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How to Choose a Great Place to Stay on Vacation

I grinned when Margo at The Travel Belles asked us this months Across the Cafe Table question: “How do you pick a hotel?”

I grinned because until my late twenties, I’d NEVER picked a hotel!

Although my childhood was very happy, we were dirt poor. Our vacations were spent camping in tents or, if we were feeling especially flush, Motel 6. I loved our little vacationing adventures, but admit I grew up thinking that only rich people stayed in hotels, that they were something reserved for Hollywood elite or posh businessmen. The thought of staying in a fancy hotel with room service was relegated to the glowing rooms of fantasy.

Since then I have been able to stay in “real” hotels, and it still gives me a thrill every time: the weird paintings on the walls, pristine bed linen, fluffy white towels, unlimited air conditioning and wi-fi. It doesn’t bother me if the bathroom is so teensy I can barely turn around (Paris) or if my environs are invaded by friendly lizards (Fiji). I don’t mind being shoe-horned in with my family for a night (Rome) or hauling my luggage up three flights of stairs (Venice). It doesn’t seem to matter what catastrophes arise, it’s always such an adventure and I feel that I’m being spoiled rotten. 🙂

When choosing a hotel I look for cheap, clean, and close to wherever I want to go exploring. Since my job requires access to internet, I also look for free Wi-Fi.

But to be perfectly honest, I’d rather stay almost anywhere than a hotel these days. They do their job well – providing a safe, clean place to sleep and shower – but they’re not overly interesting. And I’m rather fond of interesting.

For short stays I love bed and breakfasts. They’re quirky and unique and you never know what you’re going to get. The owners are usually cheery and helpful, providing invaluable information about local transportation, food, and culture. Bed and breakfasts generally take you off the tourist/hotel strip and into a real neighborhood, allowing you to see how the locals live, shop and eat. I love this.

My friend Betsy took me to my first bed and breakfast on a fabulous Girls Road Trip we took to Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Beaconsfield Inn is located in gorgeous Victoria and had everything I could ever hope for in a lovely place to stay:

  • sherry in the library upon arrival
  • delicious breakfast in a plant-filled sunroom
  • enormous rooms with fluffy feather beds, a fireplace, hot tub, and cute little bottles of champagne to go with your chocolates.
Beaconsfield Inn, Victoria

above photos from http://www.beaconsfieldinn.com/


While secluded enough to be peaceful and quiet, it was within walking distance to downtown Victoria and just around the corner from a splendid little theater that was hosting the Victoria Shakespeare Festival. For a girl used to sleeping in a small tent with three rowdy brothers, it was heaven.

It did not fit my usual requirement of cheap, but oh, it was marvelous, definitely worth a splurge for one night.

If I’m staying in a place longer than a few days, I will always look for a house or villa to rent.

My love affair with such accommodation started in Italy when four friends and I stayed at the idyllic Villa Trotta near Perdifumo, Italy. I’ve already waxed long and prolifically about this wonderful place in previous posts, but I couldn’t possibly describe how I choose a place to stay without bringing it up again.


Villa Trotta is a massive stone house in the country, perched right on the edge of a hill that sweeps down through orchards and vineyards to the Adriatic. For just over $1200 a week it was a steal, especially since the cost was divided between five girls. Yes, just over $200 per person for an entire week. We had the whole place to ourselves and spent many hours sunning and reading on the numerous terraces, cooking up splendid meals in the kitchen, and taking day trips to wondrous places like Capri, Naples, and Pompei.

My love for such places continued this fall when I met up with my friends and fellow travel writers Margo, Katy, Kate, and Kathy in Vogogna, Italy. We stayed in a wonderful old home nestled down the narrow cobbled streets of the Old Town. With three-foot-thick stone walls it was a quiet oasis in the midst of town. I loved the clawfoot tub in my bedroom, the wide stone steps that led from one level to another, and the rustic little courtyard out back that provided so much inspiration during our brainstorming sessions. Once again, the price was much, much lower than any nearby hotel, and the ambiance was exquisite.

So, how do I pick a hotel? I rarely do. I choose a villa or a rental house or a bed and breakfast, places with character and charm that don’t break my budget.

How about you, dear ones? What do you look for in a place to stay?

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Ellen - Informative post.I ts really a great idea to take a house on rent in comparison to take a hotel room. It will be a great experience. Very interesting. I hadn’t thought of some of these Interesting piece. It can be difficult to find good blogs nowadays.

Laura - I think its really a best option to choose a house on rent i9n comparison to hotels room.Some interesting thoughts on the subject. Looking forward to see what else you post in the future.

