• Old School Traveller

More Than Just a Roof Over Your Head

In my opinion there is so much more to choosing accommodation than just making sure you have somewhere to sleep, especially if you are trying to make the trip as memorable as possible. Cost effectiveness is obviously a priority, but first you must think about the type of lodging you want. Whether you choose a Hotel, B&B or apartment has many knock on effects. It took me a long time to realise that by staying in a hotel with at least 3 Stars to it's name meant that I was, more likely than not, paying for services and options that I wouldn't be using. Gyms, pools, restaurants, Spa treatments etc aren't always required when travelling for a short period of time. Okay, I'm not one for gyms anyway, but hopefully you'll be doing enough walking to ensure that the pounds are kept off, and I'm not really going to Paris for a swim. Restaurant's too can be expensive add-ons if you plan to eat out every evening. I'm a great fan of the All Inclusive hotel buffet breakfast but doing away with it altogether, and heading out into the streets may be a much better option, both financially and as far as taking in the atmosphere of a city. Why stay and eat in the hotel when you could be seated in a busy square or grand avenue watching the world go by. I agree that if your in a place thats not exactly known for its coffee and pastries, the hotel buffet may well suit, but it is certainly an option worth taking into consideration, especially, again, if you are saving money here to spend on luxuries elsewhere. With some hotel breakfasts adding between $20 and $50 per person to the room rate, that money can be put to much better use especially when a steaming coffee and flaky croissant on the hoof can be equally as rewarding. It can be spent on a better lunch for one thing.

The Hotel Al Ponte Antico above, is a perfect example of a potentially expensive hotel that is brought down into the doable because it has no restaurant other than for breakfast - Often cooked by the owner himself and with immense pride. A small family run 13th Century palace on the banks of the Grand Canal adjacent to the Rialto Bridge, with wonderful views and a level of personal service often unmatched. 9 well sized rooms, especially for Venice and Italy itself, decorated in the local style, its the perfect choice for an unforgettable Venice vacation. Due to the age of the building, there is no lift. I only mention this as it is wonderful hotels such as this, that get voted down on Trip Advisor for lacking such ammenities. It is often well worth checking on why stars are given or taken away on such sites. You must do your homework - there is no point whatsoever in choosing a hotel based on its 5 star rating on a holiday website only to find out once you are there that is has a fantastic children's playground and is only seconds from Runway 3 at Linate Airport. Not exactly ideal requirements for a romantic getaway in Milan. The rooms nearer the breakfast area and bar can be noisier than others but allowances must be made when staying in such authentic, beautiful and generous establishments as this.

I do much prefer independent or family run hotels to the big chain hotels - Small Luxury Hotels of The World is a great initial guide to many of these wonderful places.. My experiences abroad need to be more unique than they can provide for me. Further to that, I find that my hard earned pennies go even further when staying in B&B's. Although the amount of services provided is less, often the location and hospitality more than makes up for the lack of a gym, for example. Further to this, short lease apartments often have spectacular views or locations that would cost the earth if you were staying in a grand hotels equivalent room. Booking .com and Trivago are great places to start you research but there are also many other smaller niche sites that will need to be searched for as well. Once you have found a contender, you must visit their own website for a price comparison. Sometimes there are Hotel Specials only to be found on their own site and it also provides a good point of reference to your savings. Once you have made your booking, there is no reason to stick. Check back every now and again to see if there are any new specials to take advantage. This is one of the many joys of Free Cancellation and should be used accordingly. I have often upgraded my room 3 times for the same cost as the season develops and the rooms aren't being filled to the hotels level of comfort.

Whether you are staying in a 5 Star Hotel or a 7 bedroom B&B, it is well worth your while building up a rapport with the hotel before you arrive. It takes no time to write them an email several weeks before your arrival to let them know the reason for your trip or anything you might need help with, whether it is choosing a restaurant or booking a transfer from the airport. A confirmation email is usually required anyway, but to turn this formality into a relationship builder can do no harm whatsoever and can only increase your chances of obtaining an upgrade on your room. I have read many a review on websites where the guest has complained that the hotel had no reservation for them and that they would never stay there again. This situation would certainly never arrive if a dialogue had been set up in advance and can often be the mistake of the traveller not to have understood the booking terms and conditions. Obviously hotel reservations do make mistakes and this might happen to anyone, but it's about minimising the risk and it takes little time to do. Following them on social media and liking their posts also helps your guest profile enormously as well. Please don't forget that this site is for getting the best out of your money and to do this, everything takes a little more effort beforehand that ultimately rewards once you are there. Once you are there, do ask them for their advice and help when it comes to restaurants and things to do. It was something I avoided for years, pride I suppose, but over the years I have come to realise that it is no coincidence that the tables i get that were booked by my highly regarded hotel are much better than the ones I have either booked myself or have walked in to.

Key Points

1. Do your research, compare prices, reviews, and photographs.

2. Each destination has different requirements. Work out what your priorities are when it comes to choosing your hotel on any given trip. i.e, view, location, ammenities, style etc.

3. Communicate with the host explaining the reason for your trip, your requirements and revisit websites to see if cheaper or better offers are available.

4. Use their local knowledge when booking restaurants etc.

5. With money saved on the accommodation, think about whether an Airport Transfer will make the experience easier and more enjoyable for you.

6. Look for alternatives to mainstream hotels.

7. Try to ensure that the room or hotel you choose matches the place in which your staying. When I'm staying in rome, I like to know I'm staying in rome. There is no reason why the atmosphere of somewhere has to stop when you close the door behind you.

8. Review the hotel with consideration after your trip and remember to speak of any reservations you have during your stay. they can often be resolved at the time and the owners often prefer that to a scathing review online that they can do precious little about.

9. Compare the benefits and cost of the hotel buffet versus getting out and amongst it for breakfast.

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