattern in the hotel reviews. People are usually praising the same things and complaining about the same things. Reviews are also a good way to know if a part of the hotel is under renovation or something isn’t temporarily working. For example, we stayed at a hotel where a few recent guests wrote in their reviews that one of the restaurants on the property was closed due to renovation. That was good information to know beforehand rather than being surprised when we got there. I always give a hotel brownie points if I see them responding back to both positive and negative reviews.
Pro Tip: I read reviews from the hotel’s website, Facebook, and Google to make sure that they’re consistent.
Different hotels offer different amenities. I was in for a rude awakening in Argentina once. I was under the impression that it was standard for hotels to offer daily housekeeping. Apparently, that was not the case at the hotel we stayed at. They charged extra for housekeeping. This was the first time I’ve encountered this on my travels. If you’re going on a beach vacation and are expecting to lay on the beach every day, make sure the hotel has “beach access or private beach” listed on their website. I’ve learned from traveling that it’s not safe to assume that every hotel offers the same basic amenities. I personally love hotels that go the extra mile to offer great amenities at no extra charge. For instance, we’ve stayed at a few hotels that have offered Apple TVs in their rooms and we loved that extra little touch.
Pro Tip: If a hotel doesn’t have the amenity you want listed on their website, call them and ask. If it’s a smaller hotel, they may forget to update their website after they start offering new amenities.
This one is super important for my digital nomad friends and those of you who work remotely. Some hotels are notorious for listing “Free Wi-Fi” on their website but charging extra for high-speed. Other hotels restrict the number of devices that can be connected to their Wi-Fi. We’ve stayed at a few hotels where we could only connect two devices to the Wi-Fi. That was an issue because we had three devices. Also, we stayed at a few hotels in Asia where the hotel advertised “Free Wi-Fi” but it was only available in the front lobby.
Pro Tip: If you’re concerned about the Wi-Fi, read the reviews before booking the hotel because guests will not hesitate to write about bad Wi-Fi.
4. Early Check-In/Late Check-Out
Some people completely overlook this before booking a hotel. It’s important to understand this so you don’t inconvenience yourself. If you plan on arriving well before the check-in time, you might have to wait a while for your room to be ready. You may have to pay if you overstay if the check-out time is too early. If our flight is arriving a few hours earlier than the check-in time or departing in the evening, we book with Marriott because they always allow me to check-in early and check-out late because of my status.
Pro Tip: Talk to the hotel staff if you have to check-in early or check-out late. Most of the time, they’re understanding and are accommodating about this request depending on room availability. If not, they’ll usually hold your luggage for you.
5. Free Breakfast
We ALWAYS pick hotels that offer free breakfast. You know what they right, right? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Not paying for breakfast can result in big savings while you’re on vacation. Plus, I like to sleep in sometimes so it’s super convenient to roll out of bed and head downstairs to breakfast without even leaving the hotel.
Pro Tip: Even when you’re booking with a chain, make sure you check with the individual hotel for their breakfast offerings. We’ve stayed at plenty of properties that are a part of a chain around the world and some offer a basic breakfast and others offer a luxurious breakfast.
Make sure that the location of your hotel is safe and practical. I highly recommend doing tons of research on this before booking your hotel. I’ve stayed at hotels that have advertised that they’re walking distance to this attraction and that attraction and they’ve ended up being over two miles away. Technically, it is walking distance but I’m not going to walk two miles in the freezing cold or scorching heat. If you’re traveling to big cities like New York City or Barcelona, it’s crucial that you choose a hotel that’s centrally located to all of the major tourist attractions. Otherwise, you’ll be spending a long time in the cab because of the traffic. Aside from the convenience of being centrally located, it’s imperative to pick a hotel that’s in a safe area. In Athens, we picked a hotel in a very sketchy area on accident. We actually got followed by a dodgy guy for a few blocks as we were walking around the area.
Pro Tip: Some hotel websites only offer a brief snippet about the location of the hotel. Put their address into Google Maps and see what’s around the area.
I take cleanliness very seriously. Moldy bathroom, bugs, stains? No, thanks. We stayed at a hotel in Remini, Italy where there were holes in the wall. There were also stains all over the walls and the bathroom was filled with mold. I won’t post any photos of that experience because it was absolutely horrific and sickening. Nothing beats coming back to a clean and comfortable room after a long day of sightseeing.
Pro Tip: You can’t tell from the hotel website’s photos if the room is clean or not. Of course, they are going to post photos of rooms that look clean. Read the reviews and look at photos of the room that other guests have uploaded.
RELATED POST: How to Get Free Hotel Rooms Anywhere in the World
Just because you’re staying at a five-star hotel doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the best bang for your buck. I’ve stayed at a five-star hotel where the staff was a complete nightmare. None of the staff had any idea about what was going on and they were incredibly rude and unhelpful. No one wants to overpay for a hotel room and be unsatisfied. I like to splurge every now and then, but I make sure that I’m getting the most bang for my buck.
Pro Tip: Read the reviews. Other guests will state whether or not the hotel was worth the money. Can you tell that I’m a huge proponent of reading reviews?
9. Hidden Fees
Please pay attention to additional hidden fees and taxes before booking a hotel. These can leave you frustrated and broke. We stayed at a hotel in Dubai and they didn’t advertise on their website that they were charging a few additional taxes. When it came time to check out, we were given a hefty bill because of additional taxes they failed to disclose. Fortunately, we had a screenshot of the room charges when we booked the room so we didn’t have to pay the extra taxes. It was still inconvenient and annoying having to go back and forth with them. Make sure you read the fine print. Buy a magnifying glass if you have to.
Pro Tip: If you’re staying at a nice hotel where the concierge brings your luggage to the room, please carry cash to tip them. Always have cash ready in case you need to tip the hardworking staff.
My Favorite Accommodation Resource:
- Hotels.com is my absolute favorite way to book hotels when I’m not staying with a chain such as Marriott or Hilton. Their rewards program is amazing – stay ten nights and get the eleventh night free. Customer service is always incredible with them and they are dedicated to assisting you. Plus, they have options for every budget.
What is something you always take into consideration before booking a hotel? Let me know in the comments below.
I hope you found this post helpful when it comes to booking hotels. Don’t forget to PIN IT for later!
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.