Setting goals

Make sure you agree on what you are looking for in a hotel, and how much you are comfortable spending.  Are bed-and-breakfast places an option? 

Be prepared to adjust that in some places. Paris, London, New York City and Switzerland will probably make you go, “Gulp! HOW much?”   That’s where you decide whether you will spend a little more or accept a little less luxury. 

B&B, hotel, or ?

At first glance, the luxury of a bed-and-breakfast seems appealing. Some are very luxurious and charge accordingly, while others are simpler and more affordable. Many serve a large gourmet-level cooked breakfast; is that your style?  A lot of B&Bs, especially in Europe, are not going to have air conditioning or elevators; does that matter for your trip? Some B&Bs are extraordinarily helpful with advice; others just leave you undisturbed.  Some serve breakfast at a fixed time, which might be late on a weekend; many of these will adjust of you have a conflict, but it’s worth checking your time plans against theirs. The reviews will tell you what style each one is. You usually can’t get a snack or a drink at a B&B without going out for it. 

You might also want to mix them up; after a few B&Bs you might want a night in a hotel or vice versa.  

In North America, B&Bs are perhaps a little less likely to be located near the main tourist attractions. In Europe, they could be closer than any of the hotels.  

In Japan, we considered a ryokan but decided our aging knees and lack of flexibility ruled it out. But many people consider such a specialty accommodation to have been a highlight of their trip, or even an anchor point to build around.

Identifying constraints

How easy do you want it to be to get to and from the airport or train station? Do you want to stay near something particular? Do you want to be able to go back to your hotel at any time? 

To do this, you need to have located on a map your arrival and departure points, some of the key things you want to see, and the major components of the local transportation system. 

But be flexible and double-check. In Washington, DC one summer we started with a hotel in Chevy Chase, Maryland that was a wonderful combination of comfort and low price. It was right over a Metro (subway) station.  But after checking the travel times to various highlights, we decided that it was just a little too far away. For example, it was too far to get back to during the day for a change of socks and a little rest.   I started over and found us something more central for only a little more money. It was a good decision. 

Discount websites? No thanks. 

I don’t use Hotwire, Priceline etc.  They work well for many people, and can get you big savings, but for me they have potential problems that I can’t accept. To list only a few: 

  • Some of them won’t tell you which hotel you’re getting out of several in an area that are grouped in their offer. You find out only after you commit. 
  • I’ve seen reports that if a problem arises the hotel might say, “Don’t talk to us, (service) booked the room, call them.” 
  • You’re getting the rooms the hotels didn’t sell. This may be a non-issue, but you may also get the half-size room next to the ice machine. 
  • Worst of all, you won’t be able to research the hotel my way, and dig out all those details that will make or break your stay.

Those may be acceptable risks for many people, but if you’ve read this far you are not that kind of person. You want it locked down.

What to look for

Bewildering options. This excellent hotel in Honfleur, France has fewer rooms, so it can offer a useful array of descriptions that make it very easy to choose a room that suits you. But the larger hotels? Phew. The Holiday Inn Reading South, UK has twenty options: 2×1 double, 2×2 singles, 3×1 double with sofabed,  2xdouble executive, and then most of the above with breakfast, then again with breakfast and dinner. 

You’ll often see terms like standard, deluxe, superior, executive and more. They tell you how the rooms rate relative to each other, but of course one hotel’s “executive” might be another’s “standard.” I usually start with deluxe and see how superior might be better. 

The biggest difference will usually be floor space. USA Today says the average US hotel room in 2020 was about 325 square feet or 30 square meters.  To get that in Europe and Asia you may have to move up from the least expensive rooms.  

Older hotels in Europe can have very small rooms, but they are often cleverly designed and can be OK. On our 2019 trip our rooms ranged from 18-21 sq m, and they were fine, with room to open suitcases etc.; one night we got 24 sq m and it felt palatial. 

So … let’s find a place.

Scroll to Top