Booking hotels can often feel like guesswork. Despite all the information readily available—photos, location maps, pricing, and user reviews—the value of the hotel, the quality of the room, and how well the property gels with your expectations is usually only determined once you show up for your actual stay.
Three sites are working to change that, however. Hotel Chatter, Room 77, and The Suitest offer both expert and user-generated data—some down to the room level—to inform you on what to expect from the properties that interest you. Together, these sites offer the closest means I’ve found to try before you buy – or “stay” (albeit virtually) before you book. Check them out for your next trip, and be in the know before you turn over your credit card.
Hotel Chatter offers the latest scoop from an editorial staff that eats, sleeps, and breathes hotels. The site reports on industry trends (such as eco-friendly properties and LEED-certified hotels), hotel openings and closings, celebrity news (who’s staying where, often in real time), and destination-specific updates, all with an insider/behind-the-scenes feel.
The hotel is the destination here: All news is geared toward jetsetting travelers who consider their hotel choice to be the most important part of their vacation. As such, you’ll find details on hot spots, one-of-a-kind properties, and international see-and-be-seen info front and center here.
Everyone is familiar with TripAdvisor and its reviews from fellow travelers on hotels around the world. Room 77 goes one step further, soliciting traveler reviews beyond the properties down to the actual rooms, with details including rooms with the best views, the quietest rooms, and the most spacious rooms. I really like Room 77’s dynamic mapping feature – search your hotel by floor, and a floor plan of rooms shows up, along with a list of specific room links. Click on the room of your choice, and you can see the views from that room – a cool feature that gets you “inside” the room before you even step foot on the property.
The one caveat to Room 77? Beyond B&Bs, I don’t know of any hotel that enables you to book the actual room you want in advance (beyond presidential suites, that is). Room availability is always subject to inventory and customer demand, and often changes. My advice is to call your hotel directly a few days before check-in and request one of the rooms you’d like, preferably speaking directly to a hotel manager. Have a list of several rooms that would appeal to you, rather than just one, to increase the chances of scoring your desired accommodations. Or, use Room 77 to determine which overall properties would serve your needs on a larger/more general scale – if many rooms within a particular hotel appeal to you, it’s probably a safe bet for your next trip, regardless of which room you’re given.
Focusing on luxury properties, The Suitest offers compiled data on amenities and perks, so you can compare properties side by side on the features you want for their upcoming stay. The searchable amenities go way beyond cookie-cutter options: For example, you can compare rooms by stone bathrooms, fireplaces, TV-screen size, and iPod docks. Views are broken down by property, pool, city, landmark, mountain, water – or no view at all. Room prices are searchable, down to the day, with cost calculators also adding in the extra fees for all those desirable amenities. And if you’re overwhelmed by all the searchable data, the staff has helpfully given each room a grade, determined by the price for the room against what you get (as well as compared to that hotel’s competitors’ prices for comparable accommodations).
If you’re splurging for an upcoming vacation and want to make sure you’re getting exactly what you hope for (and also want to know exactly what you’ll pay for such indulgences), this is a fun site to include in your trip-planning research before you book your hotel.
Is there a site you always consult before booking hotels? Leave a comment and let us know!
Second photo courtesy Alex France
Main Photo Credit: NCM3
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