Do Your Research: Choosing Your Accommodation the Smart Way

Ninety percent, if not more, of our travel experiences tend to be to places we’ve never been. How then, to come to a decision on where to stay? Of course, you’ll look at the major deciding factors of budget, location, amenities, and so on, but how can we make the choices easier?

Presently, I’m booking accommodation at a place in China, (Guilin), that we’ve never travelled to. Here’s a few tips for you, that are coming out of this process. First off, I decided to…

1) Ask around.

Checking with friends or aquaintances about where they’ve stayed is a great place to start. You’ll be able to ask specific questions, and you will trust in their opinions. At the very least, you can choose the opposite of what they recommend, if you know what I mean.

In my case, with this Guilin trip, nobody that I personally know has ever been to this place, so I had to go further abroad, which led me to…

2) Post on social media.

I follow several Facebook group sites about travel, but since we live in Hong Kong, I chose to post a general inquiry about Guilin hotels on a local HK expat site. Well, I did find people who had been to this part of China, but…being your basic high-living expatriates, they all recommended expensive, all-inclusive, big international hotels. Not exactly what I was thinking, for my “real China” experience. So, then I went to…

3) Look at some travel guides.

Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, Frommer’s. Just a few of the names to go to for great travel information. And, while I definitely endorse investing in a travel guide book for your destination, (or better yet, downloading an eBook version to your device), keep in mind that the accommodation advice here tends to be just a few recommended places, and that the properties probably paid handsomely for a mention in the publication.

So, back to my elusive search for the perfect Guilin stay. My first three ideas have led me round in circles, and I’m starting to get a little frustrated. Then, I thought about…

4) Using an accommodation booking site.

Booking.com, Hotels.com, Trivago, Agoda…..just a few of your vast amount of web options when searching for a room. It’s a great way to go, if all you’re interested in is price or amenities. But, can they help you with choosing the best location? As I narrowed my search to three top choices, I found myself bouncing back and forth between the hotel booking sites, and Google maps. Back and forth, back and forth. How could I be sure that the places I liked really were “walking distance to attractions”? That’s when I knew I had to go just a wee bit further in my search for our best possible accommodation. I went straight to…

5) Checking Trip Advisor.

Everyone likely has looked into Trip Advisor at one time or another. Maybe you’ve even posted a review or two. The thing to remember is, everyone’s hotel experience is extremely subjective. Maybe a room you might find to be perfectly acceptable would send other folks into a tailspin. So keeping that in mind, I searched Trip Advisor for their listings of my final three choices. I looked over the reviews, weighed the good ones against the not so good.

(Personally, if I’m staying in a renovated Qing-dynasty building in the middle of the fabulous Quilin karsts, I’m probably not going to mind a frog hopping into my room. But, I digress…)

I looked over the photos others had posted, and I even went into the Trip Advisor forum to ask specific questions, which by the way were answered within hours.

So finally, the decision was made!

What’s your takeway from all of this? Explore your options. Take a bit of time to do some research. Use all of your available resources. Don’t just choose the first name brand hotel you come across. By investing an hour or two into finding out all of your accommodation options, you’ll not only know more about what to expect once you’re there, you’ll have made the perfect choice for YOU.

Happy travels!

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