Hotel Must Haves: What to know before you book your next stay (Contest Closed)

WE HAVE A WINNER!! Congrats to Wendy M!

In June 2011, we set out on a yearlong trip around the world. While few things were certain, we knew that we’d be sleeping in our fair share of hotels as we traveled. Over the course of that year we not only slept in “hotels, motels and Holiday Inns”  (as the “Rapper’s Delight” song goes) but we also found ourselves in trailer parks, bed and breakfasts and homestays.

A good night sleep can’t be underestimated and when you’re traveling with young children, making sure everyone is comfortable and happy can make a huge difference in how the rest of the day goes. Over the years we’ve gotten better at choosing where to stay and what to look out for.  As you plan your next family adventure, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind before you book the hotel.

 How Big is the Room?

Just slipping into a hotel for a night? A tiny, cramped room might be fine.  Planning on a few days and expecting to spend a lot of time in the room? Think again. There’s nothing like a rainy day to make you realize that 200 square feet is not a lot of room for a family of 4.  Be realistic about what you need to be comfortable. Look at photos of the room you’re looking to book on the hotel website or at oyster.com  before you hit the *purchase* button.

Room Holiday Inn

Room to spare

Can the Room Accommodate you?

When we set out on our trip the kids were only 6 and 8. In most places we visited I wasn’t comfortable having them in a room separate to ours. In some countries, that can be a problem. Triple rooms (i.e. sleep 3) are popular in places like China; quadruples are harder to come by. Hotels have rules about how many people can be in a room and some set out how young children must be in order to share a room with their parents. Are there options for connecting rooms? Are you comfortable with them? Think ahead. These are not the kinds of surprises you want to bump into when you get there.  Make sure you have a good understanding of the situation you’ll be facing before you book.

What’s the bed situation?

If you’re traveling with really little ones, you’ll also want to have a sense ahead of time of what the hotel provides, so that you can travel with as little as possible. Do you need to bring your playpen or does the hotel provide one? Is there a charge? Some hotels like Holiday Inn will have those options on hand but you still want to have your request noted on your reservation. And it’s not just little ones you need to think about.

china train

An overnight train in China meantseparate beds. A-ok by them.

As we traveled with the boys, one of the first things we realized was that we’d assumed they’d be fine sharing a bed for the year.  We were wrong. Be realistic about what you need or you’ll risk extra expense when reality strikes.

 Bathtub vs. Shower

When you’re used to bathing your kids in a tub, walking into a room without one can be an issue. If not having a tub is going to be a deal-breaker, better to know that before you get there. Check ahead to make sure your room has what you need.

Location, location, location

Whether you make the notation on your request at time of booking or you ring the hotel after you’ve locked in, there are certain predictable noisemakers that you can avoid in advance. Elevators  are high traffic zones and ice machines are unpredictable. Asking for a room away from these is a good start. There will be times when you won’t be able to predict what the problem will be. Maybe, your next door neighbours are night owls who like to party or the snorer in the next room rattles your wall. This is where you’ll get more with sugar than venom. Speak kindly with the manager on site and ask for a room change as soon as you note the problem.  Also, keep in mind your comfort preferences. Young kids and a balcony way up high may not be a good idea. If you’d prefer to be on a lower floor, the best time to ask is before you commit.

What’s included?

pool jump holiday inn

You know what I hate? Thinking I got a great deal only to be nickle and dimed when I arrive. You know how to avoid that? Ask upfront. Is WiFi included? Is access to the fitness centre? Are there any resort fees or extra costs not covered by the rate you’re considering? Once you’ve got your eye set on a particular hotel give them a ring and ask the questions. Over time you’ll begin to have a sense of which places include what. We know when we choose a Holiday Inn property WIFI and pool access are included. We also know that the kids will eat free and won’t be stuck with only “chicken nugget and french fries” options. And knowing that means we might choose that chain over another in a situation where that’s what we need.  If your hotel is charging $25 per day for WIFI and you know you’re going to need it, you’ll want to know that long before you first log on.

What’s been said about it?

Read those reviews.  We already know that many of you are.  That survey I quoted in my last post showed 75 % of Canadians surveyed were checking out their hotels before they got there. That’s a good thing. Any information – good or bad – you can get about the place you’ll be laying your head is useful. Pay it forward after your stay by adding your review to the pile online.

What about you? What are the questions you always ask before you book your hotel? Let me know in the comments below and you could win enough points for a 3-night stay at the Holiday Inn of your choice! One winner will be chosen at random on January 4, 2014.  Want extra entries? Share the contest on Twitter or Facebook using the form below.  Good Luck!
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{ 111 comments… add one }

  • caryn s January 10, 2014, 11:10 AM

    I would love to take the kids to disneyland!

    Reply
  • Claire Tucker January 10, 2014, 12:44 PM

    The Italian lakes

    Reply
  • Sofia January 10, 2014, 1:08 PM

    Anywhere with a sandy beach, hot sun and the ocean!

    Reply
  • Richard January 10, 2014, 2:07 PM

    My main questions when booking a hotel are location and price.
    I’d like to take my next trip to England.

    Reply
  • Eve January 10, 2014, 5:24 PM

    I ask if there is a swimming pool, if there are mini-fridges available, a nearby grocery store, and if there is anywhere to eat in safe walking distance (after a long day on the road, we may not want to do anything but walk to a cafe or restaurant).

    Reply
  • Margaret January 10, 2014, 6:11 PM

    The #1 question I ask hotels is if there is a fee to use the wi-fi.

    Reply
  • Vickie Cheung January 10, 2014, 7:59 PM

    I have a long list of what I wan but it all depends on the price as well but the main thin is that it have to be CLEAN. Most of the other things I can manage without… you get what you pay

    Reply
  • Michelle H January 10, 2014, 10:55 PM

    This is an awesome giveaway…and blog :)

    Reply
  • Michelle H January 10, 2014, 10:57 PM

    I forgot to answer your question :) I also ask if they have a pool before I book.

    Reply
  • sdadolf January 10, 2014, 11:10 PM

    I would like to take my wife to Hawaii.

    Reply
  • Shawn January 11, 2014, 11:59 AM

    Hi! The questions I usually ask are:
    1. is the room smoke free
    2. is continental breakfast included
    3. how many people can stay in a room?
    4. Do you have a microwave and minifridge?
    5. Is an iron available?
    6. Do you have extra cots or cribs available?
    I have high expectations!

    Reply

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