Planning and research are crucial
Before you book accommodation, think through what it is that you need.
The first consideration is your budget. This will help give you an idea of what type of hotel you should be looking for. If money is no object, then upper upscale or luxury offerings could be considered; but, if things are tighter, decide what the lowest level of hotel is that you would consider, e.g. would you look at a 3-star hotel and forego some of the facilities offered at more luxurious establishments, so that you can fit the particular hotel into your budget?
The size of your group is an important consideration. How many bedrooms are needed? Which of the members of the group could possibly share a room?
If you’re travelling with small children, it’s particularly useful to tailor your research towards self-catering options. A hotel with a self-catering facility will give you all the options you need: kitchen space to prepare kiddies’ foods, and a restaurant for you and your spouse to enjoy fine dining. Also enquire about transfers and whether the hotel provides car seats for your children as this will save one having to feel like a travelling circus with all your accessories.
Your research should also focus on the location of the hotel. Try to identify a hotel closest to the places you want to visit. So if, for example, you aim to visit the Mediaeval parts of a city in Europe, it isn’t very convenient to choose a hotel a long way away in the suburbs of the city. Similarly, if you hope to use public transport on your trip, check whether the hotel is near an underground station or on a bus route. Google Maps can be a great help with this.
Peer reviews are helpful in deciding which hotel to select, in particular if there are a number of hotels in the location you want to be in. Use sites like TripAdvisor to see what other travellers have experienced at the hotel you’re considering – sometimes a particular hotel is regularly reported on for bad service, so why choose that one if there’s another one regularly lauded by guests? Reaching out to one’s own peers and friends via your own social media accounts by posting a request for advice on which hotels one should consider for a particular destination will also prove to be insightful as you can then filter through the respective recommendations based on the profile of your friends to find the one that would best suit your profile and needs.
Arriving at the hotel
If your hotel has an app, download it in advance of your arrival. Exploit whatever it offers if that makes things easier for you – for instance, if you can do a mobile check-in via the app, do so because you’ll save time at the hotel when you arrive.
You should check your room when you arrive at the hotel. If something is wrong – perhaps the shower is leaking – let the hotel reception know about it immediately before you unpack your bags. They can fix the problem straightaway, and then your stay will be comfortable.
Remember that anyone can fall victim to crime or get caught up in political unrest, so keep in touch with the hotel’s reception desk with questions about areas of the city that may not be safe or about unrest that could occur. I recall being badly caught out when trying to leave my Paris hotel on May Day one year; I hadn’t checked up on what was happening in the city and found that I couldn’t get to the airport in time for my flight because of worker protests on the route to the airport. If only I’d asked!
The same advice is true for travellers visiting countries known to be conservative. Check with your hotel about the clothing you should wear when planning a visit to a religious site, for instance. If you arrive inappropriately dressed, you could find yourself being treated rudely or thrown out – an unpleasant experience.
Travelling with children
If you’re taking along a small child , bring along all the necessary items that comfort them in their normal home setting i.e. night light, grow clock, background music or white noise device so that the child can be comfortable at night while you’re away.
Make sure you take along any medication or first aid items you may need for children. It’ll be a lot less stressful and much more cost efficient to give your toddler some Panado Syrup for a fever than to have to explain the problem to a South American pharmacist in your smattering of Spanish.
Make the hotel’s mini-bar a no-go area for the children or ask the hotel to unstock the mini-bar as you could find yourself having to settle a whopping bill for snacks and Cokes that the kids have helped themselves to during the hotel stay. It’s a far better idea to bring along some snacks from home and let them know that Mom has their favourite snacks on hand.
When you leave
Ask hotel reception how long it’ll take to get to the airport from the hotel, and what the best transport options are for the journey. Their on-the-ground knowledge may provide information that not even Google Maps will ever reveal.
Ensure that you’ve set aside a few minutes to check the room before you leave. The things that are most often forgotten are cell phones and cell phone chargers, double adapters, spectacles, medication, and small items of jewellery.
Requesting a copy of your hotel bill the night before check-out for review can save lots of valuable time and make the whole process far smoother.
All in all, travel is one of the greatest privileges we have so maximise it to its fullest!