Hotel booking guide

Location

The first rule in real estate is always location. Booking a hotel is still real estate. The same emphasis on location exists. Unless you work from home you commute and odds are you hate it. You dread your morning commute. The drive home is only made enjoyable by the knowledge you are heading home . If you don't enjoy commuting at home why would you want to commute on your vacation? A simple easy to remember rule of thumb is if you can't walk from the hotel to most of the sites you hope to see the hotel is likely not in the best spot. 

Like all rules this one is made to be broken. You may need parking that's hard to find with a central hotel. Your budget may not extend far enough to pay for a central hotel. You may have waited too long to book your hotel. What ever the reason check on things like transit from the hotel. If your hotel of choice is so out of the way that you won't even be able to take transit it may be time to reconsider your budget.

Verify

Staying with the real estate analogy don't go on trust. Verify everything you can. If the hotel claims to be a ten minute walk from a tourist site check the distance with Google maps. If they claim a great breakfast read the reviews carefully. You don't need to be paranoid but a little healthy scepticism can be a great protection.

 

Booking

Once you've narrowed down your list of hotels the next hurdle is the booking. Most hotels offer a range of booking types. The simplest and safest are free cancellation. At least it appears simple. Different hotels will define "free cancellation" in different ways.  Some hotels will let you cancel right up to the last moment. Others will have far less generous terms. Read the terms and conditions carefully. Note the last date to cancel without a charge. The next thing to check is the no show fee. The no show fee is what the hotel will charge you if you fail to check in.

At the other end of the scale are prepaid rooms. These rooms are usually cheaper but if for some reason you can't travel your money is forfeit. 

Outside of the two simpler options things become even less standardized. Hotels may require a deposit. The deposit may or may not be refundable. Some hotels instead of a deposit will put a hold on your credit card. 

Remember

Read any reviews you can find closely. Pay attention more to bad reviews then the good. Bad reviews often reveal information you can't find elsewhere: Maybe the front desk isn't staffed all night. Or the elevator is noisy. 

Read the terms and conditions before you book. Reading the terms before booking can avoid any nasty surprises later. 

Booking.com

Creating your own vacation package

Daunting

 It can be daunting planning your first trip. Worries about hotels , travel connections and even what to see fill your head with unfounded fears.  

Start with yourself

It may sound strange but before you can plan your trip you need to know yourself and  if applicable your travel companions. I don't mean in the mystical sense. You will need to define how long you have. You will need to define your interests. You will need to define worldly limits like a budget or physical limits. 

Be reasonable

If your vacation is seven days trying to cram in seven years worth of travel isn't reasonable. It will almost always leave you with a bitter taste. Accept that you can't do everything in a short period of time.

Don't be wasteful

You will often see people wasting hours on long flights or multiple train rides. If you have a short trip those hours spent in airports or train stations are wasted hours. If you really want to to spend a few days at the airport no need to even buy a ticket. Go to your local airport and spend the day before security. Doesn't sound like fun? Don't expect it to be any more fun just because you've spent money on a plane ticket. The same principle applies to moves after you've arrived at your destination. Each time you move you will waste part of a day. You will need   time to pack. Time to check out of your hotel. Time to get to the train station. Time for the train ride. Time to get to the new hotel. Time to check in. Time to unpack. Very few people find any of this enjoyable. 

Wasting not just time

Each move wastes not just precious time but it will cost you monetarily. The train ticket is the obvious cost. But you may need a cab to the train station. Or just a bus ticket. Once you arrive in the new city a second cab.

Next step

After you have defined your budget both in terms of time and budget you can move on to the next step. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?  You may be tempted to give a very general answer here but don't. Answering Italy or Spain or France for example isn't an answer unless you have months for your trip. It's better to concentrate on one city then to try and see everything.  

Skyscanner

offers various search options to help you find a flight. It can also be used to figure out which airlines fly certain routes. Or just to find the best airports

They also offer an app that you can use. 

Google Flights

Like many things Google offers an option. 

Google Flights

Google flights is useful from your computer. It also provides price tracking. 

Lodging

 Your next problem will be finding a hotel or other lodging in your destination.  Booking.com lets you search a large number of hotels and apartments . You can sort by price or hotel rating. You can search using various factors. For example do you want breakfast included? Free cancellation? Or parking? Spend some time setting the various filters and you can find  a hotel tailored to your needs. Booking.com provides a large number of real reviews from travelers like you. It's a very good idea to carefully read the reviews prior to booking any hotel.

