24 July 2011

Finding Accommodations

The Internet makes it easy to find a hotel if you are making your own plans. Hopefully the information below may help. If you are in London without hotel plans you can fine a room easily. The airports and train stations have kiosks where somebody can find you a hotel. Be forewarned that they may have limited information. One of my friends found a three-story hotel near Victoria station but it did not have a lift. Walking up three flights after a day out was not fun.

Hostels offer a cheap alternative for budget travelers. They offer a savings but a loss of privacy. Bed and breakfast is a nice choice and worth a look. What ever accommodations you choose make sure you are aware of what you get for your money: room service, breakfast, en suite and other amenities. Once you arrive you can ask to see your room before you accept it but keep in mind that many older rooms may be smaller than American rooms.

For most of us cost is the major factor of holiday planning. Comfort is also a factor. Location should not be lost in this either. What do you want to do most? Do you want to be in the middle of nightlife or a quite out of the way area? Keep an eye on your map when you plan. Do not assume that small hotels are cheaper than large ones. They all have similar costs and larger hotels may offer better rates. Do your homework.

Some travel operators offer a given number of nights at a very good rate. They don’t usually last long and they do not include air. From some that I have seen the hotels are very good with excellent prices. This could be good but make sure you get all the facts. My one criticism is how some specials are advertized. They give you a total price for so many nights and then tell you that you get a night free. I would like to have them be clear that you pay for so many nights and then get a night free.

En Suite

Many hotels in the UK have rooms with no private bath facilities. The bath and toilet are shared by all guest and there is no guarantee that it will be ready when you are or that it will be desirable to enter. When rooms are advertized en suite it means that it comes with a private bath and toilet. Sometimes the toilet is in a separate room from the bath. Also take note that the bath may be a small shower but not a tube. This page from Business Dictionary dot Com allows you to hear the pronunciation of the term en suite.

Internet Searching

Other than word of mouth this is by far the best way to find a hotel. Not only can they give a full list of amenities they often provide a map location. The Internet can offer up to date information but it is up to the hotel to provide this. Still, you can compare hotels from your couch and email them for more specific information. Calling is an option, which I think this is the better as you can clarify and confirm information at once with a person. E-mail may not be answered directly.

This is a peeve of mine. It seems that hotels and other travel related companies still put out glossy material but lack real information. It can be assumed that young and healthy people can get to and use everything offered in a hotel. What about people with impairments? Are room facilities fully assessable to all people? Are facilities on the ground floor (lounge, rest rooms, dining room) functional to people in wheelchairs? Can you actually get into the building? Chances are they are not. Should you require or are concerned about conditions of a hotel then contact them and make an inquiry. Do not assume that any or all parts of a hotel is fully assessable to the disabled.

Location and Price

In as much as you can pay less the further out from central London you are you can still find great bargains closer in. There are so many hotels that competition can work in your favor. However, please be aware of your arrival and departure points. If you come into London from Gatwick chances are you will arrive at Victoria Station. From there you need to get to your hotel. If you plan on using a cab then your choice of hotel location does not matter. If you are on a budget and plan on public transportation you could be in for a haul. Buses and the tube can be packed and with transfers the trip can be heart stopping. You also need to allow time for the return and an early morning flight mean a really early morning wake-up call. Still, get a room where you want to, just stay aware of where you need to go and the time involved.

Buses and trains have space for luggage near the doors but it is limited. You may nee to move away from your luggage but in general it will be safe. On the tube you will have a short time in which to get to your luggage and get off. The luggage pad on the bus is next to the front door. You need to get your luggage and exit from the rear door. You will be negotiating through a narrow path filled with people and baby buggies. Have fun.

If you have a hotel in mind please search the Internet before you book. Find it on an on-line map and see if it is next to a rail line or station or a large motorway. There is a good chance that your room could overlook a rail line and that will be most disturbing. Larger and more expensive hotels usually do not have this problem but some budget hotels, small hotels or hostels can be yards away from rail lines.

Pub Hotels

Pubs across England have rooms for travelers and London has its share. A quick Google search will bring some of them to you such as those run by Fuller's and Young's. Prices can vary greatly from hostel rates to High Street hotels. Do your homework if you want to stay above a pub. Make sure you ask about what you are entitled to.

Rail Stations

London’s major rail stations have kiosk or information centers that can book a hotel room for you or provide a list of hotels. Some information about the hotels may be limited such as if they have a lift (elevator) or en suite rooms. So, why did you come to London without a pre-booked room?

Universities on Summer Holiday

Universities offer dorm rooms to tourists during summer break. This is similar to a hostel and worth a look for budget minded travelers. I can’t say if security in a university is better or worst than a hostel. Imperial College in South Kensington has opened their doors for this. Do a Google search to find more.

Reading a Review

Whenever I read reviews I am always left wondering if these people have stayed at the same hotel. Worst hotel ever, to the best in the world from people staying at the same place. How can that be? Some people are very laid back and aren’t bothered by little things whereas others expect too much, I think. Still, high expectations and construction work can form negative comments. Many hotels in the UK are old with small rooms and narrow hallways. Wall coverings and furniture may be dated but are they clean? Does the room smell bad? What is the condition of the bathroom? Remember what you are paying for. If you want the Ritz then stay there. Yes, that may seem flippant but try and keep things in perspective.

What to Look For

This applies to hotels, B&B’s and apartments.

Where is the hotel located relative to tube and bus stops? It is near where you want to visit often? Is it adjacent to a rail line? Your room could be next to a busy street or active rail line generating noise all night. There is little you can do other than ask to have your room changed. Check the location on a map.

Check In:
Most check-in times are 3 pm but could be earlier. But if they have no rooms ready you will have to wait. Does the hotel have luggage storage? You may need to present the same credit card you used to make the reservations. Some hotels charge your account when reservations are made. Although rare, you could be charged a surcharge if using your credit card. This should be shown on the hotel’s information page or made clear when booking.

Is check-in situated in the same place as the hotel? Does that seem dumb? Hotels do have check-in at the main entrance, but apartments may not. I found one that had the “front desk” in a different building. Another apartment had none at all. A person greets you at the front of the building.

Hotel Size & Age:
London (and European) hotels are in old buildings. If you have problems walking or using a wheel chair you need to inquire as to the condition of the place. Are there only steps for access? Is there a lift? Inquire about the bathroom. Does it have a tub or only a shower? Some people cannot use a shower. My bath in Dusseldorf was so small that your legs sat under the washbasin. If you are staying at a smaller hotel or apartment will you be sharing a common bath?

Most hotels offer a free continental breakfast and sometimes offer a full English breakfast for a fee. Some offer nothing. Imperial London Hotels give free English breakfast to guest if they book themselves, either by calling or on-line. Hotels may not advertize this so this may be inquired.

Remember that you need to be forgiving a bit when you travel and you may not always get what you were hoping for, but that’s part of leaving home. If you have any concerns contact the hotel. Hotels on the Internet provide a lot of information but sometimes it is presented as a song and dance.

A Guide to Good Hotels

I found this third party website: Good Hotel Guide, which seems to keep on top of what they do. Hotels have to earn their entry into their guide and comments from unknown authors are not permitted. Information provided by the GHG is, in my opinion, reliable. I would like to keep this short of an endorsement but if I were looking for a hotel in the UK I would look here.