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Booking the Right Room
Finding accommodations online has made finding a room incredibly convenient and painless, for the most part. However, when you’ve selected a new-to-you destination, it can be a bit nerve-wracking. I mean, how do you know what the place will really be like?
I know because I’ve been there. When my son and I were cross country road-tripping, we ended up sleeping with one eye open in a seedy motel in Nebraska. Out front, there stood a sign for the local prison, and there were bullet holes in the interior walls. This place had the best rating in town, so, needless to say, we were a bit discouraged upon arrival.
When planning the road trip, I had researched and booked rooms and activities for the first four days. Intentionally leaving the remaining three days open for spontaneity and adventure turned out to be a bit too adventuresome.
1. Do your research.
Check the area. Look for local landmarks and nearby conveniences like restaurants and shopping. In addition to the standard roadmap, view the area using the satellite version of Google Maps. Really zoom in to get a bird’s eye view of the neighborhood. If I had done this, I would have known that the prison was in walking distance to our room and we’d have to drive eight miles to get to the nearest restaurant for breakfast, which was also a dive.
2. Book early.
A limited number of accomodation options contributed to our regrettable stay at Nebraska’s version of the Bates Motel. This happens when you wait until the last minute. The room was literally booked from the car a few hours before pulling into town. We had seen better options on Booking.com, but those had no vacancies. Consequently, we were forced to make a decision. Stay at the best-looking available option (Prisoner’s Paradise). Or add two more hours to the ten we had already spent on the road that day and find accommodations in the next town.
Booking those first few days early not only gave me peace of mind but allowed me to choose the rooms that suited us best. Plan and lock in the place you want while it’s still available. Most hotels have a flexible cancellation policy, which makes last-minute itinerary changes easy.
3. Read reviews.
The overall star rating is a helpful tool, but it’s important to see where it’s coming from. Reviews can be incredibly insightful. Someone might have already mentioned the bullet holes, but, since I hadn’t checked the review, I had no idea. Perhaps someone had said, “I loved that this hotel was in walking distance to visiting my cousin in the pen. I hate having to always hitchhike all the way there.”
Seriously though, look for comments from people similar to you. Are you a solo traveler? Did another solo traveller love the privacy of the space, while enjoying the great lighting which proved perfect for before-bed reading on the comfy mattress? Do you need accommodations for your family? Did another family of adventurers mention how thankful they had been for the various continental breakfast options that seemed to suit all of the picky eaters in the group? See what your people liked and disliked because chances are, you’d share the opinion.
4. Check amenities.
Do you work out every morning? If so, you probably prefer a hotel with a gym. Do you need a late check-in or check-out? Can the resort accommodate those? There’s no greater disappointment then heading down for coffee in the morning only to find there isn’t any. If you’re going to need a crib or rollaway bed, you’d better be sure they have them. Even though most hotels offer free WiFi, some still charge. When it comes to additional charges, it’s definitely best to know before you go.
Be sure to see what’s available and what isn’t before you book. Everyone’s needs are different. Booking.com has plenty of options to accommodate them all.
5. Recognize value.
Our Nebraska nightmare cost us $59 for the night. It was probably close to reasonable for our needs. Self-check-in was permitted since we were arriving past midnight, and no one would be staffing the front desk. Parking was a breeze with a spot right at our front door. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I knew how to properly check for bed bugs and dust mites. Surprisingly, after a thorough inspection, everything did appear to be clean and fresh. The room was a decent size with two queen beds, a dresser, nightstand, mini-fridge, closet, and small bathroom. There was even a little sitting area with a small table and two chairs.