How to plan a travel - Hotel Booking

When you have completed the flight booking -  you may now start checking out the hotels.

A note here:
If you are staying put at a friend's or relative's  -  then you can forgo this post.

As mentioned in the first post on travel -  if you already know the location that you want to go -  then all you need to do is log on to some hotel booking sites. I used to book on Booking.com years ago, but then Agoda lets you earn miles from your bookings so I use that extensively.

Online booking:
In most of these sites (which could be both Booking.com and Agoda or any other website), the hotel details such as the room pics, the facilities, the location, review and price are indicated. You can select the room depending on your family structure or the number of people going along with you.

Number of rooms:
When travelling with my mum -  I book two rooms. If its just three of us - I book one room and look for hotels that provide additional cots for free or with extra charge. If its a big group - we usually see if we can find rooms that allows for 4 pax per room or book more rooms accordingly.

I will check the location of the hotel -  should be near train stations, and bus stops and near distance to most tourist spots if in the city.

If I am somewhere further away from the city, eg country side, I look for the most picturesque hotel with nice view since I will be doing driving - and not looking for trains.

Room facilities:
If I am comfortable with the hotel and the room I will check if the facilities are ok. I am fine if there are limited facilities - only if I am staying there for a night. But if we were to stay at one place for more than 2 days -  I ensure that the facilities include kettle, cups and cutlery or at a minimum mini bar and necessary toiletries.

For more than 4-5 days -  we look for rooms that has kitchenette or an apartment setting. If we are looking for a apartment setting  -  I ensure that the kitchenette is fully functional and the room  and toilet clean and airy. Usually even though you cannot see all these in the images they provide, you can learn more from the hotel reviews.

Most importantly -  the room MUST have wifi and it MUST be free. Some places offer free wifi for a limited time. So check that out as well.

Unless you are vacationing at a isolated cottage in England or a beach in some island somewhere -  forget about wifi.

Reviews:
I have learnt that hotels are very serious about the reviews they get. I make my mind up mostly only after reading the reviews. From the reviews I will know what to expect, if the customer service is bad, or good, if the food is ok or terrible, if the location of the hotel was pathetic or noisy, if the bed and room is clean or terrible -  all these information -  from the reviews, As such I only look at hotels that has a score value of 7 and above and has to be a 3 star or above hotel.

Free Cancellation and Breakfast
Now -  when I make hotel booking - another factor I look for is free cancellation and free breakfast. I am a sucker for hotel breakfast and I would like it free. If you have kitchenette - you don't get that option. 

Free cancellation is a boon. Since I look for hotels months before I actually leave -  I might have changes in the dates, or locations or number of pax. If I am expecting changes, the free cancellation enables me to have a peace of mind that I will not be charged for cancelling. But if you cancel a day or two before the actual check in - there are some penalties. So you have to read the terms and conditions before making the booking.

Once all the details has been sorted -  you proceed to make the booking, and print it out. If you have booked more than one hotels, ensure you have them all printed out. Some bookings require you to make payment at the hotel itself -  take note of those bookings so you will have enough cash with you on the day of checking in.

Organise the hotel bookings in order of the location that you are going. Once you have cleared that hotel,mark it and place it at the back of the pile, so that the 2nd booking will be in the front - easier to refer and take it out instead of shuffling it all about - wasting time and making you look like a dodo.

Check in / Check out 
Take note of the check in and check out time. By far I have noted that check out time is usually at noon and check in is several hours later like 2 or 3pm. So when you are booking a hotel -  check your arrival time at destination. If you are early you will have to wait in the hotel lobby till they give you a room. If you are way too late you will be charged additional night. So again plan accordingly. Some nice hotels let you off if you come late at night and they don't charge the extra night. 

In some places in Chennai, they have 24 hour checking/check out. So if you have checked into the hotel at 4pm, you get to checkout 4pm the next day. 

Parking and etc
In case you are driving -  check if they have car park. Also check if they have a working restaurant for breakfast or room service. When I went to Malacca, I took it for granted that a restaurant will be in the hotel I booked. Imagine my dismay when I found the hotel to be a part of a shop house which has no restaurant. And the parking lot was a 10 mins walks away from the hotel! ( Yes,yes I read the review -  but no one said anything about no restaurant!)

Extras:
I had hotels in city and cottages when I wrote this post. Now if you are going to some island, where all you are going to do is skinny dipping in bikini and looking at pristine waters -  then check out for hotels that gives you a good view, food and room. All three are important. If you are staying put in a resort -  ensure the resort has good restaurant, room service, resort facilities, games and tours to keep you occupied.

Now all that said and done -  kindly factor your budget as well. The budget determines the entire vacation. If you think you'd be doing a lot of sightseeing and not much staying put in hotel -  then look for cheaper alternatives like hostel or lodge or something that are kid friendly(if you have kids), and safe.

In my next post -  I will write about other bookings and prints outs you might like to have in your travel folder: How to plan a travel -  What else?

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