Where you stay can make or break any travel experience. No matter how wonderful the destination, if you are staying in an unclean, unfriendly hell hole in the middle of a crime ridden suburb, chances are you’ll have a terrible time. That is why I have a set of criteria that I use in order to book any accommodation. If I get the accommodation wrong, I’m in big trouble. My wife’s standards are a lot higher than mine (I don’t mind roughing it occasionally) so to stay married I always use the following criteria when booking accommodation.
These are the things I check for before booking a property, roughly in the correct order of priority. Your priorities may of course differ from mine.
Neither of us can abide an unclean property. It is the most important thing for us. I don’t want to be looking at a previous occupant’s pubic hair in the bathroom, or have stained towels, or be able to write my name in the dust on the window sill. I use booking.com primarily for accommodation and always check their reviews (drilling down to the cleanliness score).
We don’t care how nice the accommodation is if it isn’t near to where we want to be. It has to be in a convenient location for the things we want to see and do in this destination. We don’t want to be paying taxi and transport costs on top of the accommodation. If the property is slightly out of the way, do they provide a free shuttle service? The location requirements will change depending on where we are. For example, if we are in a large city then it will be important to be near a metro line or convenient bus route, but in a smaller town we may want to be within walking distance of a town square or restaurants.
This may be the most important criteria to a lot of people, but we are willing to pay a little extra to get the things we want / need (whilst staying within our budget of course).
Is there something different about the accommodation that sets it apart from the other options available? Perhaps it is a converted farmhouse, or a tree house, or even a glorified tent (such as our time at Africamps, South Africa). Having a unique selling point is something that always attracts our attention. After all, variety is the spice of life, yes?
Again, for some people, particularly digital nomads, this may be near the top of their priorities. Whilst we need to be online most days, we can go a few days unconnected if we have to. No-one is going to die if we are late posting to the blog. If they have Wifi, do any of the reviews complain about speed or availability?
We can be swayed by a great view from our window or balcony, but this is certainly more of a nice to have than an essential. Chances are we will see the exact same great views as soon as we leave our room.
Do they provide a free breakfast or a complimentary spa package? I have noticed a lot of the larger hotels and resorts offering a ‘free massage’ during your stay. An included breakfast can be quite a saving in locations where eating out is expensive.
This would be a lot higher if we were staying in a location for more than 2 weeks, or in a particularly expensive country. Apart from accommodation, eating out is usually our biggest expense. In Asia, generally, eating out for each meal is not going to break the bank, but certainly in Australia or New Zealand we would be looking for kitchen facilities.
If we are booking something a few months in advance, we like to check the cancellation policy. You never know what the future holds, so if a property offers a full refund up to a week or so before arrival then it’s worth knowing. Many of the properties on Booking.com do not require any pre-payment, allowing you to pay at the property. All of this is very welcome if the unexpected happens and your plans change, however it is not something that generally influences our booking decision.
Neither of us are particularly comfortable lying around a pool or working out in the gym, so these additional facilities do not hold much sway with us.
Reviews are your friend
You can find out all of this information prior to booking by just doing a little research and reading the reviews from fellow travellers. I always check reviews on Booking.com, Tripadvisor, and if we have booked through AirBnb, on there too.
What criteria do you look for before booking accommodation? Are your priorities different to ours? Let us know in the comments below.