So we’re going to China and the Philippines in less than a month’s time, for almost the whole month! We fly to Beijing on the 4th and fly back from Manila on the 28th. We never engage travel planners or agents when we go away (it is simply our choice to do the research ourselves). Consequently it has taken a heck of a lot of planning just to book the main flights there and back, decide on hotels and apply for the Chinese visa (I have tracked almost 20 hours of my time so far). There’s still organising transfers between places and from airports to hotels, deciding what we want to see in each place, getting top ups on our jabs, and the packing list to write!

I’ll be updating you on how we get on while we’re there, but for now I thought I’d share how we decide which hotels to stay in. It’s a huge task and, as we have (somehow) crept into our 30s, an ever more important decision to make. Long gone are the days when we would be happy to rock up to any old hostel as long as it was cheap.  We’re now looking for a bit more luxury; nothing extravagant, but something that is a pleasure to stay in. So onto the planning…

It all starts with TripAdvisor.

  1. Type the region you’ll be staying in (for example, Beijing) in the  ‘Where are you going?’ box, and in the ‘What are you looking for?’ box click Hotels.
  2. Order by Ranking, choose the upper limit on your budget using the slider in the left hand side bar and work your way down the hotels.
  3. Start by reading only the latest Terrible reviews, by clicking the word Terrible under Traveller Rating. You can gauge the kind of people who have written them and how high their expectations are. If you notice most of the things they are complaining about are probably a one-off or it wouldn’t bother you if you were in the same situation, then you’re safe to carry on reading. However, if there are patterns emerging in the complaints and you feel you simply wouldn’t be able to handle whatever it is, then move on to the next hotel. It is always worth reading the reply to a review left by the owner too if there is one; there are always two sides to a story.
  4. If you aren’t put off by now, keep reading the latest reviews moving up through Average, Very Good and Excellent. You’ll get an idea of location, cleanliness, noise levels, food, staff and all sorts of other factors that will help you decide if it’s right for you. Also check the Amenities.
  5. If it’s still sounding hopeful, next check the photos. A picture tells a thousand words after all. If it looks appealing, you might just have a contender.
  6. You may choose to do this a different way, but when I find a hotel I like, I open up a new email and copy/paste the TripAdvisor link into it, and underneath I write a short sentence describing the pros and cons. This is as much to help me remember which one is which, as to also send to my partner to make sure we both like the sound of it.
  7. When you have your list of favourites, take a look at the prices of each and weigh up which one you consider to be the best value.

This is our tried and tested method for doing it ourselves, but I’d love to hear what steps you take to find your perfect hotel. Leave a comment below