My experience in Italy is the inspiration for this post about hotel selection. Staying at the right hotel, helps set the mood for your trip. I didn’t realize that until I made it to Venice, Italy. On my Italian vacation I stayed in 3 cities and obviously 3 different hotels. Each time I checked in I compared the hotels. Quickly the pattern presented itself. I did not realize how much the small things really mattered to me. When I booked this vacation I did it because of a travel deal I saw on Groupon Getaways. I had never been to Italy, so I left it up to the travel agent to choose the hotels. That was a first for me. I had only booked a trip through a travel agent once before. Until now I would do all the trip planning, book all the hotels myself. This time I trusted the agent. She did her job and booked hotels. Here is my comparison:
Hotel #1 Serena Hotel Rome, Italy
1. Location: This hotel was inside the city walls and within walking distance to many popular sites. It was around the corner from the train station. We had train tickets to Florence and our hop on/off city tour bus picked us up at the train station so this was very convenient.
2. Size: This hotel room was moderately sized. For a European hotel room it was actually slightly bigger than standard. It had 2 twin beds close together, a mini fridge, and other basic room amenities. The room was located on the third floor (which is really the 4th; they count the bottom as ground level).
3. Elevator: This hotel had a small 3 person elevator. It was cute. It had the iron doors. It was an open elevator so it did not feel as closed in. I only took the elevator to get my luggage upstairs. All the other times I took the stairs because I’m mildly claustrophobic.
4. Beds: I felt the beds were a little hard. My sister loved them. I guess it’s just a matter of preference. I slept fine on them. The sheets were clean and no bed bugs (yes I do check).
5. Bathroom: The bathroom was a decent size with enough shelf space for all of our toiletries. The blow dryer was horrible! I could do a better job than that. Small shower but it was not too bad. The towels were great. These were almost bath sheets, I really liked those. No wash cloths. They did have thin linen tea towels that we used as wash cloths.
6. Trashcans: One in the bathroom and that was it. I did not know this would bother me, but it was inconvenient.
7. Wi-Fi: This hotel offered free Wi-Fi. You had to enter a code. This is normal, but you had to enter it every time you went on the Wi-Fi. The code was a crazy number/letter combo. The Wi-Fi kept kicking me off. This was very frustrating. Plus you had to have a new code every day unless you specifically asked for a 3 day code.
8. Safe: This room had a safe. It was easy to use. We put our extra cash, passport and any other valuables in it. This is a great feature everyone should get in the habit of doing. Do a trial run with your safe empty first.
9. Breakfast: This hotel included breakfast. The breakfast was basic. It had ham and cheese, rolls, yogurt, fresh fruit, Danishes, cereal and toast. It was an automatic cappuccino machine, but it made amazing cappuccinos. I looked forward to a cappuccino every morning.
10. The staff: The staff was so friendly and helpful too. Good suggestions and directions.
Hotel #2 Cimabue, Florence, Italy
1. Location: This hotel was a distance from the train station. First went to the information desk to see where the hotel was located. If the hotel was around the corner we would walk, if not we would get in the taxi line (we knew approximately how far it was so as to not let the taxi driver can’t over charge us). The trip cost about 12 euros. The hotel was just a few blocks from our tour bus stop. This was convenient and money-saving, since we did not always have to take taxis.
2. Size: This room was slightly larger than the one in Rome. There were two twin beds slightly close together, a mini fridge, and other basic room amenities. This room was on the 2nd floor.
3. Elevator: There was a small elevator with enough room for my mom and 3 pieces of luggage. We sent her up with the luggage and my sisters and I took the stairs.
4. Beds: The beds were slightly softer and I slept great. Clean sheets and no bed bugs. We needed to ask for more pillows, they provided them with no problem.
5. Bathroom: The bathroom was a little bigger. This had the same towel situation as the last hotel. This hotel had a great blow dryer, Thank God! I finally could blow dry my hair.
6. Trashcans: One in the bathroom and one in the room, this was great.
7. Wi-Fi: Wonderful Wi-Fi. You only logged in once and it automatically started when you walked into the hotel.
8. Safe: This room had a smaller safe, but it worked fine. My Kindle did not fit in it. The hotel itself was very safe. After 9 pm the external doors were locked and you had to use a code to get into the lobby.
9. Breakfast: This hotel offered a Continental breakfast. No ham but cheese to put on the rolls. The fruit was canned and not fresh, but the cappuccinos were made by a barista, fresh. They were very yummy. I looked forward to them every morning.
10. Staff: The staff was so sweet and hospitable. They were very hard workers.
Hotel #3 Tre Archi, Venice, Italy
1. Location: This hotel did not seem far from the train station but having to walk over 3 canal bridges with no ramps it’s farther than you think. We paid a man 30 euros to take our (8) bags to the hotel. This helped because we didn’t have to deal with them and he showed us the way. On the way to the airport (for an especially early flight) the water buses are not running. You have to walk or take a water taxi for 120 euros. In retrospect we should have paid for the taxi.
2. Size: Cracker-jack box pretty much sums it up. This room was very small. They could not fit two twin size beds in it, only a full size bed. No night stands either, just shelves nailed to the wall. It was on the 2nd floor. This was actually 57 steps (my sister counted). You could not lay your suitcase down and open the door all the way. My sister’s and mom’s room was a regular European sized room. I think they blew it giving the smallest room to the girl who write’s the travel blog.
3. Elevator: There wasn’t one. We had eight bags to get up 57 steps. Even the man they sent to help rolled his eyes. This was the end of our trip so we had a lot of stuff by now. When we were leaving we just let the suitcases slide down the marble stairs at 6 a.m.
4. Beds: One full size hard bed. One very flat pillow each. Clean sheets no bed bugs.
5. Bathroom: Tiny. The blow dryer was okay; it worked better than the first hotel. Nice towels. No water pressure and it went from hot to cold during your shower. I could not seem to wash the conditioner out of my hair no matter how long I tried.
6. Trashcan: One very small one in the bathroom. There was no room for anything else.
7. Wi-Fi: They wanted us to pay 5 euros for 24 hours of access and it only worked in the lobby. What is the point of that?
8. Safe: It was complicated but it worked. My mom and sister’s did not work. We used the one in my room.
9. Breakfast: Their menu consisted of yogurt and rolls. There was some spreadable cheese. There was also a cappuccino machine that kept locking up and not working. We believe there was no caffeine in the cappuccino. We actually thought they put sleepy time tea in it because we were even more tired.
10. Staff: The staff was rude and not very helpful. The lady at the front desk kept looking at us with a “stupid Americans” look. I think the man helping with the luggage wanted to slap her for putting us on the 2nd floor. I almost wish he had.
After I compared the 3 hotels, I realized little things can make all the difference in your stay. Most of the items were not a big deal. By the time I got to Venice, the elevator, room size, location, water pressure, breakfast, Wi-Fi, and friendliness did make a difference. I thought Venice was pretty, but my experience was not great. The hotel put a damper on my mood, which altered my opinion of Venice.
This experience, I learned some good lessons. I know now what research I need to do. Tripadvisor.com is a great tool for this research. Now I will book great hotels with everything on my “must have” list. If there are things I do not like, I will go to the front desk and change them.
Now it’s your turn. What are the things you need or look for to make it the right hotel for you? Please tell me about some of your experiences and/or comfort preferences. Thanks and happy travels.