In most travelers’ pursuit for a balance between budget and luxury, extensive research on hotel accommodations is usually an indispensable task during the planning stage. This is made easy by a wide-array of online resources such as hotel websites, user reviews, and professional reviews.
Since self-serving proclamations and photo galleries on a hotel’s website are sometimes unreliable, many travelers rely on user and professional reviews. These reviews are usually summarized in 1-5 ratings and if you are not familiar with these rating systems, it can be quite difficult to reach a well-informed decision. So, it is best to first gain a basic understanding of hotel ratings before you choose from among the many hotels available.
First, you have to understand that there is no international standard for hotel ratings. There are countries such as Italy, Portugal, Spain and Denmark with laws that define hotel ratings. However, most countries do not have a single standard on hotel rating systems. As a consequence, ratings can vary from one reviewer to the next and because there are no established standards some reviewers just depend on how much they like the hotel experience rather than on more objective grounds such as room features, available amenities, ease of access, customer service and the like. So, when checking out reviews and hotel ratings, determine first if these are based on one particular established standard such as those provided by the government, an esteemed organization of hotels or independent reviewing bodies rather than on mere opinion alone.
There are various ways of determining hotel ratings. The most common of all is the “star” rating, with one star being poor and five being superior. One star usually refers to budget or economy hotels with the most basic rooms and a lack of available amenities. Two stars are also known as the standard hotels with better rooms and services than one-star hotels. Three stars are also referred to as first class hotels while four stars are also known as superior hotels. Deluxe or luxury hotels are usually rated the highest with their elegant rooms, exceptional customer service and world-class amenities.
You may notice that there are certain hotels in the US and the Caribbean that uses a diamond rating system instead stars. These ratings are issued by AAA or the American Automobile Association. Unlike star ratings where one star usually suggests poor hotels, diamond ratings are a prestige on their own. This means that if a hotel is given even just one diamond, it is already an indication that it is a good hotel because there are very specific standards for a hotel to be given a diamond. More diamonds mean more amenities and much luxurious accommodation.
Since not all countries have well-defined standards for their hotel rating systems, the best suggestion is to read as many user and professional reviews as you can. If you have at least ten reviews to consider, check out similarities and recurring comments. This will give you an idea on the pros and cons that you will have to consider before booking your hotel of choice.
A final note, if you are traveling during low season, just book for one or two nights. This way, you can still shop around for better accommodation when you get to your destination and avoid suffering a bad hotel room experience throughout your vacation if it turns out to be an unfortunate choice.
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