A lot of my friends have made comments that they have to have the very best when they travel.They insist that they must fly first class and stay at only 5 star hotels. The ironic thing is that these usually are the same friends who don’t go anywhere. If you have a rock star budget and money is no object, get the best. If you’re in a once-in-a-lifetime location and you have an opportunity to stay at an amazing hotel you saw on TV that you can’t get out of your head, stay there! However, if you don’t, and your travel experience is more important to you than the champagne in your room being the perfect temperature, this article is for you.

Booking a hotel has become ridiculously easy since the internet changed it forever. There are many booking sites to choose from, which we will discuss shortly, but it’s important to do a little homework before you fork over your credit card digits.

The first factor is location. If you are relying on public transport and/or you would like to be close to the center of the sites, make sure that you double check your hotel choice on the map. In most historical areas, the best place to be is the city center or the “old town”.Usually you can walk to many of the sites or catch a metro to your desired locations. If you have any early flight however, sometimes it’s best to stay a little closer to the airport so you don’t have an issue the following morning. Most hotel booking sites have a box that you can check to narrow your search to the area you are looking for.

Another thing to look for is the star or diamond rating of a hotel. These are not exactly standardized in the world and can mean different things in different countries but it’s a generally accepted rule that the more stars, the more luxurious or more amenities will be provided. These amenities can be as simple as longer reception hours, an elevator, restaurant choices or other factors. Hotels almost always range from one to five stars, but an exception is the Dubai Burj Arab which claims to be the only 7 star hotel in the world.  Although this is a controversial rating, it remains in the public’s awareness. Many wonderful historical hotels may have a low star rating because the building is older and smaller but might yield an amazing travel experience. In some countries, like Turkey, there is a “special class” moniker added to the rating of  a hotel that has some added value as a historical monument or interesting landmark.

Customer ratings are another factor. These are not always the most accurate dipstick for a hotel, but if you see 475 excellent reviews out of the 500 people who commented, it’s a fairly sure fire bet that the hotel will be acceptable. At the time of this writing, Trip Advisor has a good website for reviews of hotels, restaurants and places to visit. These are calculated by customers rating the hotel and writing a paragraph or two about their travel experience. These reviews are usually rated 1-5 or bad to excellent.

In addition to the ratings and location, hotel booking websites often include photos of the hotel main areas and sample pictures of the guestrooms. Most likely there will be a description as well as the prices for different options.

Hotels.com is a popular choice for booking hotels as the information is easily navigable and straight forward in addition to offering a reward night after 10 non-consecutive nights at a qualifying hotel. This reward is based on the average price of the hotels and the difference can be paid at the time of booking. Hotwire.com, Orbitz.com, Booking.com, Expedia.com, and Priceline.com are also some popular websites for booking travel.

Here is the differences between the hotel ratings:

Tourist (one star)
100% of the rooms with shower/WC or bath tub/WC
Daily room cleaning
100% of the rooms with color-TV together with remote control
Table and chair
Soap or body wash
Reception service
Facsimile at the reception
Publicly available telephone for guests
Extended breakfast
Beverage offer in the hotel
Deposit possibility

Superior Tourist
The Superior flag is provided when the additional service and accommodation provisions are not sufficient for the next Hotelstar. The bathroom facilities are usually at the same level as for two stars hotels but built from cheaper materials. The cost for regular inspection by independent associations is waived as well.

Standard In addition to the single star (*) hotels:
Breakfast buffet
Reading light next to the bed
Bath essence or shower gel
Bath towels
Linen shelves
Offer of sanitary products (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving kit)
Credit Cards

Superior Standard (2 stars)
The Superior flag is provided when the additional service and accommodation provisions are not sufficient for the next Hotelstar. The Standard-Superior does usually offer the same service level as three-star hotels but the interiors of the hotel are smaller and cheaper so that the three stars were not to be awarded by the inspection body. A two-star superior does not require mystery guesting.

Comfort

In addition to the standard star (**) hotels:
Reception opened 14 hours, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside, bilingual staff (e.g. German/English)
Three piece suite at the reception, luggage service
Beverage offer in the room
Telephone in the room
Internet access in the room or in the public area
Heating facility in the bathroom, hair-dryer, cleansing tissue
Dressing mirror, place to put the luggage/suitcase
Sewing kit, shoe polish utensils, laundry and ironing service
Additional pillow and additional blanket on demand
Systematic complaint management system
Superior Comfort

The Superior flag is provided when the additional service and accommodation provisions are not sufficient for the next Hotelstar. The accommodation facilities for a superior hotel need to be on a modern level and fully renovated which is checked regularly.
First Class

In addition to the comfort star (***) hotels:
Reception opened 18 hours, accessible by phone 24 hours from inside and outside
Lobby with seats and beverage service
Breakfast buffet or breakfast menu card via room service
Minibar or 24 hours beverages via room service
Upholstered chair/couch with side table
Bath robe and slippers on demand
Cosmetic products (e.g. shower cap, nail file, cotton swabs), vanity mirror, tray of a large scale in the bathroom
Internet access and internet terminal
“À la carte”-restaurant
First Class Superior

The Superior flag is provided when the first class hotel has a proven high quality not only in the rooms. The superior hotels provide for additional facilities in the hotel like a sauna or a workout room. The quality is checked regularly by mystery guesting of an external inspection service.
Luxury In addition to the first class (****) hotels:
Reception opened 24 hours, multilingual staff
Doorman-service or valet parking
Concierge, page boy
Spacious reception hall with several seats and beverage service
Personalized greeting for each guest with fresh flowers or a present in the room
Minibar and food and beverage offer via room service during 24 hours
Personal care products in flacons
Internet-PC in the room
Safe in the room
Ironing service (return within 1 hour), shoe polish service
Turndown service in the evening
Mystery guesting
Superior Luxury

The Luxury star hotels need to attain high expectations of an international guest service. The Superior Luxury star is only awarded with a system of intensive guest care.