When it comes to hotels, the perfect stay looks different to different people. Some people love stunning, beautifully appointed surroundings, highly attentive service, and fine dining. Others love a bit of artistry, a warm welcome, and artisanal cuisine. Still others like a clean, comfortable environment and opportunities to dine like a local. And some like a mix of all of the above. The trick is to figure out what you like in a hotel or travel experience, and to be ready to describe this to your travel planner so you receive exactly the trip you’re hoping for.
Sometimes budget is the determining factor, yet not always. People willing to spend whatever it takes to have whatever they want may not always choose the most expensive hotel category. Some people want small, carefully crafted, boutique hotels, yet that could mean 5-stars, 4-stars or even 3-stars. Some 3-star hotels have a lot of character and would please a traveler looking for beauty and local flavor.
So how many stars are you? When your travel planner asks, “What’s your travel style? What kind of hotels do you like?”, after reading this article hopefully you’ll be able to articulate your preferences.
You should choose 5-star hotels if you are constantly looking for the best of the best. From a design perspective, 5-star hotels can be relied upon to have carefully selected, modern or traditional interiors that were designed by a professional decorator. Interior colors can be any color of the rainbow, yet whatever time period the decor is inspired by, a 5-star hotel is striving to be stylish. They are often in spectacular locations that offer a taste of some kind of paradise whether they be in nature or in cities.
5-star hotels have a consistent set of amenities. Travelers expecting a spa, massage therapy, a pool, a gym, a boutique, a bar, and often even a hair salon, know they will find these amenities at most 5-star hotels. Service standards at 5-star hotels are considered “high-touch” service and 5 star travelers expect constantly attentive front desk attendants, bellmen, waiters, housekeepers–even the maintenance staff in these establishments are expected to answer requests instantly and go above and beyond to serve their guests. “Your every wish is my command” is how service staff are expected to behave and if you’re craving some pampering, go ahead and splurge for a 5-star hotel and you’ll get it.
Cuisine at 5-star hotels is often a star of the show, and many 5-star hotels have restaurants that have Michelin stars or are considered hot spots or historical fine dining establishments in their own right. You can often find outdoor dining and casual options within a 5-star hotel in addition to its main fine dining restaurant. People who frequent 5-star hotels, have high expectations for the experience and a hotel would not remain 5-stars if they didn’t deliver everything in this description and more.
4-star hotels can be some of the most interesting in the world, though 4-star doesn’t always mean small boutique hotels. Larger, attractive hotels not quite outfitted for 5-star perfection are in this category also, as are some upscale large chain hotels that have many amenities yet lack the prestige and beauty of a 5-star hotel. The 4-star category encompasses many sizes and styles, yet when my clients say they prefer 4-star hotels, I always ask right away if they like small, boutique hotels, as, in my view, these hotels can sometimes offer you the very best experience of a place you are exploring.
Small boutique 4-star hotels have character and they are often designed to reflect the culture they are in. 4-star boutique hotels can be cutting-edge modern, antique-filled, whimsically stylish, showcasing local textiles–or anything else. There are as many styles of boutique hotels as there are boutique hotels. Service in 4-star boutique hotels is expected to be attentive yet not overly intrusive. Warm welcomes and efficiency are the norm yet getting to know the staff or the owner can often be a pleasure. Service can be somewhat indifferent in locations where high-touch service is not part of the culture. Yet overall, food, service and comfort levels are expected to be very good.
4-star hotels in all sizes and types are hotels that can be described as “good and very good”, “attractive and very attractive”, “comfortable and very comfortable”–scoring a B+ to an A-. If decor is not important to you yet you like to be comfortable, 4-star hotels will be just great for you. If you’re an off-the-beaten-path traveler looking for the wonderful and unusual, I would heartily recommend small, 4-star boutique hotels for some of the best experiences on offer around the world.
Some people should never stay in a 3-star hotel and some people will only stay in 3-star hotels, yet what’s important to know about 3-star hotels is, they are serviceable. Sometimes 3-star hotels can be fun, funky, and filled with local color. Some can be simpler boutique hotels. Some can be sterile, basic, and downright ugly. Yet the hallmark of a 3-star hotel that separates it from the lower stars is that it will be clean and provide basic comfort. Large mid-range chain hotels fit into this category also.
Though most people who choose 3-star hotels are usually looking to save money, there are some travelers who are trying to get as close as they can to local people. Staying in 3-star hotels, especially ones where locals congregate can bring you closer to a culture than you would get staying in higher stars. So if you’re looking to save money yet still stay in safe, serviceable hotels, choose 3-stars. Or if you’re adventurous, don’t care that much about decor, and want to try to feel the pulse of a place, you might check out a hotel with 3-stars.
I hope you now have a better sense of what hotels are right for you. You may choose 5-star hotels all the way and know you can count on an elevated experience no matter where you travel. Or you might choose some 4-star small boutique hotels looking for interesting experiences. Or you may be just fine with 3-star hotels, especially if you’re looking to meet other young people or are hoping to find the best local pub. There may be a time to try all three types of hotels, and no matter what you choose, do what makes you the happiest of all, as our time on this planet hurtling through space is short!