"Hotel Travel Reviews & Advice"

Hotel Motel Inn Travel Advisor of Trips


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Hotel Booking Advice * My Personal Hotel Reviews * My Favorite Brands

First, A Brief Introduction

For many years, I have been posting my hotel and travel experiences online, primarily at TripAdvisor.  I have a love / hate relationship with the site, as I do with most review sites.  They simply do not have enough moderators to proof and qualify the reviews.  Have you ever read a review of a movie and the reviewer is telling the story of how long it took to ship the item?  And when it comes to hotels, I long for the day that I never see another complaint lodged at a hotel because of a problem with say Hotwire or Priceline!

As for me, I am a long ago Hotel Restaurant Management graduate from Johnson & Wales, and Widener University.  I have spent most of my post graduation years in the hospitality industry - everything from owning an Inn, to managing hotels and working as a travel consultant.  I am a hotels best guest or worst nightmare.  I love history of hotels and motels (hence my banner above) and even own many a vintage postcard (and offer some for sale).  I am more in favor of the European values - save and rehabilitate, then the American model, demolish and rebuild.  You cannot rebuild history.

Hotel Booking Advice

This is easy. Book DIRECTLY with the hotel brand website, 800 number, a reputable travel agent or the hotel itself!  Do all the price surfing you want on "third party" sites like Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, Hotels.com or Priceline - but then book it with the hotel or your travel agent. But tell them how you tried to book, and the rate available to confirm (which may not be the rate the flashes on the screen in a long list of hotels).  And that list?  It's sorted by who is most benefiting the pockets of the 3rd party - definitely not the order you need for a hotel closest to the beach, airport, mountain, etc.  Most issues arise because people do not read the fine print.

Why you might ask? Many third party sites limit your cancellation options - READ CAREFULLY before you confirm.  Sites like Hotwire and Priceline are the worse because they are "Opaque Sites" - in other words, users booking on these typically have NO idea what hotel they are actually being booked in.  What about your hotel reward points?  Forget about it if you book through a 3rd party.

At the end of the day, you are making a reservation with Expedia (or Hotwire, or whichever site you use), NOT with the hotel!  It's the 3rd party site that is billing you! They in turn reserve your room at the hotel.  And I bet you think the fee is small, maybe 10% like a reputable travel agent?  No way!  Fee's for the hotels can be as high as 35%.  In other words, you THINK you're paying $100 to the hotel for the night when in fact they may be getting as little as $65.  These sites are surefire ways to never get a free upgrade at check-in!  I was in the hotel business - any hotel nearing a sold out status is going to take care of all their corporate and direct booking guests requests FIRST before anyone booking through a 3rd party site stands a chance.

And how about that room type titled 'Hot Rate' at Hotwire?  Read the fine print and you'll likely find it's called a 'Run of the House' room - in other words, anything left that meets the minimum requirements.  For a single traveler, it's a room with a bed.  And if it's in an area where smoking rooms are still allowed, it may even be a smoking room.

Just read some of the horror stories online...

88% of users at this site give Expedia 1 star (hotel and air combined) - http://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/expedia_air_reservations.html

This one from a small independent hotel itself bullied by Expedia - http://www.theverge.com/2012/12/28/3809328/one-small-hotels-long-nightmare-with-expedia

My Personal Hotel Reviews

Here are a few of my hand picked favorites.  For my full reviews with many photo's, take a look at my TripAdvisor profile page ("historytraveler27"): http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/historytraveler27

The Grange Strathmore, London (Visited June 2013)
ďSophisticated Elegance in a Lovingly Restored & Maintained HotelĒ 
My first visit to London in 2013 was accented by our delightful stay at this charming hotel in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. History abounds in this structure, once the London residence of the Earl of Strathmore. Now with 77 rooms and suites, the home is a travelerís delight. Our room was actually large (for London), with 2 Twin beds and 1 Double. We stayed for a week (6 nights) and the location was extraordinary. Out the door, itís a block to a main road where you can catch sight-seeing bus trips, taxis or find numerous dining options and cafes. Nearby Brompton Road is home to Bumpkins (a favorite dining spot of ours) and 1 mile on foot you will find the famous Harrods Department store.  A few minutesí walk, youíre at the incredibly convenient Gloucester Road Underground (Tube) station, on the Piccadilly line, with service that will take you right to Heathrow or of course all over London. Each morning we took full advantage of the British continental style breakfast served in the hotelís elegant dining room. Back in the room, housekeeping service was always top notch! The room was clean on arrival and maintained for our entire stay. (Read Full Review...)

