How to Find the Best Places to Stay
This weekend a friend asked us how we find the best places to stay when we’re visiting a new destination. When I told her my method: read a lot about the destination, then find somewhere safe, clean, well-priced, and close to the main attractions, she reiterated, “yeah, but HOW do you find these places?”
I should mention that I’m one of those irritating (lovable?) people who just LOVE travel planning. I love the research, the blog-stalking, the Instagramming, the booking process, the confirmations, and let me tell you, printing the itineraries and creating a ‘trip packet’ is flipping like Christmas for me.
That said, I’ve realized a lot of people do not enjoy this process at all and it becomes stressful not fun. In fact, it can even ruin people’s excitement for the upcoming adventure which is just wholly unacceptable.
So, here is a rundown of my exact process for finding the best places to stay around the globe. Since we’ll be going to Mendoza, Argentina next year, let’s use that city for our example:
Step 1: Turn on your Computer (not smartphone, this is research people!)
Step 2: Google
Captain Obvious here, but this is always where I start. There are two things I search first:
- Search numero uno: ‘Best area to stay Mendoza Argentina’
What I’m looking for is an assessment of the different neighborhoods or sub-areas of my target city. I find that ‘best’ usually leads to more discerning results than ‘where to’ and I specifically hone in on blogs, travel guides, and city websites like exploremendoza.com.
I immediately avoid any area listed as ‘up and coming,’ ‘artsy or eclectic,’ ‘working class,’ or that the sources recommend you 'avoid at night'. I know this is a generalization and may come off as snobby, but when I’m traveling to someplace I don’t know well my main goal is to feel safe and comfortable. Once I’m on the ground I’m free to explore all areas of the city!
Usually after scouring a few sites I’ve narrowed my focus to two or three neighborhoods and I move on to search number two.
- Search numero dos: ‘Things to do in Mendoza Argentina’
This gives a good idea of the city’s main attractions and where those attractions are located. Is the downtown square a must visit? Are there museums nearby? An awesome viewpoint we can’t miss? What about public transport?
I choose the things we *definitely* want to do or see, then merge that with our personal preferences ie: we love to walk and be near fun bars and restaurants, but we also like it to be quiet at night.
By this point I’ve narrowed my search down to one or two neighborhoods that seem to fit us best and it’s time to move on from the Googs.
Step 3: Open Booking.com (Agoda.com if visiting Asia) & AirB&B
Now that I know the areas of the city I prefer, I open both sites and input the neighborhood (if possible), city, and dates. I use as many filters as I can to hone my search: price, amenities, partial or entire unit, etc. This helps remove non-relevant results right off the bat.
Assuming all prices are acceptable since I used the filters, the next thing I do is open the 'map view' to make sure I’m where I want to be. Then I scope out the overall star or number ratings of accomodations in the area.
*Note: it’s important to notice how many reviews a place has as well as it's overall score. For example, a room with an 8.8 rating on Booking.com and 156 reviews is probably legit, but I’d hesitate more on a place with the same rating but only two reviews. Zero in on the highest-rated, most vetted places.
Step 4: Keep digging
Actually read the reviews
I read through multiple reviews to get a good feel of what people are actually saying about the accommodation, but it’s super important to balance other’s feelings with your own expectations. For example, some people really get mad if a hotel doesn’t have TV whereas I don’t really care. But I do care if it’s noisy at night. Here are other things to look for in reviews:
- Location, location location: to aforementioned attractions, airport, transport, etc.
- Safety: day and night
- Noise at night and general ‘comfy-ness’
- Included breakfast (super bonus!)
- Airport shuttle (if applicable)
Look at the pictures AND the 'map view' of the unit or hotel
Pictures say a lot more than words and so does Google 'street view'. Look at the other buildings in the area and cars parked nearby.
Check the cancellation or change policy
I always try to book a place with free cancellation and free online changes because flexibility is key when traveling.
Step 5: Book that shiz!
Once you feel confident that you found a great spot, with a flexible cancellation policy, just book it! If you’ve done your due diligence (and read this entire article), it’s probably going to be awesome, but worst case scenario it’s awful. I looks nothing like the pictures and a guy is doing meth out front. What do you do?
You hightail it to Marriott, grab a glass of wine, write a strongly worded review and get your money back. That’s not so bad right? And isn't that what makes traveling so great?!