Although Blue Onyx Travel doesn’t book hotels for our guests either before or after one of our tours, we can certainly point you the right direction so you can find the hotel that’s perfect for you.  

        There are four main criteria which define a suitable hotel:  Location, Cost, Comfort (which includes cleanliness and amenities), and Staff.  

        Obviously, you’re going to want to find a hotel which is within walking distance to the places you want to see.  A hotel may list itself as “centrally located,” but may be miles away from the area you want to explore on foot. Finding a hotel that is close to a public transportation hub, such as a subway or bus stop, is helpful as well.  

        The cost of a hotel room can fluctuate wildly based on a variety of factors, including star rating, time of year, amenities, and location.  Generally speaking 4 and 5 star hotels are more expensive than 2 and 3 star hotels, but that isn’t always the case. We have found 2 star hotels in Rome that actually cost more than some 4 star venues in the same general area of the city.  It pays to do your research. Using Rome as an example again, a very well-located hotel with a decent amount of amenities, a solid star rating, breakfast included, can be found for as little as $90 a night (double occupancy), even during high season.  

        Bed and breakfasts generally cost less than traditional hotels and they can be tons of fun.  The quality of breakfast that one receives at these dwellings is usually very high, with coffee made to order, along with an abundance of locally made pastries and other food items.  And is there any substitute for having the owner of a bed and breakfast on site, ready to embrace you with a warm smile and a willingness to help make your vacation as stress-free as possible?

        Regarding comfort and amenities, it’s a nice luxury to have a 24 hour front desk, but it’s not totally necessary.  A 24 hour front desk means that the owner of the hotel is paying someone to be there at all times. And the cost of that 24 hour service is passed along to the patrons of the hotel via higher prices.  If you’re a lower maintenance traveler looking to save a few dollars, then a hotel or bed and breakfast without 24 hour front desk service can be a great option.

        Another option that has become very popular in recent years is the private rental from a local citizen, aka Airbnb.  The prices of some Airbnb’s are usually very competitive and many of these accommodations have superb locations and stunning views.

        Some hotels excel in lots of categories, but fall short in the area of basic comfort.  For instance, when you read the actual reviews of a certain hotel, you may find that even though the overall rating of the hotel is high, many of the guests complain about lumpy mattresses or broken springs in the bed.  What is the point of going on holiday if you can’t get a good night’s sleep? Again, we urge you to do your research and read verified reviews thoroughly.  That extra five or ten minutes you invest in reading reviews could spare you a serious travel headache.

        Yet another aspect that can make or break a hotel is the staff.  As previously indicated, there’s no substitute for staff members who welcome you with warmth, ready to help you in any way that they can.  Snobby, surly, or rude staff members tend to put a damper on one’s vacation.

        So where can one find the best hotels and the best deals on the best hotels?  The one website we swear by when it comes to finding the best of the best is  No other hotel booking site comes close in terms of thoroughness, transparency with regard to pricing, ease of use, accuracy in verified customer reviews, and special deals.  Another good site is which has a solid rewards program. We also like Orbitz and Priceline, but reigns supreme in terms of all the things we look for in a hotel booking website.

        One final question that people ask is this:  When is it a good time to book a hotel? Should a person book six months in advance, or wait until the last minute?  The correct answer: both. Now if there’s a hotel you have your heart set on, and you don’t think there’s any benefit to waiting, go ahead and book it.  Unlike airfares, which seem to have an optimal time frame for getting the best deal, hotel fares fluctuate quite a bit. In general, with medium-sized to large hotels, it’s best to book early, as there’s a limited number of basic or economy-priced rooms available and these often sell out during high season.  One of our favorite hotels in the entire world, on the island of Ischia in Italy, often sells out 4 to 6 months in advance, so it’s a good idea to pay attention to trends like this if you are dead set on booking a certain hotel.

        On balance, booking ahead of time pays dividends, but there are some situations that warrant waiting as well.  If the season in which you’re traveling isn’t particularly busy and you’re visiting a huge city with a lot of hotels, you might just snag a killer deal at the last minute.  We’ve captured some great last-minute deals in cities like London, Amsterdam, and Barcelona simply because hotel owners needed to fill their rooms with patrons.  In the height of high season, though, all bets are off.

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