Hotel room at the Baronne Plaza Hotel, New Orleans

Hotel room at the Baronne Plaza Hotel, New Orleans

In the last month I’ve had to book a couple of hotels for various trips like my New Orleans trip and my trip to New York City later this month. This is a departure from what I usually do. Whenever I travel, I usually end up either staying with friends or family or crash in a hostel. If I do stay in a hotel, it’s usually because I’m travelling with an organization and they booked the hotel.

So when I started looking at hotels, I had literally hundreds of places I could choose from to stay in. I needed a way to narrow down the list of places. So I’ve developed a checklist of things I like to look for when picking a hotel.

1. Recommendations from friends or family– This more then any other factor puts a potential hotel high on my “book it” list. If someone I know had a positive experience at the hotel, then odds are good I will like it there too.

2. Location– What makes a good location varies by destination, but I’m usually looking for someplace close to where I want to go and that it’s close to public transit (if available). I also want to avoid sketchy areas of town.

3. Price– Obviously, a hotel doesn’t do me much good if I can’t afford to stay there to begin with. What makes a hotel affordable depends on the city. In New York, for example, finding a decent Manhattan hotel for less then $200 a night is a good price to me. But in New Orleans, paying $200 a night for a hotel would have been quite excessive for a weekend when no major events were going on.

4. Wi-fi– Ever since I got an iPod touch and discovered how incredibly useful it can be while travelling, I’m constantly on the hunt for wi-fi hotspots. So a hotel that offers wi-fi, especially if it’s already included in the room rate, is a must for me.

5. Continental Breakfast– If I’m in a culinary hotspot like New Orleans where there’s great food everywhere, having a hotel breakfast isn’t a big deal. But otherwise, being able to start the day with a bagel or a bowl of cereal before heading out the door is a big plus for me. It saves me the trouble of having to stop at a coffee shop along the way.

Things that don’t matter as much to me

1. Airport Shuttle– It’s a nice perk, but there’s usually other ways that I can get back to the airport/train station/major transportation hub.

2. Reviews on websites– The reviews on the various hotel consolidators’ websites are useful for getting an overall impression of a place, but the reviews alone generally don’t cause me to pull or add a hotel to my list.

3. Hotel Pool– I live in Florida. The beaches are just down the highway.

4. Mini-bar/Cable service/Room service- I don’t spend much time in a hotel except to sleep and shower. So a hotel that offers a lot of in-room entertainment and services just doesn’t interest me much.

Things that turn me off

1. Mandatory “resort fees”– If a hotel feels the need to charge a resort fee for the use of the pool, exercise room or other amenities but give guests no option to opt out of it, then the fee needs to be included as part of the room rate. Period.

I suspect the reason that many hotels have this seperate fee is so that they can have a lower room rate which gets them higher rankings on websites that sort rooms by price. It’s a deceptive practice and I refuse to stay at any hotel that engages in this kind of behavior.

2. Not having a well-maintained website– This is more of an issue with non-chain hotels. I like to check hotel websites for more information, so if their website isn’t well-designed or is outdated, it really annoys me.

Of course, everyone’s list of what’s important to them is different. What’s important to you?