How to Choose the Best Hotels

No matter why you're traveling or where you're traveling to, your hotel has the potential to make your trip one to remember for all the right-and wrong-reasons. Hotels are more than just a place to sleep. The best hotels offer information and services that help familiarize you with your location, address the special needs of families and business travelers and, they hope, give you something to write home about.

Business or Pleasure
When it comes to choosing a hotel, the first thing to stop and consider is why you're traveling. If you're traveling for business, you'll have different needs than if you're traveling on vacation or with children and your choice of hotel should reflect that.

Business travelers should choose a hotel that features a business center for traveler's use or offers complimentary in-room Internet access that's secure and ideally wireless. Try to find hotels close to the airport or the center of the city's business district. Airport hotels aren't known for a good view, but make up for it with convenient shuttles, efficient customer service and a focus on business travelers.

When you're traveling with children, consider spending a few extra dollars to stay in a family-friendly hotel. Look for hotel amenities like in-room refrigerators and other kitchen appliances, restaurants and room service that feature a children's menu, indoor pools, portable cribs and a professional babysitting service.

Know what other amenities you'd like to have-laundry or spa services, for example-and limit your hotel choices to those that meet your must-have needs.

Location Location Location
Choosing a hotel with a good location is critical to making your trip a great one. But what does a good location really mean? That depends on what you'll be doing while you're staying at the hotel. You don't need to plan your entire itinerary in order to choose a hotel, but you should have a general idea of what you need or want to do once you arrive at your destination.

Start with a map of the area and highlight the airport, local attractions and shopping, theatre or other districts you'd like to see; then locate hotels that are conveniently located in relation to these spots. The less effort you have to make to get where you want to go makes for a more relaxing and enjoyable time.

Great Hotel Rates May Cost You Later
Most of the time, choosing a hotel solely on room rate is to plan for disappointment. If you're traveling to a gorgeous, tropical island you've never been to, it may be tempting to choose a hotel a few blocks from the beach with a lower hotel rate than the one right on the sand.

Chances are, the lower that room rate, the farther that hotel is going to be from the beach and those few blocks might actually be a few miles. What you thought you'd save on your hotel, you'll wind up spending on a cab or bus fare or a rental car; you'll pay for the inconvenience of having to find a way from your hotel to the attractions you want to see and probably the view of the asphalt from your budget-priced hotel isn't one of them.

In the end, any hotel in a great location will carry a higher room rate, but when you look at what you hope to get out of the trip, the value of that location may be worth paying for.

Guest Ratings
Travel Web sites invite travelers to rate their trip online and these hotel reviews often provide you with key information you might not find elsewhere, like whether a hotel is undergoing remodeling or construction that may detract from your stay. Read through the majority of user reviews to get the most the most fair and accurate picture of the hotel and hotel rooms and be wary of reviews that seem exceptionally positive or negative that may be intended to sway you one way or another.

Who Else is in Town?
If you're traveling to a large city, check with the local Chamber of Commerce or Convention Bureau for a calendar of events before you book a hotel-if you can be flexible with your travel dates, this little bit of research could save you money and the hassle of competing for dinner reservations when there's an influx of people in town. You'll also save on your hotel room rate; higher hotel occupancy means higher hotel room rates.

Destination resort hotels in areas like Orlando, Florida and the Bahamas often have convention facilities on their properties. Check with the resort hotel to see if there when those conventions are being held so you don't find yourself at a hotel where your downtime gets taken hostage by poolside parties and karaoke competitions.

Hotel Room Rates
No one wants to pay more for a hotel room than they have to. Always ask the hotel's front desk if they can do better on the room rate. Hotel reservation staff usually has the authority to discount the room rate or know how else you can save money. You should also check to see if an AAA, AARP or other club membership entitles you to a discount at the hotel. Airlines, rental car companies and frequent flyer programs often partner with hotels to offer discounts to shared customers. So do some credit card companies. Does yours? Find out before you book your hotel room.

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