Finding the right place to stay while travelling is an integral part of the experience of a trip. Hence, be careful and diligent when browsing through today’s overwhelming choice of offers. For some trips, I have spent many hours before I decide and book a place. Here are some useful tips from my experience that might help you. I myself follow these rules and must say that I very seldom make bad choices for accommodation. Although these tips are mainly for hotel and/or resort bookings, many also apply to alternative accomodation such as airbnb or private lodging.

Know what you want

You have carefully chosen a travel destination (unless your destination is a function of a very special place you want to stay at). Now you need to find the right place where to stay. Just lean back, close your eyes and imagine what you really want (and your budget allows for). Be honest to yourself. Big hotel chain or a boutique hotel. Old fashioned style or modern. A buzzing, hyped place or rather relaxed and tranquil. Upmarket or basic.

I always try to choose a place that fits to the destination. Authenticity is my motto. There is nothing better than sleeping in a 17th century palazzo building in Venice, a Japanese style design hotel in Tokyo, or a wood log chalet in the mountains.

Browse the right way

There are literally thousands of booking platforms. I usually start with the big ones, but then try to find niche platforms, that specifically refer to my destination or interests. Make rankings on the platforms according to your top priorities, be it stars, price, distance to center, or whatever.

Reading reviews is a science on its own. I never look at the best and worst reviews. If there is a 1-5 scale, 5 being the best, I focus on the negatives of the 2s and 3s. Then I see if things that people did not like are priorities for me. For example, I do not care if there are not enough TV channels (I do not travel to watch TV, and if so I can stream them on my tablet), or they do not like the soap brand in the bathroom. However, there are things that are no-gos for me: noisy place, does not deserve the stars it has, needs urgent refurbishing, unfriendly staff, etc. Those immediately disqualify a place for me.

Choose the right location

As in the real estate business, there are three important things regarding lodging: 1. location, 2. location, 3. location. Google Maps in satellite mode is Your best friend. Watch your destination, and then decide where you want to stay. In a vibrant city center, or a quiet suburb.

I am very noise sensitive, so I watch out for sources of noise in the surroundings such as main streets, train stations, fun parks, etc. Construction sites are a specific issue. Either nearby where you stay, or even at the premises themselves. Just avoid them.

Optimize the price

Superior and exclusive accommodation has become very expensive. I am stunned to see that for high-end luxury places it is not rare nowadays that you have to fork out USD 1,000+ per night. Therefore, try to optimize the price. It is all about value for money.

First browse the booking platforms. Then go to the “Official Site” of a place You like. See what they can offer on their site. Sometimes you get a discount by becoming a “member”. In some cases the price on a proprietary site is the same as on a platform. In which case contact the place to ask if you can make a deal directly.

Usually, you get a discount by paying in advance albeit not foregoing a cancellation option. Try to minimize extra cost such as for breakfast (eating outside is often more fun anyway), parking (is there a public parking nearby), or the minibar (a minimarket is surely not far from your place). These expenses can add up quite a bit, and I’m almost sure you have not accounted for them in your budget. I know from my own experience.

Book from a different device

Once You have made Your due diligence and made a decision on an accommodation, then take a different device from the one you have used to browse and book in one go. Algorithms nowadays check your search patterns from your IP address and adjust the pricing offers accordingly (up, of course). I have experienced it many times. The same is true for airline bookings, and allegedly even so for ecommerce platforms.

Always ask

We have a saying in German that means “asking is for free”. Because if what you do not ask for, you will never get. Many people are shy or feel embarrassed to ask for something. Always remember: You are the guest, you pay, you have the right. I always ask: for a nice and quiet room (high floor, away from elevators), for a great view, for a possible room upgrade, an early check-in and / or late check-out, a better table at breakfast or the bar, and many other queries. I try to do it early already when I book. Most platforms have a function for special requests, or I even call the accommodation shortly before arriving. You can obviously also ask for things while You are there.

Check-in, make staff your friends

Approaching the reception desk in a hotel lobby for check-in is one of the most crucial moments of a hotel stay. If possible, pick the right person behind the desk. I prefer Ladies (they are almost always very polite and charming) and / or Senior staff (they have the power to decide things such as upgrades). Greet them with a friendly smile preferably in their native tongue.

Say You had an exhausting trip, you are tired and looking forward to staying at the place. In many countries, a money bill peeking out of your passport that you hand over still gets you to what you want. The concierge is another important person you should get familiar with. These guys can be of tremendous help and make things easy for you. Last not least, pull room service staff over on your side. They are normally the most humble persons. Tip them properly on your first day of stay, and you will get almost any wish regarding your room fulfilled.

Check out the room

Once checked-in, it is always a very special moment for me to go to the room. I can spot within seconds of entering a room, if I like it or not (the chances of not are slim after all the homework I have done before).

The first thing I do is drop my luggage, close the door, and sit quietly on the bed for a moment. Then I listen and watch: I am extremely noise sensitive, and believe me, there are countless sources of noise: from the hallway, the street, minibar, TV, air con, light transformators, etc. Over the years I would reckon there was a one in three to four chance that I would go back to the reception and ask for a room change. Very often, I got an upgrade. Not that I misused a fair complaint for that pursuit. But you have a right for a proper room. So ask for it.

Cancellation policy

With the COVID pandemic this has unfortunately become a key issue when booking basically anything nowadays. Regarding accommodation, most hotels that you book via platforms have very flexible free cancellation options these days. From my experience, when You book directly a city hotel, in most cases you can cancel even on the day of arrival. It gets a bit trickier with holiday resorts.

On top of the individual cancellation options, you should anyway check out the insurance covered by your credit card. My tip: upgrade Your VISA or Mastercard. I am at Platinum level. The little extra annual fee is worth the additional insurance cover many times over. And You do not have to worry about it on every individual trip.

Become a regular

I love to get familiar with a place. Although I am a very curious person that likes change, I still am an “animal of habit”. Becoming a regular has many treats: staff know you, they treat you preferably, you feel at home and know exactly what awaits you. So my tip is, when you regularly visit a place and different experiences are not a priority for you, try to pick your perfect place and become a regular there. One such place is my perfect retreat in London: the K+K George Hotel  in Earl’s Court. It perfectly ticks all my boxes. I have stayed there more than 60 times. Value for money is great.

MySlowTrip - Lukas Stipkovits - About me

From the fast lane of investment banking to the slow lane of back to the essentials

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