If you’re anything like me, I often tell myself that the accommodation doesn’t matter, it’s just somewhere to use as a base for exploring, I’ll spend no time there, anything will do. And that’s fine right up to the point when you end with bad accommodation. A bad night’s sleep means you can’t make the most of the day, poor service and poor quality does a great job of dampening spirits. A hotel in the wrong part of town adds time and stress to plans for the day, an AirBnB with intermittent WiFi can make evening relaxation a bit of a nightmare.
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We’ve all heard the adage “always spend wisely on what separates you from the ground – shoes, tyres, beds”, and this becomes even truer when we are visiting a place, sight unseen potentially, for a short period.
So how do you avoid bad accommodation? What are the clues to look for?
I remember planning to book a hotel and the pictures were all arty and exaggerated. There was a picture of a beautiful vase of flowers with a blurred reception area behind, the photographer obvious loved their filters since these had been applied excessively to almost every shot. And there were no “actual” photos of the hotel.
The limited room pictures they did have had been photographed using a fisheye lens to try and suggest they were bigger than they obviously were.
All of that suggested they were trying too hard to avoid the obvious problems like the hotel being dated perhaps, and small rooms.
You should be able to see decent images of the building and the rooms otherwise you have to wonder what they’re trying to hide. If there is any doubt about the rooms or exterior location give it a miss.
And the opposite is true also. Are the photos too good to believe? Miles of unspoilt beach, the artistically framed picture of the pool? You have to wonder why they took the time to create these perfect shots. Obviously to entice but you have to wonder if they cropped out the building site or motorway right next to the hotel.
One easy solution to overcome this is to look at guests’ photos of the hotel/location and a guess at the location on google maps. A quick search will show the many review sites where you can not only read guest feedback but also see their images.
When looking at guest reviews and photos we tend to look out for 3 things;
- How many reviews are there in comparison to how long the place has been open? Too few (and all good) suggests the location has had bad reviews removed or people aren’t reviewing the place because they don’t want to leave a bad review.
- All the reviews are positive. Of course, the place could be perfect but if you read through are the reviews similar or focus on a particular aspect over and over. It’s not uncommon for hotels to either pay for reviews or bribe guests with free accommodation and extras.
- When the reviews were written. If there are no current reviews of the accommodation that is a warning sign. Of course, people weren’t travelling in 2020 so that is something to consider but check for times when you would expect the area to busy – tourist season or Christmas for example. And if there are bad reviews but they are a few years ago and nothing since then those should be ignored since there obviously was a blip which has been dealt with.
Most hotels, holiday cottages and AirBnB’s have the right of reply on the review sites so it’s worth checking their response to negative or neutral reviews. If they are dismissive or condescending (for example blaming the guest) then it shows they aren’t willing to admit there may be problems.
Be wary of claims about location, they will, of course, want to claim to be right where the attractions are. If you know a few key places you want to visit its worth putting those into google maps and looking at the distance from the hotel or area. Google also provides transport options so you can see if there are viable options and how long the journey will take if you aren’t renting a car or walking everywhere.
The other thing you can do on google maps is go to Streetview and look at the exterior of the building, the appearance and upkeep can be a good indicator of how well it is maintained and cared for as well as the surrounding buildings. Is it somewhere you would be happy to walk around? Is it remote enough to make you feel that you are escaping everyday life?
Whilst you may be booking through a third-party website to get a good deal/compare prices it’s always worth going directly to the website. Is it up to date? Is it slick and clean or does it look like it was done when they first discovered the internet and never updated since? Web marketing is key to generating business and maintaining a website is a relatively easy thing to do, including regular updates and offers. If the accommodation isn’t bothering with the website then how concerned are they with bookings and guests?
Of course they could have a flash website with all the bells and whistles, at that point it’s worth looking at the details. Are there pictures and details of the rooms? Are other facilities detailed? If there is a restaurant or coffee shop in hotel details? Is there a menu or details of what they offer? And all of this should have decent photos.
I’ve seen some really good websites that talk in verbose terms about what you can do in the surrounding area, why you should visit the city, and the artistic pictures we spoke about showing the beach, hills or a generic city street. And nothing detailed about the hotel itself, that certainly has me choosing somewhere else.
We all love a bargain, and there are many ways to get a deal on the hotel. But if the deal seems to be good to be true then its worth asking why. If they are way lower than similar hotels or cottages in the area then that should ring alarm bells.
The lower prices are generally because they aren’t getting bookings at what would be the right price for that location/type of accommodation so they are trying to generate business. Whilst there might be good reasons for that (they’ve just completed a major refurb and want reviews/footfall for example) it could be there is construction going on nearby, the property is in a poor state of repair or some of the facilities aren’t available but they’ve not disclosed that.
A few minutes spent scrutinising your chosen hotel or AirBnB can greatly minimise the risk of ending up in poor or substandard accommodation, time well spent to ensure you don’t end up with a poor end to your day.
The easiest websites to look for places to stay include Booking.com and AirBnB as well as going direct to the hotel or owner website. These sites give you a good range of options and always include reviews which can help in your decision making process.