Are We There Yet? Planning a Family Vacation?

Planning a Family Vacation - take a long some fun

Choose the right Hotel

Choosing a hotel for your trip is often the most daunting part of the trip planning process. After all, you are going to an unknown destination for adventure or rest and must choose a temporary home.

Therefore, as with any successful endeavor, some advance planning will help to ensure that your trip will indeed be a great vacation!

Choices, Choices, Choices!

The planning stage of any trip is the warm up. Once you start researching your hotel choices, you will be amazed at the possibilities that exist. Truly, getting there is half the fun!

There are a few variables, unique to each trip, that will help narrow down your hotel choices and allow you to make the best decision. Certainly there are more, but these will simply help to begin the process:

  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your activity level during the trip
  • Your budget

Purpose Driven
When you think of the purpose of your trip, go beyond the typical business or pleasure. Ask yourself, what do you plan to do once you get there and how long will you be in that location? Is your business trip primarily meetings or will you need to use the room for work? Are you going to Hawaii to sunbathe, relax and reconnect with your family; or see volcanoes, rainbows and waterfalls?

Is the purpose of your trip to Washington DC about discovering more of our nation’s rich and admirable heritage; or scouting out colleges for your child? Answering these questions will help you choose the location and type of your desired hotel, based on the services and amenities provided.

Downtime? If you have older children or adults traveling with you, is it important to have everyone in a single room or do you want connecting rooms so that everyone has some privacy?

Getting Your Money's Worth
Today's travelers have more choices than ever and the lodging industry is becoming more responsive to the needs and demands of its guests. It is no longer necessary to stay at an expensive hotel to receive great service, a spacious room, and a surprising array of amenities.

In fact, with a little research, your best value and most memorable stay may come from inauspicious but cozy places.

It's Your Choice

As stated before, if you plan to spend very little time in your hotel room, you may want to consider an economy level hotel so that you can spend more of your travel budget on activities and meals. Many economy level hotels, like Americas Best Value Inn, offer very clean, spacious rooms with great amenities. Most offer free continental breakfast to get you going in the morning or a pool to relax at after a fun day of activity. Almost all of the Americas Best Value Inns are family-owned, giving them a personal feel and individual character. If you are looking for a hotel that will cater to your every need without having to leave the premise, you may want to consider a full-service luxury hotel or an all-inclusive resort. Because your final destination is the actual hotel or resort, most of your travel budget will be based on your lodging choice.

Location, Location, Location
If you need to be within a short distance of your meeting areas or do not have access to your own transportation, you will want a hotel in close proximity to your planned activities. However, if you have your own transportation or do not plan to travel much once you reach your destination, you can choose a more intimate or outof-the-way location.

Amenities
Hotel amenities are added benefits that can make a hotel room seem more like home. These include everything from the basic shampoo and hair dryers in the bathroom to plasma televisions and high-speed Internet connection within the guest room. Some hotel chains have standard amenities, others, like Americas Best Value Inn, allow their individual hotels to choose their own amenities based on the needs and demands of their guests.

When choosing a hotel, consider the amenities that you absolutely need and those that you may want, but aren't completely necessary. In most cases, the more amenities a hotel offers, the higher the price. For example:

  • A microwave and refrigerator in a room is very convenient when young children are with you.
  • Additionally, you will save some money by not having to eat at restaurants for every meal.
  • If you are traveling with pets, be sure to confirm in advance that your hotel is "pet friendly."
  • A fitness room is important if you would like to maintain an exercise regiment.
  • Free Internet access and a desk is a must if you will be working in your room.
  • A swimming pool (outdoor or indoor) can help young children expend their extra energy at the end of the day.

If your budget does not yield to the prices of the large resorts, take heart. Keep your mind open to other
possibilities. Some of the best places are those tucked away just waiting to be discovered by those willing to give them a chance. Also, smaller hotels can have a family feel to them, and quite a bit of charm!

Search And You Will Find A Great Hotel!
Now that you’ve determined what type of hotel you would like based on your purpose, activity level, and budget, where do you go to find the best deal? If you don’t like to do the research yourself, you may want to consult a travel agent.
Travel agents are updated daily on destinations, lodging choices, and activities to do once you arrive. Be sure to give the travel agent as much information as possible as to your expectations for your trip. Check your local yellow pages for an agent near you.
For those who enjoy the search of a good deal, check out the values offered on the web. If you have a particular hotel you would like to stay at, go to their website to find a location nearest your destination. Hotel chain websites often offer discounts and specials that may not be available through third-party websites.

Remember, choosing a hotel should not only be about the lowest price. The Internet is an excellent way of searching for a quality hotel based on the advice from other travelers. After all, word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising for any industry!

Up and Running!
Now that you know your purpose, you can assess your expected activity level during the trip. Are you planning adventure from dawn to dusk? Will you moderate spending some time at the hotel and some time visiting attractions or attending meetings? Or, will you be deliciously lazy, sleeping until 11am, calling room service, and then strolling leisurely to the pool? In other words, how much time do you plan to spend in your room and around the hotel?
Answering these questions will help you determine how much of your trip budget should be spent on a hotel.

Keep the following in mind:

  • If you expect to spend little time in your room, it may not be necessary to spend money on an expensive resort.
  • Reconnecting with family may be more comfortable at a small, cozy, and well-run family operated hotel.
  • If you are planning to spend all your time at the hotel, spending the extra money to stay at a resort may be the best choice.
  • Don't forget to take into account the activity level of the people with whom you are traveling. If you have young children, do you want a single room in which your children will sleep with you or would you prefer a suite so that they have their own room for naps and
  • Ask your friends where they stay or good experiences they have had while traveling.
  • Additionally, go to the many consumer opinion websites, like tripadvisor.com, where travelers post their experiences, good and bad, and the hotels have an opportunity to reply.
  • Try posting a question about your destination on a message board, like the one at frommers.com (also an easy way to research a destination). You will be surprised by the responses and wealth of information others are willing to share.
  • When visiting a consumer opinion website or a message board, keep in mind that many people only post negative comments, so no comment may be a good sign. A small number of negative posts should not deter you, as they could be the result of an isolated situation. It is best to look for patterns.
  • Try doing a search on Google with the hotel’s full name and the destination.
Finally, remember that this is your vacation and you should keep this process fun. If it’s not, you have missed your original intent. Keep in mind that if you wind up in an unsuitable hotel, it need not ruin your trip. A little bit of humor and optimism can transform any situation, even the most impossible, into an experience, adventure and interesting story.