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MAIN Arrow to TravelTravel Arrow to Vacation lodgings and hotelsHotels & Lodging

checking inLike choosing the right airfare or car rental, an affordable vacation hotel takes a bit of homework to find the perfect match for your needs while traveling.

The first question to ask is: where is it? ....followed by: Is it clean? Is it safe? Is the hotel in the middle of all the action or a quiet getaway? What amenities are on offer?

With a little research, and the following seasoned travel tips, you can find the vacation hotel of your dreams without breaking the bank.

Questions to ask before booking a vacation hotel

Price and proximity are often the two major choices that come into play when choosing a vacation hotel.

Your travel budget will determine the cost. As always, the major travel package companies like Travelocity or Expedia also offer hotel packages along with airfare, so keep that in mind where you book -- and WHEN you book. Hotels usually go begging in the off season from September to March.

At any time of year, be prepared to sacrifice a little to find cheaper prices. For example, in major cities around the world the closer you get to the center the more a hotel will cost.

That said, find out how easy it is to get to major attractions from where you're staying. Like the cost of renting a car, any added expense may just tip the balance to a hotel that is closer to top tourist areas.

In addition, check the accessibility of the local public transportation system to see how easy it is to get around. (Use a local online map to discover how close the local subway or metro stops are located to the hotel. It's no fun taking a taxi to the train if you're looking to save money.)

Also keep in mind the all-important creature comforts while traveling. It may only come down to having that first cup of coffee in the morning. In that case, find out if the hotel an in-room coffee maker (it's usually listed under "Room amenities" on their website) or, if emailing or browsing the Internet is all-important wi-fi service should also be included.

Conversely, splurging on a remote bed-and-breakfast in a rustic setting might just be your cup of tea.

More tips and tricks to better hotel values

In the digital age it is easier than ever to find reviews of hotels you may be considering. So don't make the final booking until you've visited at least one online travel community to discover advice from hotel guests who've actually been there.

TripAdvisor is one very popular site for finding answers to questions -- ranging from "Help, I need a cheap hotel in Paris!" to where to find the best flights to Bali.

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums is another online help site where seasoned travel veterans can give you the advice you seek.

Opinions can run the gamut from glowing to dismal -- and on topics ranging from safety issues, cleanliness, the friendliness of the staff, to how good the food may be at the hotel restaurant.

Remember that it's best not to take the first forum post you see as gospel. If there are other opinions posted on the topic, read them carefully to see how balanced they are, or if others disagree with a particular review. It may just have come from a disgruntled guest with impossible demands.

Finally, don't forget to use online communities as leverage once you do book a hotel. And, on arrival, cheerfully remind the hotel staff that you found them on the advice of a community forum (and that you would love to review the hotel yourself following your return home.) You may just get special treatment or service added to your stay.

Once you do book the right hotel at the right price, make note of their address, email or phone number, and the check-in schedule. This way if there are any travel delays en route (or if you arrive early) you can start out on the right foot on your arrival.

Have a wonderful vacation....and an enjoyable stay at a hotel you'll be happy to write home about!

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More hotel reservation tips around the Web:

From reservations at the Ritz -- to rental apartments, youth hostels, and campgrounds -- these top hotel directories will help you find the perfect travel lodgings at the right price worldwide...


Hotel Guides - Extensive directory of hotels in the U.S., Canada, and worldwide searchable by state or province, or with custom searches that guide visitors to non-smoking, wheelchair accessible, wifi connections, and more.

Travel Guides Directory - An extensive searchable database of international bed and breakfasts, small hotels, suite hotels, condos and villas.

Charming Small Hotels - Like it says, with a guide to small hotels, pensioni, auberges, inns and guest houses in the UK and Europe searchable by country or clickable map.

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