If you've never been to a certain city, what are some good online tools available to research and book your hotel? Besides this site, of course.
There are so many online options out there that this advice is necessarily subjective, and as you play around with various online resources, you may choose a different path more suited to your own tastes than I might.
Of course, the easiest way — online or offline — to choose a hotel if you are unfamiliar with a city and aren't loyal to a particular brand is to ask a friend or family member.
Namely, someone you can trust.
But, if your sister has no clue about Chicago hotels, for instance, you can simply post a question in your Facebook status updates to see if any of your online friends have any suggestions.
There are tons of “social travel” sites these days which can help you expedite the find-out-from-a-friend process.
For example, you can sign into Trip.com using your Facebook credentials and post a question such as: “I may head to Chicago in October and want a decent three-star hotel near all the action. Does one exist?”
Through Trip.com, you can opt to post the question on Trip.com, Facebook, and/or Twitter and hopefully some of your friends or others in these networks will start chiming in with lists of hotel possibilities.
Once hotel suggestions start rolling in, you can amble over to TripAdvisor or the hotel review site of your choice and see what other former guests (hopefully, but not always) have to say about the property.
For example, if someone suggests you stay at Homewood Suites by Hilton in downtown Chicago, you can see that the three-star hotel is rated #8 of 168 hotels listed on TripAdvisor in the city.
If you have loads of time on your hands, you can sort through 617 reviews of the hotel. Alternatively, TripAdvisor categorizes the reviews so you can easily focus on reviews grouped by mentions of “Magnificent Mile,” “Navy Pier,” or “Full Kitchen.”
Some reviews on TripAdvisor are fakes, but most are genuine. Ignore the ones that are over-the-top in their praise and the reviews that seem poisonous, and somewhere in the middle you can usually get a great feel about the merits and demerits of the hotel.
When it comes to pricing your stay, using travel metasearch engines such as Kayak, Bing Travel, Hipmunk, or Mobissimo is a convenient and time-saving option. These sites collect pricing data from dozens of websites for comparison-shopping purposes. You can view the results and then generally you click over to the online travel agency or hotel website to complete your booking.
Going to the hotel website to get pricing or phoning the hotel to negotiate a price are great ideas. Often you can get a better price from the hotel itself.
Of course, no hotel decision is complete these days without consulting the bed-bug specialists.
Raveable's Bed Bug Watch tracks hotel bed bug sightings from around the Web and collects guests reports, as well.
If you don't want these creepy-crawlies in your bed, it's definitely a worthwhile look.
Dennis Schaal covers travel tech as North America Editor of Tnooz, and co-authors USA Today's Digital Traveler column.