Following on from my post debating villas vs hotels, I thought about the main things we look at when we book a resort to ensure we have the best chances of a successful holiday. Here are 7 crucial considerations for booking a hotel:
1. Does it have a kids club and good amenities?
I’ll start this by saying it doesn’t matter if your Things want to go to Kids Club all day every day or if you want them to hang out with you the whole time. There are so many benefits to having a good Kids Club!
Depending on the holiday, the existence of amenities could be a deal breaker. When we go to Jordan I’m not so worried. We have lots of activities to do while we’re there and have 3 adults to entertain 2 Things to makes life easier. In resort-y type destinations (like the Maldives or Thailand) they add a welcome dynamic to the holiday.
Why do we love Kids Club?
- Firstly, it proves that Things are welcome in the resort. You’re more likely to find Thing-friendly amenities such as kids menus, travel cots, high chairs and Thing-friendly staff.
- If you go in peak season it’s likely that there will be other Things around for your Things to play with. If our Things are on their own then they will get bored pretty quickly. Add friends to the mix (new or old) and they can entertain themselves for hours.
- Then there are the activities. There are a range of options to keep Things occupied depending on the club. It could be group activities or a chance to pop in and do some colouring to get out of the heat of the day. Having sandcastle building next to the beach bar in Kurumba (Maldives) was nothing short of inspired. Mini golf in Nusa Dua (Bali) was a huge highlight and had the Things begging to go back every day.
2. Location, Location, Location
What are your plans for the holiday and how does the hotel fit in with them? The deal we got in Phuket was amazing but did mean we compromised and didn’t stay right on the beach. It wasn’t ideal but it didn’t matter THAT much. In Kerala it meant we spent several extra hours driving between tourist locations. And it did matter THAT much.
In Italy we had 2 villa style holidays where we weren’t too bothered if we left the villa all day or not. When we did leave it was to pootle down to the local village or beach. In Lake Como we were out and about every day and wanted to be in a central location. In Bali and Phuket we wanted to be sure we were away from the party crazy young tourists. It’s pretty depressing listening to a load of party animals drinking the night away and reminding you that, not only are you too old for that anymore, but also you have to be up with the Things in 5 hours.
Always check reviews (not just ratings). Take them with a pinch of salt as you usually only get bad reviews. (Although I will occasionally post great review on Trip Advisor for exceptional service). But always check them.
Look for consistency in complaints and look for the topics. 1 bad meal is pretty different to finding cockroaches in the swimming pool or having a dirty bedroom. On-going loud construction work could be the difference between you booking or not booking. On the other hand, complaints from kid-free couples that the place was overrun with Things probably won’t bother you as much.
Look for how the hotel or booking agent has responded. Watch out for a co-incidental rave review a few days later from an anonymous user. Consider how long ago the reviews were made: Reviews from 5 years ago could be showing a totally different scene today.
4. Extenuating Circumstances
While we are talking about construction… You can often get heavy discounts from hotels that are refurbishing or extending their premises. We’ve experienced this a couple of times and in neither case did I feel the disruption was unbearable (although in the Maldives it had a really disappointing impact on the views). We were never disturbed by the noise which was the main thing for me.
I’d recommend checking out what work is being done, the hours that work will be done in and where the work is in relation to the rest of the hotel (and, more specifically, your room).
5. Hidden Costs
Have you got a room only rate? Did it include taxes?
What are your eating options? In resort-y areas you may well find yourself eating in the hotel restaurants so find out what they are. For us there is little more boring than eating in the same restaurant for every meal. Do you want to taste the local cuisine? Where is the hotel located in relation to the nearest town or village?
How much are the drinks? Lots of hotels will charge $10 for an apple juice or a coke. That’s a lot of money if there are 4 of you having even 1-2 non-water drinks each per day. Can you drink the tap water and, if not, is bottled water available free of charge?
6. Room Options / Layouts
First of all you need to consider where you’re all going to sleep.
Are you asking for inter-connecting rooms? In most hotels this is a request only and NOT a guarantee (we found this out to our cost in Res Al Khaima). In some cases you might find instead of getting 2 rooms that a suite will do just as well. It will probably also be cheaper! In Muscat we found this was a great option with a huge living area and a large bathroom that could fit a travel cot in. If you are all sharing a regular room, is there a balcony or patio? You need somewhere you can go while you wait for the Things to go to sleep or read books during nap times.
Then there is the issue of privacy. If your Things are going through a tough time with tantrums, you might not want to be in a hotel block. The same goes for if they are prone to waking and crying all night and you are likely to get stressed out at the thought of waking up your neighbours.
7. Restaurant Schedules and Options
Now you would think that a resort with a Kids Club and Thing friendly menu options would also have Thing friendly eating times.
Our first proper holiday with the Things in Gran Canaria involved an all-inclusive resort that offered lunch in the middle of nap time and a dinner service that started after our Things usually went to bed. Given our Things were particularly susceptible to late nights (for some reason they wake up at the same time regardless of the time they go to sleep), this was less than ideal.
Nowadays I would probably go with the flow a bit more but at the time it stressed me out a bit.
I do hope you find this sort of post useful, Wanderluster’s! Do you have any suggestions that you would add to this list?