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Reserving a room in the "right" vacation hotel in a world class city can be a challenging task.  We provide several recommendations that could  help you  to make a great choice.

 

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Travel Advice - Vacationing in one of the world’s great cities? How to choose a hotel.

If money were no object, most of us would make reservations at swanky hotels when we travel, especially when we travel internationally. When money is a consideration, how should you go about selecting a place to stay in cities abroad during your vacation?

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way at the start.

In most world-class cities having a car is a liability: driving is a nightmare and finding parking can be difficult and incredibly expensive.  If a world-class city is part of your tour, turn in the car on arrival and, if needed, rent another one when you depart. Since you will no longer have the car and parking expense, you can afford a nicer hotel and better meals. So, walk, take taxis, or ride public transportation to get around town.

 

Second, let’s agree on another recommendation : look for hotels near the tourist center of the city.

Most vacationers prefer lodging that is close to the tourist center of the city and we recommend accommodations in the city, as close to the tourist center as you can afford. Doing so is convenient, lets you immerse yourself in the "feeling" of the city, provides the ability to walk to your destinations, or take a taxi or the subway when required. Better yet, you can cruise back to your hotel for a nap or just to freshen-up on the spur of the moment. Finally, you do not have to leave in the early evening before the last train and miss the best part of the city's nightlife. We think you miss the heartbeat of the city if you are not in or near the “Centre”.

We know plenty of people who prefer to take a hotel in the suburbs and ride the train to the city center. Doing so costs you some ambience, adds travel time at the expense of touring time, and requires you to schedule your transportation carefully. Of course, a hotel located away from the center can save you major bucks. We urge you to consider lodging closer to the city center.

Now that we have discussed the restrictions, let’s proceed with how to find a hotel that meets your needs.

1.  Choosing a hotel for a vacation in one of the world’s great cities proceeds through several stages. Most people start the process by looking for a hotel that is located close to the attractions they want to see.  In most cities, hotel prices peak at the tourist center (often the same area as the business center) and decrease with increasing distance from the center. Prices peak again around airports.  

Start your hunt for lodging by searching one or more of the online travel reservation services to compare hotel prices and amenities.

  • Many sites allow you to display the locations of hotels on maps that show tourist attractions, allowing you determine whether the hotel is conveniently located.
  • If you have a particular brand of hotel that you prefer, check their site first for specials and discount rates: many major chains now guarantee that their posted Internet rates are the lowest you will find for their hotels.
  • The pricing deals that many hotels offer to on-line booking services is often exclusive: you may not find the same hotels on all sites or you may not find them offering rooms at the same price on similar dates. So, comparison-shop to determine if the property is offered by another service for a lower fee.

 

2.  The second stage of choosing a hotel is usually spent looking for deals. This is the “I’m sure I can find what I want cheaper than what I have found so far” stage of lodging search. If this has happened to you, try the following strategies.

  •  If your travel schedule is flexible, determine if prices are lower mid-week.
    • Recently, using Expedia I booked into a hotel in Amsterdam with a great location that was $90 Tuesday through Thursday and increased to $180 on Friday and Saturday (yes, I booked Tuesday through Thursday).
  • Local independent hotels may be more reasonably priced than national or international chains.
    • These less well-known hotels often are not listed on services like Orbitz and Expedia. You may want to do a “Google” Web search for the "city name + hotels" to see if you can find a travel site  that represents local hotels in the country of interest.
    • Another way to find local hotels is to read travel bulletin boards, looking  for recommendations made by other travelers.
  • Finally, if you enjoy staying in a “homelike” environment, look for a bed and breakfast or a pension.
    • These alternates often provide amazingly good deals for comfortable accommodations but local gems are hard to “discover”.
    • Good travel agents can be of help here. Also, try contacting national government tourist boards (e.g. the Scottish National Tourist Board).
    • In addition, various travel associations publish countrywide  print or Internet -based directories  of hotels and guesthouses

3.  After spending some time searching, people realize that they might not be able to get the amenities and location they want for the price they want to pay and enter the third stage of decision-making, which is titled “considering which amenity you might be willing to trade for something else”.

Once you have a basic idea of what's available for a particular price, go back to your favorite travel provider site and dig a little further.  Most of these sites present a list of hotels in response to your request for lodging in a city based on listing their preferred partners first.  Most services allow you to change the order of listings based on cost, quality rating (read our article on Ratings), or other factors and we urge you to list the hotels based on the measure most important to you.

  • We suggest that you analyze the pair swaps (for example, price for distance from the center, distance versus room size and quality, etc.).
  • When you find a few interesting candidates, use “Google” or another Internet search engine, enter the hotel name plus the city name  to find information about the hotel and its attributes. 
    • It is hard to decide whether comments you find in bulletin boards or discussions forums are either fair or true: however, if you find a number of negative comments, consider another choice.

4.  If all of this seems too much trouble,  a good travel agent can usually help you find a great hotel . 

  • Travel agents may not find you a place that is as economical as the ones you will find online and they may not be able to match the rates you find online but they can take the guesswork and uncertainty out of choosing good quality accommodations, especially when you are traveling abroad. 
    • If you want to avoid the dog work of travel, consider using a certified travel planner.

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