If you’ve ever tried crowdsourcing restaurant recommendations from your friends and family, you know that there will be dozens of ideas and options, each influenced by the person that gave you that suggestion.
The same holds true for travel – when is the best time to visit France? What are the top restaurants in Berlin? Which hotel has the best views of the Eiffel Tower? Which Caribbean resort is best for kids? There are many, many possible answers to these questions and online reviews don’t convey nuances as well as a human ever could.
Of course, you can ask Google “What is the best hotel in Florence?”, but you can’t ask Google “What is the best hotel in Florence FOR ME?” And that’s where the expertise of a professional travel advisor comes in handy.
One of the key ways in which I provide value to my clients is through first-hand knowledge and my experience of traveling through 27 countries and visiting over 250 luxury hotels and resorts. When someone asks me for the best hotel in Italy – the answer is always “it depends.” What’s best for one person won’t work for another, and it’s my job to advise my clients on selecting the right hotel.
What exactly is the “right” hotel? What criteria do I use to select the perfect accommodations? Read on about my special formula!
Let’s Talk Location
If you take any major metropolitan city in Europe or the US, there are many beautiful neighborhoods to select from. How do you know which is the best spot for you? Decide if you want to be close to the main attractions or further away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
In Venice, staying by the Rialto bridge means that you will need to walk or take the vaporetto to get to other parts of the city and connect to outbound trains at the train station.
In Oslo – there are beautiful residential neighborhoods just 10 minutes outside of the center, where you can stay in aparthotels that provide the amenities of a hotel but offer the space and convenience of a luxury apartment for a great price.
In Dubrovnik, you can choose to stay right in Old Town, but you must remember that in many historic European cities, cars and buses aren’t allowed in the main pedestrian zones. This will impact your transfers and getting around with suitcases.
The decision is yours – but I can help you narrow down your options by suggesting the best area to stay in that best fits your preferences.
Let’s Talk Budget
There is always a trade-off in any travel scenario – if maintaining a strict budget (whatever that means to you personally) is the number one item on your priority list, then it can significantly narrow down your selection of hotel options. Here’s where I can help – if you are flexible on dates but love a specific hotel, villa, or resort, I can help you pick the best time of year to visit that’s appropriate for the destination and affordable based on your unique budget and needs.
Going to St. Regis in Venice during Carnival or during the busy summer season will be priced very differently than if you were to shift your travel dates by a few weeks and sometimes just days.
There’s no such thing as a great “hotel deal” online and the price often doesn’t reflect reality. While it looks good on paper, booking sites often have hidden costs, sell the lowest tier room selections possible, and cannot work with the hotel directly to adjust amenities and request upgrades. That $149/night “deal” can mean a room with a terrible view, ongoing construction, maintenance issues, or a slew of other potential problems.
I have on the ground connections at some of the top luxury properties and can call the management team directly to ensure that your stay will be perfect.
How do you choose between a luxury castle hotel in the countryside, a spacious apartment hotel in the city center, farm “agriturismo”, bed and breakfast, or AirBnB? So many choices!
Let’s break these choices down:
- Castle hotels – in Europe, specifically Ireland, UK, Italy and France, staying in a luxury castle hotel is a dream come true. You can sleep under the same roof as a lord and his family slept under hundreds of years ago (with all of the modern amenities). If this type of accommodation is something you are looking to book, it seems like a no brainer to go for it. However, a lot of castle hotel accommodations are not very kid-friendly. You won’t find elevators in medieval castles and most of the rooms are for couples and not for families, so think one bed. Also, the rooms may be smaller with lower ceilings – because they were built many years ago. Most castle hotels are not in the center of the metropolitan cities but in the countryside on an estate with several acres of land, so if you are planning on staying in one, make sure you have a rental car or have pre-booked transfers.
- If you are traveling with children, I would suggest staying in a hotel in the center of the city that is conveniently located near train stops (if in Europe), stores and restaurants, so you can be a quick stroll away from a quick dinner or an emergency diaper change. Apartment hotels are fantastic for families and have the best of both worlds – the extra space of an apartment, usually with a separate bedroom/living room/kitchen area for your family to spread out and typical hotel amenities like a daily change of towels and even room service.
- If you are looking to get away from it all, the hustle and bustle of the city and see how the locals live – choose a farm stay, commonly called “agriturismo” in Italy and other countries in Europe. Typically for accommodation to be classified as “agriturismo”, it has to have a working farm on its premises. How cool would it be to see how they make wine, balsamic vinegar or cheese? Pick wisely because they don’t make it all on the same farm. The photo below is from Agriturismo Acetaia Sereni – Vinegar Farmhouse where they make balsamic vinegar. You can take a cooking class right on the property and cook with the vinegar they make at the farm. Bellissimo!
- If you are looking for another type of experience of local life, try a Bed and Breakfast property. Oftentimes, that means that you are getting a room and a bathroom in someone’s home. Make sure you are comfortable with that because you may not get as much privacy as you would in a hotel, but in return, you will get to eat breakfast made specifically for you by the property’s chef, who is typically the owner, the manager and the concierge of the property. Last time we stayed at a B&B, we ended up having a 3-hour long breakfast and the most fascinating conversation with the owners, and it was a truly memorable experience.
- And of course, there are plenty of Airbnb properties around the world, but my recommendation is against them. I have seen so many complaints and issues with the bookings – from very last-minute cancellations by the property managers, leaving the guests without the roof above their heads days before the arrival, to filthy rooms, and unresponsive and accusatory hosts coming after you for property damages you have nothing to do with. Also, as a travel agent, I can’t guarantee your safety in someone’s private home booked on AirBnB, so for your peace of mind and mine, let’s stick to the professionally run properties.
What about Personal Preferences & Special Accommodations?
With every proposal, I get to know you and your family, your preferences and your travel style. As a trusted resource (much like a family physician or attorney), I learn what works for you and what doesn’t, and tailor each trip based on your family’s needs.
Do you want a room in Rome with a King bed?
A pet-friendly hotel with top-notch golf in Ireland?
A suite with the view of New Year’s fireworks in London?
A quiet, luxury resort with a pristine beach in Anguilla?
Check, check, check and check!
Selecting the right hotel is both an art and a science that I’ve perfected over the years. When online hotel reviews become overwhelming and your list of hotel options keeps growing, I can work with you to narrow it down to the top 3 properties that I think would be the best fit. I will work with you to adjust and refine your hotel selections until you’re satisfied with the perfect balance of location and price that fit your needs for each trip. You can’t crowdsource that.