STAYING in hotels, inns or bnb's (bed and breakfasts) is part and parcel of traveling. Choosing good accommodations will spell the difference between a great vacation or one you'd rather forget.
It isn't necessary to stay at high end ones, what's most important is being comfortable in a healthy, relaxing, and convenient environment.
I know, because I learnt the hard way. After about three unfavorable hotel choices, I had become more discriminating at choosing the better ones.
I had become proficient enough at this that none of my kids questioned where we would stay. Until that fateful day last summer when I forgot all the rules for hotel hunting and we went to this resort recommended by a good friend. I told the kids the place was “beyond stars” to convince them to spend a few nights there.
We took a five-hour drive to this beach front resort, arriving about 4 p.m. When we got there, we were the only guests. The beach view was beautiful, the vibe laid back and relaxed. Sadly, the place weirded out my kids.
There were too many antiques and old statues with no arms whose eyes seemed to follow you everywhere all over the place. I had to stop myself from laughing out loud when I came down the stairs after checking out the 2nd floor of our unit.
My kids, even the grown ones, we're all huddled on a small couch, hardly moving, some of them looking at me accusingly and the others near tears, silently pleading with me to let us leave as soon as possible.
Which we did. If we were not the only ones there, we would have stayed. If I had only followed my hotel hunting rules though, we'd have saved ourselves the bother.
One other time, we had a booking at a hotel in Manila. Chiara, Divya, and I were going to a concert, and Byren was supposed to stay by himself at the hotel. He asked me if the hotel was haunted, and I told him to google it.
Several reviews said the hotel was spooky, and faces other than your own appeared in the bathroom mirrors. There were cold spots too, and flickering lights.
We had to cancel the booking. No way was Byren going to stay alone in that hotel room.
So, how do you get better than average chances of staying at good accommodation (not necessarily 5 star, but definitely good ones that are value for money)? Here are some tips:
1. Read hotel reviews.
Except for those two instances above, plus my early booking experiences, I make it a point to read hotel reviews.
When you do read reviews, particularly at TripAdvisor, put weight on the ones written by the more senior reviewers (the more they've written, the better).
Check for consistency also. The accommodation may have the highest ratings, but if there are only a few of them, written by travelers who have left a single review, think twice.
Agoda and Booking.com's reviews are based on actual experiences. After your stay, they send an email asking you to rate the hotel you booked.
Additional tip: Agoda members earn free nights based on hotel stays. Booking.com has the genius discount.
For Trip Advisor reviews, I always put more weight on those written by the top reviewers, and the number of people who've rated the hotel.
Choose hotels that have received the Traveler's Choice award.
2. Google the hotel.
Check if it's in the vicinity of where you will be spending most of your time. For example, in Bangkok, book in Banglamphu if you intend to stay close to Khao San and the Grand Palace. If you stay in Pratunam, this is where you go shopping.
If you're scared of spooky hotels, google that too. I type in “haunted hotels in ...,” and sure enough, a list comes out.
Additional tip: Beach front is way, way, different from beach view. The pictures on the net can be deceiving. It could show the hotel with the beach as a backdrop, but the hotel could be located on a mountain top miles away from the beach. So triple check if it is beach front or beach view.
3. Check the hotel's location.
Are there restaurants nearby? This is very important. Imagine having to walk 10 minutes a day looking for a place to eat when there are slightly pricier hotels with restaurants nearby. If the hotel has a restaurant, check the reviews of that one too.
4. Put weight on cleanliness.
The hotel might be cheap but will you have a good night's sleep there? Does the lobby smell good? Is the place bright and airy? Will you walk out of the hotel healthy or full of insect bites?
5. What about taxis or modes of transportation?
This is a big factor to consider when you have to travel to the airport but cabs hardly ever come to your hotel.
6. Look for 5 star customer service.
Puri Asri, our chosen base in Bali for our yearly sacred site meditations has very good customer service. They go out of their way to make sure we a have a safe, comfortable, hassle free stay, allowing us to conduct our activities easily.
To learn more about our next schedule for our Bali meditations, visit us at 29 Sari-sari Section, Baguio City Market, or check out our websites at www.lightcatcherscrystals.com and www.lightoftheearthph.com