What frustrates you about planning your travels?
I posed this question to those on my email list and, while I didn’t get a lot of answers, I did receive a couple that made me think about what I do as a personal travel planner.
You see, a couple of folks brought up how difficult it is to find good accommodation. One person mentioned not knowing what type of clientele the hotel catered to — and what the atmosphere might be like. Is it more geared toward families or couples? Is it quiet or lively? Older folks? Younger? How do you know this simply by looking at their website?
Another person, who is also a past client, said that searching through ALL the many hotels is overwhelming. There’s just so much and how do you know? How do you know which is the right place for you to stay?
So in this post I thought I’d tell you how I find that perfect accommodation for my clients. Now I’m not giving away any secrets. Because there aren’t any secrets. But I thought you’d like to know the process I use to plan this part of your trip as it happens to be an aspect that I pride myself on — finding the best accommodation for you.
Probably the most important element is to find accommodation within your budget. I usually try to pinpoint a per night maximum or average. Most of my clients seem to say, “I’d like to keep it around x amount of dollars per night.” This is a good guideline for me to use in the early planning stages.
It’s easy to spend a lot on accommodation, but I believe, unlike here in the USA, it’s a bit easier to find moderately priced accommodation that is clean, safe and will meet your needs. You don’t have to stay in hostels and share bathrooms to get a good deal in Europe!
Type of accommodation
One of the key ingredients to good accommodation is figuring out what kind of accommodation is best suited to your personality.
There are some folks who want a full service hotel with someone around 24 hours. Some people are more suited to a small B&B or guesthouse where there are only a few rooms and limited services, but a friendly helpful host or hostess. Others may want to stay somewhere unique like a castle in Scotland or an agriturismo (farmhouse) in Italy.
One of the things I strive to do is to get a feel for who my client is and what they really want and need in their accommodation. I ask a lot of questions so I have a good understanding of what’s going to work for my client. Sometimes they say they want a certain type of hotel or guesthouse, but when I dig deeper, I realize that maybe they really don’t.
The other aspect to the type of accommodation is that they may prefer a certain kind of accommodation in the city, but something different in a small town. So again, it’s just knowing what questions to ask and then deciphering the answers.
In real estate, they always say it’s location, location, location.
And I agree that this can be extremely important in finding the perfect accommodation. Often this is easy as there might be that ideal central location for the places my clients are planning to visit and the activities they’ll be a part of.
But sometimes it’s a bit trickier. So finding that sweet spot is more difficult, but certainly not impossible. It simply means asking a few more questions. If there’s a choice of different locations, often the accommodation itself ultimately wins out.
It’s important to note that some folks want to be in the middle of the action. Then there are others who want something quieter. You definitely want to consider this if you are choosing accommodation yourself. Are you looking for hustle and bustle? Or maybe something more serene? Or perhaps somewhere in the middle? Know yourself and what you truly like … and what you don’t like.
For me I definitely turn to my different hotel suppliers to begin my search. But I also utilize tourism board websites, guidebooks and something as simple as Google maps. I’m very detail-oriented and am always searching for unique accommodation for my clients.
I have a colleague who said he’s into “hotel porn.” I laughed at this as I think I am too. I love to check out websites of hotels, guesthouses, b&b’s, farm stays, castles — seeing what they look like and the tone of the text. Often I can glean the “vibe” of a place from the website. But often I like to email them or fill out their contact form to see the response I get. Then I get a real feel for the level of customer service.
What I typically do is all the above then I pare it down to 3-6 choices for my client. I send the choices with prices and what that price includes (i.e. breakfast, free wi-fi, size of bed, type of room) and a link to the website. I’ll also give them any side notes — my opinion based on if I’ve had an exceptional interaction with someone from the accommodation or if another client stayed here and loved it. Then the client makes that final decision.
Usually I’ll have the client rank the choices as sometimes, especially with smaller places, the first choice may not be available once it’s time to book. So I work down the list. I do my best to grab that first choice!
Accommodation can make or break a trip
It sucks to stay somewhere that you feel is unsafe or dirty or where the customer service is lacking.
We all make poor choices and think that a hotel or B&B is going to be great and then it turns out not to be what we imagined. Then we’ve stayed in places that have been better than we expected.
I really do my best to give my clients choices that I think “fit” them. I listen to what you’re telling me — and also what you’re not telling me. Then I find those 4 places that I think you’d be happy with for say, your 3 nights in Florence. Ultimately you’ll make the choice, but I feel quite invested in it. And I often take it personally if it didn’t work out. And if it did!
I guess my point is that where you stay can greatly impact your time at that destination. And why risk it to Trip Advisor or some other website. Why try to make heads or tails out of the hundreds of places to stay in London, when you can have me (or some other travel professional) do the research for you? Go with someone in the know. Go with someone who is invested in how your trip actually turns out.
I truly love what I do and nothing brings a smile to my face faster than happy clients. And as a traveler myself, I know the importance of staying in the right accommodation.