Hotel Triton (A Kimpton Hotel) (Visited September 2012)
ďOne of the Coolest Funkiest and Cleanest Vintage Hotels - Perfect for San Francisco!Ē
During a business trip in September, I added a few extra nights for personal travel, and ventured north to San Francisco. I couldnít wait for my first Kimpton experience, and it didnít disappoint! I loved it the minute I walked into the hotel. Referred to as a boutique style of hotel, this property in the Kimpton collection centers around pop culture and art! The lobby (referred to as the living room) features colorful furnishings where guests may enjoy the complimentary wine hour nightly at 5pm. Check-in was friendly and quick, and I was on my way to the 4th floor. Even the halls featured vibrant and funky colors. My room was fresh and clean and bright. The bathroom vanity and mirrors sparkled, and ample and trendy lighting was everywhere. The Hotel Triton is an excellent choice for the seeker of independent and/or historic lodging! This vintage building hails to the early 1900ís Ė but is fully remodeled with every modern amenity. (Read Full Review...)

Hotel Triton by Kimpton, San Francisco
See All Photo's Full-Size

Radisson Hotel Duluth-Harborview (Visited April 2012)
ďGreat Service & Incredible Dining in a Vintage Duluth Hotel"

Radisson Hotel Duluth and JJ Astor RestaurantMy friend and I opted for a quick overnight getaway, and chose Duluth because we wanted to explore the old city and dine at the upper Midwestís last revolving restaurant open to the public. JJ Astor sits on the top floor of the Radisson Hotel in Downtown Duluth, and offers an incredible dining experience. The hotel itself is a unique circular design, which assures no one of a long walk down an endless hallway. The hotel is 16 stories (or 15 if you omit the non-existent 13th floor) and features 200+ guest rooms. Opened in 1970 as a Radisson, itís one of the longest continuously operating hotels in the city, under one namesake. From reading other reviews, clearly, if you desire a brand new all-suite hotel, then you shouldnít be staying at the Radisson Ė then again, no where do they claim to be new and all-suite. You will find well appointed and comfortable guest rooms that are clean with modern amenities. The rooms are smaller, typical of the time period when the hotel was constructed. However, youíll find modern features such as an HD TV and free Wi-Fi. The Internet connection was fast and easy to connect. We didnít watch TV. Complaints by other reviewers about noise concerned me, but it was not an issue at all. Our room was on the 15th floor, the highest for all guest rooms. The location is convenient to downtown attractions, and you can certainly walk to the touristy areas if you choose. If youíre looking for comfortable accommodations in a full-service hotel (they have a pool and hot tub too), you wonít be disappointed. We dined for dinner Saturday evening and breakfast on Sunday morning. Dinner was remarkable at JJ Astor, and breakfast was great too! If I had any suggestions, it would be for the ownership to immediately paint the parking garage Ė itís definitely an eyesore, and long overdue for paint. Iím guessing itís managed by a 3rd party, but it should still look fresh. Itís free, so I canít really knock off a star for the hotel. Because the hotel is older, donít expect to pack too many people with luggage in the elevators. We reserved online through the Radisson website which assured us a great rate and fair policies for the reservation. All the staff we encountered in the restaurant, at the front desk as well as by phone/email were very polite and friendly. (Also Read My Full Review of JJ Astor...)

My Favorite Brands

The independents, small chains and underdogs.  Typically you get better service, or better rates or a far more personalized experience - maybe all of the above.  Think everything from Best Western & Choice to Kimpton & Grange Hotels.  And of course all the independently owned and operated lodging options.

Click the links to explore and book online - direct with these great brands.  You'll also find my personal reviews of many of these branded collections too!

Kimpton Grange Historic Hotels of America Hyatt

Choice Best Western

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