Picking a hotel in Europe can be time consuming and a daunting task if you don’t know that European “star” systems is different than the U.S.A. For example, in Paris, a two star hotel vs. a 4 star hotel is not necessarily lesser quality but rather the two star may not have as many amenities as the four star- such as number of rooms the hotel has, elevator, restaurant, bathtubs, and armchairs. European hotel ratings are designed to be objective and quantifiable—based on, for instance, the number of languages the staff speaks, room size, and ventilation.
Also, each country uses its own criteria. Consequently, three stars in England is not quite the same as three stars in Spain. Worse: three stars in Barcelona is not the same as three stars in Madrid or in Seville (each region of Spain adopts its own standards). And that’s not likely to change.
So, how do I do it? The Internet is your friend, specifically, TripAdvisor.com.
The number of travel websites is vast and settling on one can be a challenge. But that’s just it, I start with TripAdvisor and use others as mere tools to get more information or to check prices.
The beauty with TripAdvisor is that I can see prices for the dates I need. I can see not only “brochure” photos the establishment uses for marketing but also photos from guests that have stayed there. TripAdvisor members can be a wealth of knowledge even if you have to filter out the “Worst Vacation Ever” titles.
So the first thing I do is pick an area of the city I want to stay in- let’s use the Old Town area in Prague as an example. TripAdvisor lets you see the locations of the hotels in that specific area, where you can hover your mouse over a blue dot and information about that hotel pops up. See the above image. The member rating also pops up and real quick, you can get an idea of whether or not you would like to stay at that hotel.
I then make a list of hotels I like the location of, and then I go to TripAdvisor’s Member Photos of the hotels I’m looking at – if I like what I see, I start looking at cost. I then start looking through the reviews from the members, casting out any odd “Worst Hotel Ever” and not taking to heart any one review but looking at trends. I laughably disqualify ANY review that blames an establishment for things that isn’t in their control such as weather, or someone complaining about something that the hotel is upfront about such as “We Don’t Allow Dogs” plainly advertised on the website and someone getting mad because when they arrived, their dog wasn’t allowed to stay there. Once you decide, you can make your reservations through TripAdvisor or you can go directly to the hotel’s website (many times getting better rates going directly to the website). I’m not advertising for TripAdvisor, but this site is my first go-to website when researching hotels and restaurants. When looking at prices however, READ THE FINE PRINT- ie. that lowest price may be for a single full size bed, not a queen bed.
When choosing a hotel, consider the following:
- Extra Fees
- Number of Stars
- Onsite Facilities
- Complimentary Breakfast (usually cheaper to dine out)
- Family/Pet Friendly
It isn’t a quick process but TripAdvisor’s many tools makes it about as easy as it could be.