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Best way to choose a hotel for vacation

My Favorite Hotels…for now

What is the best way to choose a hotel for vacation?  As my entire career (including my college days) has orbited around the idea of travel and using hotels, people often ask me what my favorite hotel is, or where I most like to travel.  I always smile and sigh.  I love the question because no matter what I am doing, that question sends me hurtling down an imaginary hallway where I get glimpses of all the amazing places I have had the good fortune of visiting.  Asking me to choose a favorite is quite honestly like asking a parent which of their children they like most.  I can’t do it.

With the large number of requests we have received recently for planning leisure trips, another variation of the question has arisen…”Which one would I pick?”  Customers ask me that question when they have narrowed their choices to 2 or 3 really attractive options, and it is a flawed question.  Just because I like it, does not mean it would be right for you.  And that is what I encourage people to keep in mind when they discuss vacation plans with friends and family.  As professional travel consultants, we remove our own preferences from the equation and look at your trip from your perspective.

So as you plan your own vacations and ponder where to go and where to stay, consider some fundamental questions about yourself and your habits.

1. Money vs. Hassle –  Vacations are about indulging and splurging, but everyone has their limits on how much they will spend.  Cost and Hassle are yin and yang in travel.  The less you want to spend, generally the more you have to tolerate hassle and down time.  While planning, ask yourself very honestly how content you will be waiting for shuttle busses,  crowded elevators and long hallways.  Now imagine those wait times while also burdened with beach towels, ski gear, camera bags, toys, strollers, etc.

2.  Big vs. Small – Hotels and resorts are often the first venues we think of when imagining vacation lodging because they have a large physical presence, and often have large marketing budgets to keep themselves top of mind with their customers.  I bet even if you have never been to Jamaica, you’ve heard of Sandals.  I tend to like smaller hotels because they are easier to navigate and I feel that a smaller pool of guests makes it easier for the staff to give great service.  But guess what?  I also like cruise ships, and I’ve had incredible service at resorts with upwards of 500 rooms.  And let’s face it, a small intimate resort cannot provide the vast array of services a big resort can.

My personal list of favorite hotels in the world is below.  This is a dynamic list and is always subject to new inspiration and discovery.

1. Tabacon

This resort is small in its number of rooms, but large in it’s unique offerings.  It is hours from the beach, and nestled in the central mountains of Costa Rica, directly at the base of the famous, and active Arenal Volcano.  The volcano fuels an ever tumbling and pooling series of hot springs amidst a tropical landscape straight from your dreams.  There are only 102 rooms, and you will need to sit through a solid 2-3 hour ride over narrow bumpy roads, but trust me…it is worth it.  Don’t cut your time short, stay here for at least 2-3 nights…and longer if you can.

 

2. Catamaran

It’s not the flashiest, or the fanciest, or the best known hotel, but the Catamaran in San Diego to me, feels like what San Diego should feel like.  It is easy to get to, provides simple access to either the bay or the beach and provides perfectly nice accommodations and friendly local service.  The Catamaran is privately owned by a family that has been in the hotel business for generations and they know their stuff.

 

3. Beaver Creek Lodge

You didn’t think I would focus only on warm weather locations did you?  The Beaver Creek Lodge is at the top of the resort town in Beaver Creek, Colorado.  Everyone knows getting a condo at a good price during ski season is tough…but what you might not realize is that although prices are lower in the summer, the number of available condo’s falls dramatically because the owners know that summer is a fantastic time to be in the high Rockies.