Hotels are more than just a place to sleep. The best hotels offer information and services that help familiarize you with your location, address the special needs of families and business travelers and, they hope, give you something to write home about.

When it comes to choosing a hotel, it’s better not to rely on star ratings.  Because the criteria for these star ratings are sometimes based on insignificant details, they don’t always accurately represent the quality of a hotel, with some 4 star hotels being of much higher quality than some 5 star hotels, but losing a star because they don’t include a mini-fridge in every room.

You can receive “five-star service” in a one-star hotel. That small hotel/B&B will many times be family-owned and run, not always have a fancy reception desk (reception may be a small table or desk where a computer, phone and registration book is kept), but they will be willing to sit down with you and give you information such as the best restaurants in the neighbourhood, the best way to get the most out of your time in the city, help you plan your days, suggest things to do, issue attraction tickets, book a taxi (many smaller hotels/B&Bs have certain companies they work with and trust), and many other things.  The five-star hotel may not have time to spend with you like that.

Star ratings will generally not be an indication of cleanliness and comfort. A one-star hotel/B&B can offer you the same shiny bathroom tiles, clean carpeting and spotless sheets and towels that a two, three or more star hotel can.

Choosing a hotel with a good location is critical to making your trip a great one. But what does a good location really mean? That depends on what you’ll be doing while you’re staying at the hotel. You don’t need to plan your entire itinerary in order to choose a hotel, but you should have a general idea of what you need or want to do once you arrive at your destination.

Start with a map of the area and highlight the airport, local attractions and shopping, theatre or other districts you’d like to see; then locate hotels that are conveniently located in relation to these spots. The less effort you have to make to get where you want to go makes for a more relaxing and enjoyable time.

In an effort to mimic already successful hotels, a lot of hotels offer the exact same services and hotel designs.  To make sure you’re staying at a quality hotel brand with it’s own personality and not just a cookie-cutter copy, it is important to see the distinctive characteristics of the hotel that make it special.

Customer Service can make or break any hotel, making this one of the most things that compose a quality hotel. Knowledgable, caring, friendly, and approachable staff are essential for a relaxing, luxurious experience.

When judging a hotel from its website, there are many things to remember. A hotel will always “put its best foot forward.” The hotel management wants you to choose them, so they will take photos that show their rooms and all parts of their hotel in the best way possible. The lighting will be “just right”, the exterior photo may have been taken right at the exact moment of perfect sunshine and blue sky, and when the gardens are in their most perfect bloom. The room will have been gone over with a fine-toothed comb and every speck of dust gone, before taking the photo.

Choosing a Safe Hotel Room:
While the higher floors have the best views, the lower floors have quicker access to the ground. In the event of an emergency, you want to get out fast. Keep in mind that some fire departments, including those in the United States, can only reach as high as floor 8 in an emergency.

Whenever possible, do not take a hotel room on the ground floor if it has doors and windows that open to the outside. This is particularly important for motels with rooms off parking lots. If you can’t get a room on a higher floor, forgo your view and choose a room facing the interior or courtyard.

Guestrooms near the elevators are generally the safest, but can also be the noisiest. If you’re staying alone, request that your room is in the middle of the hallway or near an elevator – while the alcoves and corner rooms are very intimate and offer great views, they are also somewhat hidden making it easier for thieves to access.

When it comes to money no one wants to pay more for a hotel room than they have to. Always ask the hotel’s front desk if they can do better on the room rate. Hotel reservation staff usually has the authority to discount the room rate or know how else you can save money. You should also check to see if an AAA, AARP or other club membership entitles you to a discount at the hotel. Airlines, rental car companies and frequent flyer programs often partner with hotels to offer discounts to shared customers.

After you leave remember that, it’s not uncommon that when you leave a hotel you are no longer considered a guest. The very best hotels however, will remember your choice to stay at their hotel and do whatever they can to help make your trip more enjoyable, even after you’ve left.