GoGoGordon’s Hotel Tips

GoGoGordon’s Hotel Tips:

  • DON’T BE FOOLED! One thing that happens all the time is the picture of the room you see doesn’t look like the picture of the room you get. The way I ensure this doesn’t happen to us is as follows:
  1. Go to the hotel’s actual website and see how well they describe their room categories and what pictures they have. Be careful as some hotels will use the same generic photos for multiple rooms, so really try to match up the descriptions with the room name
  2. Look up the hotel on TripAdvisor. When you find it, go to the search bar within the hotel review just above where they have the reviews listed, and type in the name of the room(s) you are interested in. Sometimes they will have an actual picture of the room
  3. If there is any doubt, email the hotel. I’ve found the hotels get back to me in < 24 hours with great information about the room.
  • FIRST NIGHT, HAVE A LIVING ROOM! I always book a hotel room with a separate living room or balcony for the first night we are in Europe. Typically, after the overnight flight, I wake up at 3:30-4am and can’t get back to sleep, so I can then go into the other room or go out on the balcony if the weather permits without bothering my sleeping wife. I also leave clothes out by the room’s door as sometimes I just get up, take my camera, and walk around the city at 4am free of all crowds and see the sky slowly lighten – always one of my favorite experiences.
  • SPLURGE ON HOTELS! We hear people say all the time that the hotel room really doesn’t matter since they don’t plan to be in the hotel room very often. In our experience, it actually does. Regardless of how many nights we book or how much time we spend at the room, our favorite places often line up with our favorite hotel experiences. For us, it becomes an important part of the vacation so we tend to splurge on hotels to ensure we have a really memorable room and stay.
  • SPLURGE ON ROOMS! In addition to staying in great hotels, look for particular rooms that offer a great view or have some other nice benefit. For example, having a large, private, beautifully renovated reading room at the foot of our bed at the Moy House in Ireland was magical. If we hadn’t booked the “Well Room” specifically, we may have been assigned one of the other rooms and missed out on that experience. While I’m sure the other rooms are wonderful, I would’ve seen the Well Room and regretted not staying there!
  • SOMETIMES 4 IS BETTER THAN 5! The star system for hotels is largely a joke. Sometimes a 4-star hotel has 2-star rooms, but because of conference facilities or the fact that they have a steam room or some other non-relevant-to-my-stay fact it improves their rating. Sometimes simply the number of rooms will give a hotel a bump in star rating. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re researching and booking your hotel:
    1. Many times a newly renovated, boutique hotel with 4-12 rooms will only have 3 or 4 stars because of its size or lack of a pool/amenities, but the rooms themselves (which is what we care most about) are far nicer, roomier, and more luxurious than even higher-end rooms at brand name 4 or 5 star properties. Check out our lists page at www.gogogordons.com to see our favorite boutique hotels.
    2. Most big brand hotels have boring rooms. Europe has a number of smaller company brands, boutique hotels, and other options that have rooms that won’t feel like every Marriott or Hilton you’ve ever stayed at in the US. We HIGHLY recommend seeking out rooms that don’t feel like you’re on a business trip in the US. As a few examples of big brands with a unique feel are Sofitel, Boscolo, Relias and Chateau, and Rocco Forte.
    3. Many times, five-star, highly-rated, big-brand properties like the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton have very small, standard looking rooms. Unless you can pay thousands per night for one of their suites, we’ve found that we often prefer booking a suite at a 4-star property or lesser-known 5-star property. While the Four Seasons and others like it tend to have exceptional service, spa services and a concierge, none of those factors ultimately matter as much to us as having a nice, large room, and perhaps a view. We’ve booked Penthouse Suites or other top-level rooms at newly renovated, wonderfully reviewed, 4-star and smaller 5-star properties for the same or less than basic rooms at some of the large-chain, big brand luxury hotel chains.
    4. For us, a good view or balcony is always a difference maker on our trips. There is nothing like waking up, making an espresso in your room, and opening up the curtains or walking out on the balcony and soaking in where you are. A “courtyard” or “garden” view just doesn’t do it.
  • USE AMEX PLATINUM! If you do decide to stay at a big-name, 5-star, luxury hotel, use your Amex Platinum benefits! We’ve used the Amex Platinum Fine Hotels and Resorts booking page for at least 10-12 hotels, and we’ve never been disappointed. In addition to free breakfast, which will save you around $100 per day at these hotels (and these hotels’ breakfasts are experiences in themselves), you get a room upgrade about 75% of the time, free wifi, and usually around a $100 credit at the hotel’s restaurant or spa.
  • BOOK THE RATE THAT INCLUDES BREAKFAST! It’s so, so nice to just wake up, put on your sweat pants, and walk downstairs to a buffet. It also saves a ton of time.
  • A/C IS NOT A SURE THING! Not all hotels in Europe, even 5 star hotels, have air conditioning. Or, many hotel A/C systems are controlled by the front desk or only operational during certain months. Even if you expect cold weather, bring a $10 mini plastic fan you can place by your bed and check to make sure your room has air conditioning! Another trick we’ve done in the past is to bring a mosquito net and some of the 3M removable picture hooks. This allows us to sleep with the window open to enjoy the cool air but keep all the bugs out! It’s a cheap solution and hardly weighs your bag down at all.

 

  • VISIT THE TOWN SQUARE, BUT DON’T STAY THERE! The town squares in Europe are always a highlight. They are magnificent. Therefore, it’s natural to fall in love with the idea of staying at a hotel right on the main square, and having romantic visions of sitting on your balcony or by an open window having a glass of coffee in the morning or wine in the evening while soaking in the magnificence of the main square. What you don’t realize in your vision is that these squares are busy and LOUD…all…the…time! Maybe if you’re traveling off season and you’re a deep sleeper you can get away with it, but also remember a lot of rooms don’t have A/C, or turn the A/C off during fall/winter/spring months, so unless you are narcoleptic to the point that you can easily sleep to the sound of soccer hooligans, drunk tourists, bell towers going off, street cleaners, and all other kinds of noise, we’d recommend visiting the main squares, but not sleeping near them.
  • THINK ABOUT WATER! One of my biggest pet peeves is waking up in the middle of the night, craving water, and not having any bottled water. I also don’t like being back in our hotel room after a long day, often having consumed a handful or so of alcoholic beverages, and not having water in our room. While there is always the mini fridge, we always try to remember to buy 3-4 bottles of water when we’re out walking around so we don’t have to overpay. That said, many hotels in Europe – far more than the US – have free mini bars as a perk, especially if you’re staying in a higher-end room. I also realize that in many European countries like Switzerland, Norway and others, the water right out of the sink is just as pure as most or any in a bottle. However, I still like to pack a mini or compact water bottle with a water filter built into the spout. They’re light, inexpensive, and a great emergency backup for your room, as well as being handy to carry around on a hike or just walking around the city.
  • DON’T FREAK OUT ABOUT THE CRACK! Almost all advertised “King” beds in Europe, even at high-end hotels, are two twin beds pushed together. That’s just how it is, it’s not that big of a deal.

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