Travel offers many choices and demands many decisions and you want to make the ones that give you the most for your money. On any trip, your hotel choice is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make.
The quality of the accommodations, amenities, and freebies are just a few of the factors that will affect your decision. The wrong or right choice can mean the difference between a memorable trip and a miserable one.
A recent Smart Traveler article reminded us of some important factors to consider if you want to ensure your next trip is one worth remembering, not one you’d rather forget.
First, check the EXACT location of the hotel. Use Google Street view or Bing’s Bird’s Eye and get a look around. Make sure the hotel is, say, near the beach (like they said), has the great views they promised, or isn’t stuck right on a busy street that makes walking impossible. Doing this can help you avoid a hotel near the interstate or road construction.
Check to see if the hotel has any airport shuttles. You can save yourself time and frustration with a complimentary shuttle. Taxis and ride sharing can get expensive, so taking an airport shuttle to the hotel can save a few bucks. Just remember to tip your driver.
Check parking availability and cost. Parking on hotel property can add $10 to $35 or more per day. No parking at the hotel? The cost for off-site parking will often be significantly higher, and the inconvenience of walking to and from the off-site lot is higher, too. Weigh the costs between paid parking and ride sharing before you commit.
Do they have free or fee Internet? There’s no guarantee that a hotel offers free wifi; there could be a daily charge for it. You could also be charged per device, so connecting a laptop and phone can gobble up any savings. The more expensive hotels typically charge for their wifi while the less expensive hotels don’t. So either figure out how to use the mobile hotspot feature on your cell phone, or figure out whether you want to spend $10 – $20 per day on Internet access.
Do they have a rewards program? Loyalty programs are usually free and often provide great rewards. Ideally, you’d sign up before you make your reservations because members often get discounted prices, earlier check-in, later check-out, and other perks, but you can sign up once you check in. Just remember to do it before you check out so you can get the points. Some programs even give complimentary wifi and upgraded rooms.
Of course, you often have to book directly through the hotel rather than through the discount comparison sites or the conference websites to get those points. (Be sure to check with the individual hotel before you make the reservations just to make sure. Call them directly, don’t call the 800 number, because they don’t always have the best information.)