Stevie - This is great advice.  We’ve tried hotels, b-and-b’s but never rented a house–maybe because we usually travel to large cities. I was cracking up about your comments on Paris and Rome as we had about the same experience.   I think that sometimes I like the elegant anonymity that a hotel can offer, though there is something about the adventure of the eccentric in the other choices that also can be quite fun.  It’s hard to really decide, so I think your idea of trying different things is best.

Krista -  It’s so interesting that you say that, Jeanne! I’d never used Tripadvisor until last year when my sis-in-law recommended it. She swears by it too. 🙂  Dirty and unsafe would send me fleeing too!

Krista -  Oh, thank you, Chaya. 🙂 I do love traveling, and I’m glad it comes through. 🙂

Krista -  You just give a holler if you ever want recommendations, Joanne. 🙂

Krista -  I can imagine having 10 people to house WOULD present difficulties, Pieces of Contentment! Renting a house seems like it would be an awesome choice for you. So glad you were able to find a couple of good places! 🙂

Krista - Staying in a B&B in England is one of my fondest dreams, Hila. 🙂 I’d LOVE to do that!!

Krista -  “not sharing the pool with strangers” – I love that, Deanna! And add a hearty AMEN! 🙂

Jeanne @ CookSister! - Great pst – and lovely places to stay!  I have to say that Tripadvisor has revolutionised the way I choose places to stay.  Obviously a personla recommendation is always the best but failing that, I am good at finding what I need to Tripadvisor.  I never go very expensive ad the 2 words that make me run a mile is “dirty” and “unsafe” (including stories of theft from rooms!).  I love B&Bs too but at the cheap end of spectrum I have also stayed in some hell-holes masquerading as B&Bs.  Ghastly. If I am staying longer than a weekend I will always look for a self-catering apartment or house as then I can shop at local markets – my favourite!

Chaya - You are a good advertisement for travel.  You make each place special and endearing with the written word and photos.

Joanne - I need to bookmark this and then double star it because I am the WORST at picking hotels! 

Pieces of Sunshine - You have stayed in a great variety of places, it must be wonderful to have so many wonderful memories. We rarely go away, but when we do, we look for a place large enough to accommodate our family of 10 and our vehicle (mini-bus). This greatly restricts our choices. We had a driving holiday two years ago, staying in a number of different locations. One of the places we stayed was particularly wonderful, you can see it here
We hope to have another holiday sometime in the next year or two.

Hila - Oh dear, I just want to pack my bags and go somewhere after reading this post! The loveliest place I ever stayed in was a B&B in Haworth Village in Yorkshire. It was so very English and pretty.

Deanna - I prefer renting houses. I like knowing that if I feel like cooking a meal I can, and I like not sharing the pool with strangers. B&Bs are super fun too. As long as I don’t have to stay in a tent, I’m pretty happy. 

Krista -  Thank you, Cathy. 🙂 I was SO glad they turned out. You just never know when you reserve places sight unseen. 🙂

Krista -  Thank you, Andi! 🙂 I felt so spoiled staying in them. 🙂

Krista -  I agree, Mary! I just want to sleep well and be able to have a shower and I’m good to go. 🙂

Krista -  Victoria IS gorgeous, Mary! I think that last minute choosing is fun too. 🙂 I did that with my brother and parents once, and we found great places. 🙂

Krista -  I think that you’ve made a very wise decision, Val. 🙂 When I travel by myself I like to be in small places with friendly and helpful people. The villa would feel so big and empty by myself!

Krista -  I feel so lucky, Linda. All of these places were secured online and I was SO thrilled that they turned out. 🙂

Cathy - I agree with Linda, Krista you have stayed in some absolutely beautiful places 🙂

Andi Perullo - I’m the same way! LOVE these places you showcased wow!!!!!

Mary Bergfeld - It depends on the type of vacation we are taking. When young the bed of choice was found in a hostel. When are now grown children were young we moved to condos or home rentals. These days we take whatever is available in the places we visit. Sometimes grand sometimes not :-). If it has a clean bed and bathroom I’m a happy camper because we spend very little time in theroom. Have a great day. Blessings…Mary

Mary - Those are some gorgeous places you’ve stayed. Victoria is just so pretty, isn’t it? I always end up choosing a place to stay at the very last minute, so often don’t get my first choice. That’s often part of the adventure though!

bellini - I have been planning my trip to Italy and have bookmarked B & B’s and small family establishments with good reviews. I have always had Villa Trotta on my mind but when travelling solo a villa is not that much fun. I will keep dreaming about it for my next vacation.

Lindyloumacinitaly - You have certainly stayed in some beautiful places Krista.

Krista -  Isn’t it beautiful, Ruthie?! I felt like I had stepped back in time to a more elegant age. 🙂

Ruthie - Wow the photos of the first place are amazing, totally opulent! When I have more money to spend on places to stay I definitely think character will be one of my main criteria!

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