Picking the Right Hotel Takes Time…But Is Worth It.

I’m planning a month-long trip to Europe in late September. For me, the planning of a trip like that is part of the fun … creating an itinerary, working out train schedules, and checking out possible restaurants and hotels. 
For choosing hotels, TripAdvisor is very useful although you can get pretty much the same information through any of the major booking web sites such as hotels.com or expedia.com.

You have to be alert for the phony rave reviews, which report that absolutely everything about the hotel is superb and read as though they were written by the hotel’s PR agency. (They probably were.) Photos of the hotel and its amenities are included on these sites and are very helpful. Many are taken by professional photographers for the hotels, so I put a little more stock in those taken by the former guests.
The legitimate reviews from real travelers have lots of good information and are also easy to spot. Look for a couple of minor criticisms stuck in among all the compliments: maybe there weren’t enough pillows on the bed and they had to call housekeeping for more … or they thought the room service menu was rather skimpy … or there was a minor mix-up with their reservation. If  they found everything else about the place to be top-notch, the hotel is worth considering.
By the same token, if there’s one review in among all the raves that trashes the place, take it with a large grain of salt. Chances are it came from an impossible-to-please guest. And, believe me, they’re out there!
Once you narrow things down to a choice of two or three properties, go to the actual hotel web sites and look for things important to you that were not mentioned by TripAdvisor or in the reviews. Is there a pool? A workout room? An airport shuttle? Do they offer free wi-fi in the guestrooms? (That can save you fifty bucks on a 3-night stay!)
Finally, use MapQuest to check out where the hotel is located. For instance, I look for hotels that are near the main train station, preferably within walking distance. Picking a hotel that’s near a lot of the popular tourist sites can save you a bundle in cab fares.
Consider: a three-night stay in a nice-not-posh hotel in many European cities can cost as much as two thousand dollars. A room at the Prince de Galles in Paris (photo above) will set you back some $600. For that kind of money, you want to be sure you get a nice, comfortable room in a conveniently located hotel with the amenities you need. So take the time to do this.
Besides … it’s fun!