I love to travel. The flying I can do without, but visiting new places is like crack to me. Because my step-children live in Germany, G and I fly over to Europe several times a year. We get the kiddies and take them somewhere that will be fun for them and tolerable for us. Then, when we drop them off, we spend a night or two somewhere wonderful and romantic as a reward. Grown-up time.
When I’m looking at possible destinations, I do tons of research. First, I check out Trip Advisor to see what other people think of the places I plan to go. Sometimes I check out Frommer’s, too. I always Google the city itself to see what there is to do and see. All the while I am making a list of hotels and sights and restaurants.
That sounds pretty organized, I know. Not something I’m known for. G has been good for me that way, because he is really organized. He has different wallets for each country and all the itineraries and car rental agreements printed and tucked in a folder in his carry-on bag. So I don’t feel so bad when we arrive at the airport in, say, Hamburg, and I realize I left my sheet of paper with all my notes on it on the bedside table at home.
However, having my notes in hand doesn’t always work out for us. Sometimes the info I’ve read is outdated. Take our trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago, for example. I made G drive all over San José looking for a club that was highly recommended by Frommer’s. We kept circling this sketchy looking neighborhood and finally found ourselves in front of a dilapidated brick building surrounded by barbed wire topped walls. There are a lot of those in San José, by the way. It didn’t make us feel very comfortable or even safe in the city.
The thing that really gets me, though, is the mixed reviews that every hotel I look at seems to have. For every
“It was the best stay ever!” there is always a
“The service was lousy!” and then there’s
“The bed was so comfortable it was incredible!”and under that
“My feet stuck to the carpet and the faucets in the bathroom dripped all night”
How the hell are you supposed to choose a hotel after reading that? In the end I usually pick one that has mostly good reviews. If it’s a draw then I try a different site altogether, like a foreign hotel chain, and hope for the best.
I’d love to be able to say that I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences, but that would be a lie. I’ve picked some doozies. The last trip over we were forced to listen to pigeons cooing on the windowsill the whole night. At first it was kind of cute, but after three or so hours I was ready to shoot one of them. Nobody mentioned pigeons on Trip Advisor. And then there was the B & B a couple years ago that basically had the bathroom in the bedroom, separated by a glass wall. Now I really love my husband, but I don’t need to know what’s happening in the bathroom. And I’m not comfortable with him being able to see what I’m doing in there, either. A girl needs her privacy.
And as for my carefully written out list of restaurants? We never tried any of them the last trip over. Instead, we ate at the hotel every night, exhausted from schlepping a five- and a seven-year-old around town on very little sleep (thanks to the friggin’ birds).
Anyone out there have a better way to pick a hotel? I would be very grateful for any suggestions!