Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Finding A Great Hotel

I just returned from a trip to Brazil.   Naturally, I used frequent flier miles to get there, and we didn't need a car, so my biggest decision regarding the trip was finding a great hotel.    Fortunately, we came across the Pousada Redfish in the historic center of Salvador Brazil (Pousada is Pourtuguese for inn).   

How did we find it?   Lots of Googling, especially sites such as TripAdvisor.  It wasn't always that easy.   In 1998, a few years before the Internet was really what it is now, I went to London.   Naturally, I wanted to stay at one of the hotels in London city centre.    Somehow, I came across a little hotel a block or so from one of the major train stations.   It was expensive, and the room was just barely larger than the bed, but it worked.    I think that today I would have a much easier time.

Here are the criteria I would use today to select a hotel.   First, location is the most important thing.   You can save money by staying further away, but it is rarely worth it.    You will have to pay for gas or other public transportation, eating into your savings, but more importantly, you will be loosing time, the most valuable commodity in most vacations.    You went somewhere to experience the place, so why bother staying far away.    It is tiring to go back and forth between an city center and your hotel.   It is surprising how nice it is to return to your room during the day for a couple hours to read, shower, or just catch up on sleep after a long flight.

After narrowing down the location, search TripAdvisor for the best rated hotels in the area.   Read through some reviews of the ones you like.   I tend to dismiss reviews that are extremely positive with no drawbacks.   I also have to take bad reviews into account depending on the context.   For example, a hotel might get a bad review based solely on someone not liking the pool.   If I am visiting in the winter and the pool will not even be open, what do I care?

Finally, try to find the best deals out there on the hotels you like.    You might find a great deal on one of the large travel sites like Expedia, but don't forget to check out specialty travel sites as well.   Between resources such as TripAdvisor and all of the great Internet sites offering hotel deals, it is fairly easy to find great hotels anywhere in the world.

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