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How to book the perfect hotel
By John Oates
The rise of online booking has made finding hotels easier than ever. Yet at the same time the sheer abundance of information and opinions can make the process pretty daunting. With a bit of focused research, though, it’s possible to book a hotel which ticks all the boxes.
1. Read reviews (not just scores)
Genuine reviews written by people who’ve stayed in a hotel can be hugely informative. Hotels which consistently score high marks are worth investigating, but it’s important to read the text of the reviews rather than just rely on the overall score.
Look for guests who were on a similar trip to you - travelling solo, with a family or in a group - and see what they particularly liked and disliked.
2. Only use the stars as a guide
A hotel may boast that it’s four- or five-star, but this should be taken with a pinch of salt. There’s standardisation between the countries which are members of the European Hotelstars Union, but other than that it’s a bit of a free-for-all. A four-star in one country might barely scrape three stars in another.
What’s more, the number of stars takes into account facilities which might not interest some guests. To get four or five stars in the UK, for example, most types of hotel need to have 24-hour room service. Smaller hotels can find it hard to qualify for a large number of stars, even if they’re full of character and boast great service.
3. Pick your location carefully
Unsurprisingly some of the cheapest hotels are in out-of-the-way places, but what might seem like a bargain won’t be so great if it entails lengthy bus or taxi rides to get anywhere. Not only can this bump the overall price up, it can also turn a holiday into a chore.
Use Booking.com’s map view to compare options, or refer to the maps in your guidebook. Clusters of hotels often mean that an area is worth considering, but it’s a good idea also to look at where the main attractions are and how hard they’ll be to reach.
4. Get the right facilities
Don’t take it for granted that a hotel has particular facilities or that they’re free to use. For example some hotels, including those run by major chains, still charge for wifi.
Other facilities worth looking out for might include parking, a spa, a swimming pool or a gym. If you’re travelling with children or pets, you’ll want to make sure that their needs are catered for.
5. Look out for hidden extras
Prices don’t always include all the extras. Many hotels, for example, will have a large additional charge for breakfast. If there’s a big difference between the two then it might be worth considering going out to a café each morning.
Room tax is another hidden extra to watch out for, as it may not be included in the quoted rate.
6. Book early
There’s nothing worse than leaving booking to the last minute and discovering your dream hotel sold out weeks ago. Most reservations can be cancelled at no cost until the day before arrival, so it’s always worth booking early – even if you think you might change your mind.
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