Tis the holiday season soon and it got me thinking about festive exhaustion syndrome . . .
I need, to begin with, a small disclaimer. I do not judge but rather am in awe of those free spirits amongst us, who couch surf, Air BnB with reckless abandon and hitchhike their way around the globe. You are braver than I could ever dream of being. Whilst my many neuroses no doubt hold me back from dancing with Shaman at dawn. I can only accept who I am. I was recently regaled with a haunting tale of a lovely couple, who shared about their trip to Mauritius with me. Inspired by Instagram accounts and bolstered by clever sales pitches like ‘sleeping under the stars’. They booked their adventure, complete with spending the night alone in a deserted cane field, in a blow-up tent, bubble contraption. Instead of star gazing and finding their deepest selves, they listened fervently to every rustle and emerged 8 hours later exhausted and ready to turn on each other for a muffin. The only road to happiness is authenticity. Be unapologetically yourself. I have stopped apologising for my need for certain creature comforts. My experiences make up my story, and I’m proud of it so far.
Congested airports, car rental queues, frazzled youths, you don’t need to add an expert from Gordon Ramsay’s Hotel Hell to the voyage. Due to the fact that many hotels are heaving cesspits of bacteria and filth, I have to get tough. I don’t have years of experience in the hotel industry, however, my brief saury into it was enough. There are moments in life we wish we could un-see, but we know they will nestle into our subconscious and forever alter us. Stories that sound like urban legends and in a kinder world should be left just there. I digress, for now, let me indulge you with a few sadly not ‘fail proof’ but handy none-the-less tips to booking a good hotel.
~ Look on the bright side ~
I always check for white, white, white first!!! As light and bright as possible! White sheets and towels are a non-negotiable deal breaker. Hotels are designed to conceal dirt and white shows no mercy. For the love of all things holy people, put aside your incessant need for quirk or cheery colours, trinkets collect dust and quirky is often used to describe run down or uncared for.
~ Do your homework ~
Cross reference different reviews from at least two different review platforms like Trip Advisor or Booking.com. I am never satisfied with the first 3 or 5 displayed reviews. Always load more, establishments can be in the habit of burying bad reviews. This is a tricky one because hotels and restaurants often fall victim to serial abusers. People who feel a lack of control in their own lives and live to assert their dominance through online vitriolic rants. If I read a shocking review, I will always look up the individual’s profile and get a sense of whether they have a balanced, fair outlook.
Trip advisor has an algorithm to give a hotel an overall rating, using an aggregate of the reviews which is helpful.
~ Don’t eat with your eyes ~
Be very cautious of pictures on hotels websites, a professional photographer most likely took those pictures with lighting and stylists at hand. Careful angles of the honeymoon suite and close-ups of floral arrangements always raise suspicion.
Photographs on a site like trip advisor, taken by mere mortals, hopefully, tipsy and feeling brutally honest will give you a much better sense of the hotel.
~ Sweet Dreams ~
I never understand the statement ‘it’s so beautiful that you’ll hardly be in your hotel’. If you are planning on flattening the arrondissements of Paris, cycling the streets of Amsterdam or hiking the Machu Picchu ruins, only to return to your room at midnight drunk on heady beauty. Don’t you want a clean, comfortable bed and decent amenities to restore yourself with so that you can push repeat the next day? You can call me a princess, it wouldn’t be the first time, but investing in as good a hotel as your trip and budget allows, sets the tone for your stay. Caring enough to investigate beforehand and book yourself a clean room with a fresh, crisp bed and some running water is not a snobby crime, its common sense. Many sites and booking agents have great last minute deals on hotels that might otherwise be out of your budget. Beware though that booking through the hotel directly often ensures a more premium room in a better location, always phone the hotel directly to compare deals. It’s a trade-off.
~ A Little Gumption ~
Your god given schnozz will stand you in good stead. Never sleep in a hotel room that doesn’t smell right. This is where the gumption comes in, leave, check in somewhere else. It’s your vacation, your hard-earned money being spent and your right to leave if the place feels like it needs an exorcism. It’s one of the few things that still makes my husband angrier than a Durban sunburn is that I won’t indulge his old-world idea of manners when it comes to restaurants and hotels. There is no reason to be rude, but if they haven’t advertised that a musty odour and general sense of doom comes free with the accommodation, I don’t see why I should have to uphold my end of the arrangement.
~ Keep your table tennis ~
I choose thread count over extra amenities every time!!
Unless your hotel is where you plan on lounging away your days, do the four squash courts matter? Bigger isn’t always better with a hotel and often smaller run establishments with seemingly less on offer, are owner run and better. Pay more for your room instead of more for a spa you can’t afford to go to or a gym you know full well you aren’t going to use.
~ A few more tips of the trade ~
Put the hotel’s address into google maps, if the outside is run down chances are the inside is as well. If the website shows off the location but not the hotel itself, move on.
It’s always worth being polite in your interactions with the concierge. Hotel staff are on the frontlines of the general decay of society, you’ll be amazed at the extra mile they will go for someone who interacts with them respectfully. Enquire whether they have space available, to upgrade you to a more premium room.
Ask and ye shall receive, well you won’t know unless you try. Be as specific as possible when you make your booking, for example, let the hotel know if you are celebrating a special anniversary, they can’t send you champagne if they don’t know. If you are visiting a city to see the sights or tick items off of your bucket list, let the hotel know your itinerary. They often work with local tour companies and can offer you easier and better deals than you could find elsewhere.
If you are more than four people, often holiday rental homes offer more space and luxury at a much more affordable rate. Only book these through agents representing various holiday rentals in the area. They will have procedures and standards in place regarding housekeeping and rates. You will have more assurance that what you see is what you’ll get.
DON’T END UP HERE!
Happy holidaying, we wish you healthy thread counts, pleasant wafts of citrus and industrial bleach and breakfast buffets with not a stale croissant or soggy melon slice in sight.