I am often asked to share my travel secrets, like what are some tips on getting a good hotel deal? I often reply, “what do you mean by a good hotel deal?” Here is my first post on choosing a hotel. It is an overview that will explain the basics of our hotel rubric.
My hotel Rubric of hotel-ing is the answer to their question. Yes, it is kind of like a Rubic’s Cube. Match all of the colors together to form the most cohesive result. Ok. Seriously. Before I launch in any farther, let me explain what I mean by rubric and why I use the term here. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia:
“rubrics include one or more dimensions on which performance is rated, definitions and examples that illustrate the attribute(s) being measured, and a rating scale for each dimension. Dimensions are generally referred to as criteria, the rating scale as levels, and definitions as descriptors.”
Yes, my brain hurts too. I promise the definition will make sense. Meaning if you apply (score/measure) your tailored list (a rubric) of requirements (attributes) to your hotel search, you will not only get you the best deal, you will also have the most satisfying stay. Hey and that is nothing to sneeze at.
Here is how I compile my rubric. I score each hotel on specific criteria: price, brand (points availability and my current status with hotel brands), TripAdvisor reviews, Hotels.com reviews compared to TripAdvisor reviews, VRBO.com and Homeaway.com reviews, availability (of course), cleanliness, and the wild card (for instance, you can make a close guess about what Priceline.com hotel you are bidding on, and safely roll the dice. Dave and I did that in Chamonix, France and our wild card paid off). That is the first layer.
After scoring a hotel on specific criteria, I consider the specific situation. Remember, every travel adventure takes on new factors and considerations, and those factors and considerations need to be addressed and you criteria adjusted (hence a rubric). Consequently, our hotel choice varies depending on what we are doing, who we are with, how old are kids are, where we are staying, how long we are staying, and the cost.
Let me give you an example. When we first went to Hawaii, Kyle was seven and Eli was five. We went to Oahu for a few days and then flew to Kauai. We stayed in Kauai for almost three weeks. Because of the length of stay, I knew a hotel would get pricey. Additionally, because of the boys were young and squirrely, we knew we would need some breathing room. Kauai was also a new destination. We were traveling on a lower peak time, and saw that vacation rentals were less expensive than on peak times. I also accessed reviews, looked for the newest construction, and highest rated place. Considering these factors, we opted for longer-term lodging, and found a condo for rent on VRBO.com at Waipouli Beach.
In early 2014 the same family was traveling to Hawaii. Could we apply the same criteria to our vacation? No. Our Rubric had changed. The boys were older and crabby not young and squirrely. Meaning we could consider sharing a hotel room with them. We were staying for a week, not three.
As far as Oahu hotel choice and pick, we the landscape had also changed. Our first visit to Kauai and Oahu was in 2007. Since then miles and points have exploded. We knew we wanted to stay near Waikiki Beach. We also knew we like the Hyatt Place Waikiki. We also knew we had saved up Hyatt Points from credit card deal. Of course, I backed up my finds with TripAdvisor and Hotels.com reviews. Ultimately, we were able to use points. And because we also had Platinum (now Diamond) status at Hyatt, we knew a room upgrade was likely.
Additionally, we were traveling to Oahu, not Kauai. Oahu is more populated than Kauai, and consequently has more hotel options and deals. It was our third visit to Oahu, and our eighth visit to Hawaii. Since our first visit, we have traveled back to Kauai, twice, Maui, the Big Island twice, and Oahu. Our Hawaiian travel has demonstrated that Oahu is the easiest to fly to, and is considered the less desirable and most crowded island. Because people bad-mouth Honolulu all the time, I assumed Oahu would not be as special. I was wrong. After traveling all over Hawaii, we have grown to love and appreciate all that Oahu has to offer. We’ve experienced the relative remoteness of Kaui (the garden isle) and the wide open spaces of the Big Island. Instead We enjoy the no-island-fever, cultural melting pot feel of Oahu. Oahu does not seem over crowded. Instead, it is accessible. For starters, there is a Whole Foods, a fresh flower-filled China Town, the best Shave Ice I have ever had (Shimazu Store), a Target, Pearl Harbor, The North Shore, and The Dole Pineapple Plantation.
Bottom line. Make your own hotel rubric. Figure out what you want. Do not take someone else’s dream vacation, or book their hotel. For instance, once I recommended a hotel to my sister. Because it was winter, she was leaving in the morning for the airport, had kids, and the hotel had an indoor pool, I was certain she would love the price, the pool and the convenience. I was wrong. I should have vetted her more thoroughly. What I did not consider was that she didn’t enjoy a bargain as much as we do. She actually prefers five-star pampering instead of indoor pools. Do it your way.
Decide what works for you. That is the best deal. Vet yourself. Once vetted, use reviews to back up your assertions, and then decide. Do you have a pet? Do you travel with your pet? Do you have allergies? Do you want all-inclusive or off-the beaten path? Are you hotel-brand devotee? Are you a hotel snob? Do not be afraid to own it. Would you prefer a vacation rental? Are you a five-star traveler, or are roadside motels your thing? How many rooms do you need? How old are your kids? Do your kids need to sleep in the same room as you? Are you a smoker? Are you a germaphobe? Do you want to be in walking distance of your destination?
Finally, communicating your expectations clearly is how you will get the best deal. Use my hotel-rubric to facilitate that communication. Survey the area, compare, read reviews and decide. Oh, and remember, if you arrive and things are not as promised, you can always make a change. Remind me to tell you about Mexico!
Look for hotels that are under renovation. They usually have specials.
When reading TripAdvisor and Hotels.com reviews, make sure the review is current. I have noticed that “recently renovated” can actually mean “recently renovated ten years ago.”
Room upgrades with hotel status can save you money. Book the lower price room. Usually you will receive an upgrade, especially during off season.