I have always enjoyed staying at hotels, so over the years, I’ve become quite savvy on getting the best deals for the best places.
We never stay at five star resorts, but we are often able to find great deals on very comfortable hotels.
As our family has grown, so have our expectations and needs for a hotel. I often have people asking me how to find the best hotels.
So, I thought I would put together this little guide about what to think about before booking your next hotel!
Always double check the location of the hotel. Some hotels will claim to be an amazing location…but leave out the fact that they are right next to the highway or a train station.
And keep in mind that most hotels aren’t going to write a negative description about their location, so I recommend looking at it on Google Maps to see where it is. I’ve also found that some hotels exaggerate how close they are to a place.
For instance when booking our trips for Disneyland, it made me laugh how many hotels boasted being within walking distance, yet they were two miles away. Yes, technically walking distance…but I don’t know too many people who are going to walk two miles to Disneyland.
I think this is one of the very best things you can do when booking for a hotel.
We have stayed in some very nice two star hotels and some not-so-nice four star hotels. You can’t always trust the star ratings – but what you can usually trust are user reviews.
Afterward, I almost always read reviews if it was a bad experience, and I almost always find other people complaining about the same things.
It’s important to keep in mind that you often get complainers leaving reviews more often than happy customers, but if a hotel has a bunch of reviews, it’s safe to say they can be trusted. This is also a great way to figure out if there’s anything temporarily out of service or under construction.
Something else I like to see is when management responds to comments – both positive and negative. It means they are trying to give customer service and be involved!
If you are staying in a hotel that’s a part of a chain, you can often trust a pretty standard experience at most locations. While there may be a bad apple every now and then, in my experience, you can know what you are getting. That’s why joining loyalty programs can be so important. I know we have specific hotels we like to stay at no matter where we go (and ones we avoid) simply because we always have a good experience.
While many standard hotels (2 and 3 star) offer free parking, it’s not always a given. In my experience, anything four-star and up not only charges for parking, but they also charge for a valet.
Before booking, double-check what the parking situation is. If you do have to pay for parking/valet/etc., this can easily increase the cost of your stay substantially.
Extra Fees and Tips
A long time ago when Jack was a baby, we were invited to stay at a resort in Park City. Seeing as we were poor, married college students with a baby, we weren’t really up to speed on what staying at a resort was like.
We quickly discovered that it was expected to tip for everything. The person who brought chocolate to your room to welcome you? Tip. Housekeeping? Big tip. Anyone who so much as looked at you? Tip…okay, maybe not that extreme? I just recommend figuring out what kinds of tips are expected at the place you are going…and make sure you have cash!
HoJo hotels give you a great value for your buck! Free breakfast, kids stay free and much more!
We almost always look for a hotel with a free continental breakfast – especially since we have kids. Not having to pay for breakfast can result in some big savings on your vacation budget! Plus, it’s nice not to have to worry about what you are doing for breakfast. Just go downstairs in your jammies or grab something on your way out!
All Howard Johnson hotels offer a free breakfast, which is awesome. You definitely need to check with individual hotels – even when they are part of a chain – because the offerings will definitely vary depending on location.
What does the hotel have to offer? If you are promising your kids there is a pool…make sure there is actually a pool (and that it’s actually open).
Do you need to be able to exercise every day? Double check that there is an exercise room. Do you need access to a washing machine? Always go to the website before booking to make sure they have all the amenities you need.
I love finding hotels that offer extra amenities at no extra cost. As we’ve been looking forward to our trip to Disneyland in October, I saw that the Howard Johnson in Anaheim has a great little water playground available for guests.
I love finding hotels that just go the extra mile when it comes to amenities and experience – and that’s definitely what HoJo does.
In Room Amenities
We always like being in a room that, at a minimum, has a microwave and refrigerator. Some hotels don’t put these in my default, but you can often request one to be brought to your room. It makes it easier to have snacks and reheat leftovers.
Even better is when a kitchen is available! I don’t know about you, but eating out gets a little old after awhile on a trip, and it’s nice to be able to make your own food if you want.
Other in room amenities to look for are free WiFi (yes, not all hotels offer it free!), entertainment selections, room service, etc.
Are you flying in and not planning to get a rental car? Many hotels have shuttles…but it sure wouldn’t be fun to find out when you flew in that your hotel did not. If you are near a popular tourist attraction, you can also see if your hotel has shuttles available as well. I know that the many hotels in Anaheim near Disneyland, including the Howard Johnson, are part of the ART route and you can get discounted rates from the front desk!
Double Check Construction
When we were looking at hotels for Disneyland, I was a little surprised at how many hotels were under construction. This is also where it pays to read the reviews – people love to comment on construction and whether or not it interrupted their trip!
Some construction isn’t a big deal, but if it is super loud and will make it hard to even be in your room, you want to know about it. Even things as simple as the pool being under construction can be annoying, especially if you didn’t know beforehand.
Perks for Extra Nights
Many hotels offer a certain percentage off or even a free night if you stay long enough! In the past, I’ve kind of “hotel jumped” and stayed at different hotels in a short period of time to save money. However, whenever I see an extra night or percentage off promotion, I’m all over it!
Often, the best way to book a hotel is directly – specifically by phone. Many hotels often a best rate guarantee, and they can even offer you exclusive deals just for calling in.
Ask for Upgrades
When you book, don’t be afraid to tell them if it’s for a special occasion. For instance, when we booked hotels for our honeymoon, I mentioned that, and they gave us the special treatment. At one hotel, they gave us a package you usually have to spend $200 on for free!
We’ve been able to upgrade rooms, bed sizes, etc., simply by asking. It doesn’t hurt!
Join Rewards Program
I think it pays to be loyal to certain brands. Most hotels have great rewards programs that help you earn free and discounted trips in the future.
Early Check in
We often get to hotels before the designated check in time – and 9 times out of 10 when I call, they say we can check in early! Even if you aren’t able to, many hotels are willing to hold your luggage at the front desk until your room is ready.