 

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Booking.com

Driving

If you're driving you'll likely need a rental car.  AutoEurope allows you to search for car deals. The AutoEurope website also provides useful information on various subjects. Ranging from important driving information for Italy to the American TSA.

Pantheon to start charging an admission fee

Pantheon

 Will start charging a €2 admission fee starting May second 2018.

http://www.ansa.it/english/news/lifestyle/arts/2017/12/11/pantheon-2-euro-entry-fee-from-may-2-4_f58dc98b-f376-4720-9d78-53fb0c4230af.html

This marks a change in the usual free admission for churches in Rome. The government is claiming the funds will be used for the site but there are doubts. At the moment there is no word about advance ticket sales .  It's likely tourists will see long lines to enter the church.

Rome's Pantheon

Why you should book in advance for Florence Italy

The only thing I hate more then tying myself down to a fixed schedule is waiting in line.  In cities with a high number of tourists prebooking is often a necessity.  You may think getting to the site early will let you avoid booking in advance. The problem is many other tourists are having the exact same thought. Unless you are willing to camp out in advance of opening even skipping breakfast may not be early enough.

Video example

  You may not be convinced so I'll offer a video example.

The video starts at before 9am. Do you really want to spend your vacation standing in that line? Or would you rather have a leisurely breakfast before waltzing into the museum? 

Instead you could go to the official Uffizi website and book your tickets in advance.

Uffizi official website

Webshop for tickets

Avoid the temptation to buy from third party sellers.

In the end it's your trip. If you value the freedom of not booking in advance you are free not to. But understand it will likely result in long waits.

Majorera donkey in images

Majorera donkey

of Morro Jable are a sight the tourists love. The donkeys are tame and enjoy being fed apples.

Believed to have been brought to the Canary islands five hundred years ago they are now endangered.  While the number of parrots and squirrels seem to increase by the day the donkeys aren't so lucky. Consider showing some attention to the donkeys and not just the more common tourist animals.

Fanfara bersaglieri

Fanfara Bersaglieri Florence

The Florence section of the Bersaglieri played for an appreciative crowd in piazza della signoria. The marching band of the Bersaglieri performed their famous renditions before marching off. They played in uniform wearing their distinctive feathered hats.

Venice Italy

Venice

  The city of canals,gondolas and tourists. Often too many tourists. It can also be expensive especially when it's brimming with tourists.  So why go?

 

Venice Italy looking towards Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
band playing in Piazza San Marco

Venice is special in ways other cities only dream of. Fortunately most of that magic is accessible when the daytrippers are still dreaming in bed or have left the city for the night.  The city at sunrise or after dark has a much different feel to it. It's more then the lack of people. 

Offseason

But there are ways to enjoy Venice even during the day. Offseason is also a pleasant time to go. Not only will you avoid the crowds but prices are lower. In addition to the summer high season Carnivale and Christmas both are high season. Carnivale being tied to Easter changes dates every year. The events last seventeen days.

If you feel like braving the crowds http://www.carnevale.venezia.it/en/

The Christmas period starts before Christmas itself and runs to the sixth of January .

Even during the offseason you'll have some crowds in the most touristy areas but it will be easier to find a quiet spot.

The weather during the offseason will be cooler. It's more likely to rain or at least be foggy. But it doesn't have to ruin your stay. The fog just adds a different layer of magic to the sights.  So far no tourist has melted in the rain. 

Venice Italy in the rain

If it's extremely foggy you might want to pick a different date for a trip to the islands.  The city itself won't suffer from the fog. 

Walkable

Venice itself is relatively small and most people can walk it from one end to the next. There are what seems like countless bridges making draging a suitcase difficult but once you've settled into your hotel the sites are well with in walking range. The local version of a city bus is the vaporetto.  Expensive per trip. If you would rather not walk and intend to take the vaporetto consider buying one of the different passes offered.  The multi day passes will save you money if instead of walking you intend to ride .

http://actv.avmspa.it/en/content/prices

But don't think you have to. The main reason to take the vaporetto is the islands. A trip to the islands normally requires you buying some sort of vaporetto ticket.