How do you select a hotel internationally? Do you search online the name of the city and hotel? Do you consult TripAdvisor's hotel reviews or YouTube videos? Or do you dive into the depths of the message board forums online and search for detailed advice and tips? Is staying near the airport important or in the center of the city or do you prefer quiet isolation or an active beach scene? What about your friends - do you ask them about their travel experiences to the area?
Hotel and accommodation selection can make a big difference in the quality of travel for international travelers. But a good accommodation experience also means different things to different types of travelers. Travelers must consider individual needs, budget, geography, preferences, and trip purpose for appropriate accommodation selection.
As the hotel is "home" while so far from home, it pays to take some time researching and planning this base. Consider more than the cheapest hotel as convenience and amenities can also save money. Does the hotel offer amenities that increase the quality of the travel experience? Is the property near public transportation or does it offer convenient parking? If something goes wrong, will the hotel or owner be your advocate and care for guests with care?
Many people ask how we decide where to stay when traveling internationally. As I am currently planning a short Europe tour, I will share the process of accommodation selection for this journey. Each journey I take has different hotel selection criteria depending on the purpose of the trip, who is traveling, length of stay, etc.
I am currently researching hotels in Mallorca (Majorca or Malle) and Barcelona, Spain as well as Helsinki, Finland and Stuttgart, Germany for an upcoming Europe tour. We will also stay at our "European home base" apartment in the center of Frankfurt, Germany where we live at different times during the year. For this article, I will cover my Mallorca (also known as Majorca or Malle) and Barcelona hotel selection process.
Mallorca, Spain: In Mallorca, we have a rental car and mid day flight arrival and departure, allowing us to stay away from the airport. We are most interested in exploring the island via rental car and visiting with friends. We will visit two sets of friends: our German friends on holiday in Mallorca who are staying on the northern side of the island in Port d'Alcudia and the second set of friends, locals who live in the village of Bunyola, in the western mountainous area.
We also prefer to use our HiltonHHonors points at Hilton brand hotels worldwide, so I also did check the Hilton Sa Torre Mallorca Resort (it looks beautiful). Unfortunately, it is not in the area either of our friends will be and the hotel was booked for our dates of arrival.
As we will tour around the island with our German friends who are staying in Port d'Alcudia, I am focusing my hotel search mostly on this touristy, beach area.
First I considered the Aparthotel Ferrer Maristany, the apartment-type hotel our friends are staying for 5 or 6 weeks in Port d'Alcudia (they vacation there annually for long periods in early Fall). As these friends are retired and traveling without a child, we are also researching if the hotel they have selected offers any family or kid-friendly amenities or if another hotel nearby would be a better choice for us as my son prefers to interact with other kids or local families.
I'm also researching all these hotel options and unique amenities for my niche sites www.JetWithKids.com and the soon to be re-launched site www.JetWithComfort.com. (JetWithComfort.com will feature our hotel reviews and practical products and tips from our amazing around-the-world 8+month tour!)
Fellow niche travelers can help the selection process... I like to read what other niche travelers have experienced at the properties, so I usually consult several online resources:
TripAdvisor is great for a quick glance to see what properties are rated highest in different categories. According to TripAdvisor reviewers, Aparthotel Ferrer Maristany is rated #1 of the 4 B&B and Inn type style properties in Port d'Alcudia. For general hotels, TripAdvisor readers have rate Grupotel Maritimo #1 of 47 Port d'Alcudia hotels. However, at further glance, I notice Condesa de la Bahia is rated #1 for Families (Kid-Friendly hotels) in Port d'Acludia, but #2 Iberostar Ciudad Blanca was awarded the Travelers Choice Award 2013 for Families- ranking #7 in all of Spain for Family hotels.
Now that I have some properties to check out, I like to look at other online resources (as well as obsessively read TripAdvisor reviews and look at photos).
For videos and visual influence, I often will check YouTube to see uploaded videos on the hotels both from the hotel and tourists who have visited the properties.
Here is what I found doing a YouTube search on these properties:
We have never visited the beautiful island of Mallorca, Spain, so we will now begin researching and rely on friends, guidebooks, and all these online resources to make this hotel selection.
Then there is Barcelona, Spain:
In Barcelona, we are simply tourists exploring the awesome city and our goal is to enjoy our stay - both in the city and at our hotel. On our world tour I met with many of the Hilton Worldwide resort and hotel management to learn more about the chain, individual properties, and to discuss the practical needs of niche travelers staying at their hotels and resorts.
My family also called Hilton brand and Conrad resorts and hotels "home" literally around the globe. We now have a fondness for the Hilton chain internationally (and points to use). For these reasons, we have selected to stay at a Hilton property in Barcelona. But wait, there are two Hilton hotels in Barcelona! Which is best for us?
I usually like to consult a message board like FlyerTalk for deciding which Hilton would be the better choice when there are multiple Hilton brand hotels to choose from. These frequent fliers on FlyerTalk tend to be business travelers who speak in frequent flier language when referring to airlines, but also cover hotels (including Hiltons) - and business travelers also go on holiday with family as well! My husband and I are either business or family travelers, so the info works well for us. My search in Google asking which Hilton was best in Barcelona resulted in a FlyerTalk option. I also checked TripAdvisor and looked at photos for both the Hilton Barcelona and the Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona. .
For the purposes of this journey, we have selected to call the Hilton Diagonal Mar as our "home base" while in Barcelona. However, we did find both Hilton hotels in Barcelona tempting. We also love to visit Executive Lounges worldwide, so Hilton hotel selections with Executive Lounges also tend to influence our decision.
We have met lifelong friends in hotel lounges - specifically in Hilton's awesome Executive Lounges when we are in exotic locations far from home.
My first focus for hotel selection was Spain as it is the first leg of our Europe tour this time.
However, I already have selected and booked one hotel reservation in Finland. The Hilton Helsinki Airport Hotel is my choice for the last night of our stay in Helsinki, as we have an early morning departure flight back to Frankfurt.
With a 3-minute walk from the Hilton hotel to the main terminal of Helsinki Airport, there are no worries about travel day delays prior to arriving at the airport! Plus, I look forward to checking out the Hilton Helsinki Airport Hotel's private sauna options and Executive Lounge.
And in Stuttgart, Germany we will be deciding between a visit to the Porsche Museum or the Mercedes Museum. If we opt for the Mercedes Museum, I noticed the Hilton Garden Inn Stuttgart NeckarPark is walking distance away. Not saying we have chosen this one yet, but it now enters the hotel into the "convenience" category - and we can use some of our many Hilton HHonors points.
I enjoy the hotel and accommodation selection process when traveling internationally. (And I got a lot of experience traveling continuously for 8+months around the globe.) I have met lifelong friends and colleagues at hotel properties worldwide and appreciate the intense work that goes into making a stay enjoyable for guests of all walks of life.
When selecting your hotel abroad, make sure to consider YOUR individual travel preferences and what the stay means to your travel experience. A central location property may be "noisy" or "loud" (negative) for one traveler or "active" and "social" (positive) for another. Same conditions - opposite value.
Read multiple reviews acknowledging that what is amazing for one traveler may be nightmarish for others. We all live differently with different expectations for service, convenience, and value.
I'll post my Mallorca (Majora, Malle) hotel selection and then report back with the hotel reviews when I return from my Europe tour. In the mean time, enjoy the planning process - it's exciting and holds a world of opportunity!
*Mallorca is the American version, Majorca is the English and Malle is the German. I noticed this from discussing our journey with our friends.