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Travel Tip #23

Hotel Tip #1 Don’t Assume That Because a Hotel Is In a Guidebook, It Is Worth Staying At

After you have purchased your plane tickets, the next thing to do is book hotel rooms. Together, these two account for your biggest pre-trip expenditures, and both are likely to vary based on weekdays versus weekends and whether you are there during a “peak” or “off” season. But unlike airfare, prices on rooms are unlikely to vary based on the time you book so you have plenty of time to sort through the many accommodation options available to find the best value. Value means getting a good return in terms of amenities, cleanliness, location, quality and service for your money spent. Now, you did not travel all this way to sit in your hotel room, but having a clean, safe, comfortable place to recharge your batteries is paramount.

Many people turn to guidebooks for lodging recommendations. This is tricky because when it comes to hotels (and restaurants) there are two types of guidebooks: those that make recommendations for places to stay and those that list places to stay in the area, but leave it up to the reader to decide. It is the latter that you have to be wary of. Don’t assume that because a hotel is in a guidebook, it is worth staying at; being listed in this type of guidebook could mean about as much as being in the yellow pages.

As a child, my family took a vacation to Mount Rushmore. On the way there, we stayed at a AAA-rated “three star” Best Western in Kadoka, South Dakota. Turns out three stars meant that there was a pool and restaurant on site. That’s it. Nothing for cleanliness (it wasn’t), quality (Dad had to fix the in-room air conditioner) or price (Kadoka is the last stop before the Badlands and they know it-this was the worst hotel we stayed in and was by far the most expensive). This was when AAA was the undisputed king of the American Road Trip and there wasn’t an Internet to offer competition. But even today, guidebooks like Let’s Go have an encyclopedic listing of places to stay. They do put a “thumbs up” symbol next to ones they recommend, so all is not lost. No thumbs up means buyer beware.

The other type of guidebook is more like having a guide in your pocket who can steer you towards clean places for a decent price. For European travel, Rick Steves can’t be beat. His recommendations are for all budgets and are based on visits by him or his staff. Though his lists are by no means complete, they are succinct and offer detailed descriptions of what the rooms are like, what the staff is like and are broken down by price and location. The only problem with his recommendations is that they are popular and rooms can be hard to come by without advanced reservations.

Know Before You Go

Research accommodations ahead of time and look for actual recommendations in guidebooks as opposed to listings. 

Bottom Line

Not all that glitters is gold.



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