Now that the situation is slightly improving, maybe we can start hoping to go back to living normally (or almost). Even my cosmic pessimism is gradually giving way to a cautious optimism, to the point that I’m thinking of two trips this year. Compared to the last long months of abstinence, it would be a commendable result. As always, this time too the planning will start from the selection of hotels.
For me, a hotel room is never just a place to leave a backpack and go back to sleep. A hotel must be clean and comfortable. And the eye also wants its part. So no taverns to save money, no rooms shared with strangers or other imaginative accommodations. Each of us has different needs and strategies regarding the choice of hotel accommodation. I follow a series of steps which so far, at least in recent years, have almost always allowed me to find myself in excellent establishments: not only hotels, but also bed and breakfasts and pubs.
How to choose the hotel for a trip: the location of the structure
The first step is to identify the area in which to sleep. It seems like obvious advice, but it’s not always something that is given due weight, especially if we’re about to leave for a metropolis whose geography we don’t know. Some time ago a couple of friends leaving for New York told me that they had found a room in a Hilton for just over a hundred dollars a night: a price not to be missed… too bad the hotel was in Jersey City. In their place, for the first trip to the city, I would have chosen a hotel in Manhattan: certainly the cost rises, but it is worth being in a central position to avoid long journeys every day. It was only during my last trip to New York that I decided to spend a couple of nights in Brooklyn (in one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever slept in). I knew little about the Williamsburg neighborhood and wanted to explore it better, but otherwise it would have been an inconvenient choice from a logistical point of view.
If it’s a city I’ve never been to, I also look for information on the websites of tourist offices, as before the trip to Tel Aviv: I wanted to avoid being in an area that was too far away or unsafe, and in these cases the are a great tool because they are unlikely to suggest bad or inaccessible areas.
How to choose the hotel for a trip: the advice of travel sites
One of the websites I rely on most often is The Culture Trip, a platform where travel experts advise on what to do, how to get around, where to eat and where to sleep in many cities around the world. One aspect that I really like is the ability to search for the best boutique hotels, or pet-friendly hotels, or superior category hotels in a specific city. The results are displayed with the names of the establishments, a brief description and the location on the map.
Last year, during the organization of the trip (later cancelled) to Dublin, I had made a selection of the hotels that inspired me the most, taking inspiration from this platform. I also find it very useful to consult travel blogs, where there are very useful ideas on where to sleep and where to eat. For example, before leaving for Helsinki, I had devoured the articles of the Profumo di Follia blog: Anna is a real inspiration when it comes to discovering the Finnish capital (but also many other curiosities about this country).
How to choose the hotel for a trip: Google Maps
I’ve only recently discovered the capabilities of Google Maps as a travel planning tool, and I realize I’m way overdue. But I started traveling at a time when, before leaving, you had to write to tourist offices and have the brochures with the list of bed and breakfasts and hotels sent to you, at your own expense: from then on, you looked at the only photo provided by the structure, read the skimpy description, book with a phone call and say a few prayers before leaving. Now however, with the tools we have at our disposal, it is almost impossible to end up in a nightmare place. I could never give up Google Maps and user reviews: I enter the name of the city, the travel dates and then, after having found the first hotels that inspire me, I rely on Google’s suggestions. In this way I can also understand the distance of the structures that interest me from any public transport stops, from the things I want to see and from the places where I want to eat.
Thanks to Google Maps suggestions I found the two pubs in Shoredtich where I slept during my last trips to London. I wanted something different from an impersonal hotel, but at the same time I didn’t want to find myself in the spare room created in the basement of some dilapidated house found by chance on Airbnb. Both pubs were excellent in terms of both accommodation and food.
How to choose the hotel for a trip: hotel chains
My relationship with hotel chains is complicated because they can often be a double-edged sword. In fact, it happened to me to sleep on several occasions in rooms of well-known international chains and to find myself a single bed in a dusty closet with the bathroom housed in what was probably a broom closet. In fact, the best-known brands are not always a guarantee of quality, especially in large cities. However, there are smaller chains, with hotels only in some cities or towns: for example, in Barcelona I stayed at the Praktik Bakery, a hotel owned by a single Spanish property that manages four other excellent hotels in the city.
Hotel Praktik Bakery
Another chain that hasn’t disappointed me so far is Scandic which, as the name suggests, is Scandinavian and therefore is only present in a few cities in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The hotels are characterized by essential design and excellent quality of services at a mid-range price. During my last trip to the United States I also tried the Hoxton chain, which has some hotels with a very particular style in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Chicago, Paris, London and Rome: I had a great time and I will certainly go back to another of theirs structures.
How to choose the hotel for a trip: my trusty Excel file
It’s very OCD or very nerdy anyway, but I have an Excel file where I enter the details of all the places I’ve slept (and eaten) in the last twenty years. Laugh, I’m not offended. The file works like this: it is divided by country, and within each country the cities and facilities are listed with details of the price per night and other useful information such as breakfast included, parking available, distance from a certain place of interest , presence of public transport stops and the possibility of direct booking without going through the best-known portals.
I always prefer direct contact, so I can ask the managers of the facility questions, and also because in doing so I have often had more discounted rates than those found on hotel booking portals, with which I have a bad relationship. When planning a trip, I enter the data of the hotels that have struck me and, with all the information at hand, I choose the one that offers the most advantages.
What are your tricks for booking a hotel room?