I may be, literally, the worst person in the world when it comes to finding and booking hotel rooms and vacation rentals. Can you help me figure out how to better my search processes, what sites and search terms I should be using, or how I can better understand the U.S. hospitality industry?
Oh my god, this is actually pretty funny, but I do need help. Here's the deal: every time it is my responsibility to find and book a hotel room for my partner and me, I inevitably end up choosing a place that is the kind of seedy sex hotel you might see as a gritty-ironic setting in some indie movie scene. I want to stop doing this.
Background Info (skip if bored):
When finding a hotel room or condo rental in our state, my beloved has a real knack for finding places that are comfortable, relaxing, and romantic, but that won't leave us wondering whether we caught something from the bedding after we leave. This is due to his familiarity with places here, or his ability to get good recommendations from friends, but even he is at a bit of loss of how to look for places in cities we have zero connections to.
look for hotel rooms, though, we end up finding ourselves in places that make for great
stories later, but that aren't at all
what I was aiming for when I made the reservation. Best example: I once booked us a room with a jetted tub in it, because that was sort of the thing in that tiny resort town. I knew it might be kind of kitschy, but I was absolutely not expecting that we would be staying in a place where not only could you rent a room in half-day increments (great for local mayors looking to secretly schtup their secretary!), but the rooms came complete with a toilet. In the room itself. With no walls or doors. The toilet was just hanging out, exposed, in the middle of the room, right next to the romantic jetted tub!
Paradoxically, that hotel was also a family hotel, so not only were we serenaded at night by mayoral moans, but we were awakened every morning to the screeching sounds of delighted children who were cavorting around the grounds...
Usually, I search for hotel rooms using a combination of sites like Tripadvisor, Venere, Travelocity, etcetera. I'll sometimes look at the tourism board or chamber of commerce sites associated with whatever town we'll be visiting.
It has dawned on me, though, that by using the "romantic" or "getaway" filters on those websites, I am not
finding romantic hotels. I am finding respectable sex hotels for parents (and politicians)
This is not what I want! I need help figuring out how to find the type of place I am really looking for. Because, apparently, I lack these skills. I could never be a travel agent.
The features that come to my mind, and that I look for, when I am searching for accommodations:
- Rooms or condos that are comfortable, maybe have some nice feature like a fireplace or good interior design, but they don't need to have that many amenities (like huge TVs, or a masseuse who will come to your room, or turndown service, etc.)
- Seclusion: We often like rooms that have a patio or balcony. Or maybe nice grounds where you can sit out, have a cup of coffee, enjoy the sun, but not be around all the people.
- An interesting natural (or urban) setting: our favorite place has enormous sliding doors that open up to a balcony with a gorgeous view of a mountain valley. We spent all our time on the balcony, enjoying each other and the natural prettiness. Or: I once stayed at a hotel that was built in the 30s. It had no majestic view, but it had lovely grounds. You could have coffee in interior courtyards. There were small gardens you could stroll through. It wasn't formally landscaped, but it was pretty, and interesting. Or: we've also stayed in more rustic mountain cabins/rooms that were fantastic because there were lots of walking paths and streams and areas that you could just wander around and poke at bugs and stuff. I've never been there, but the Post Ranch Inn
, which I've seen mentioned on askmefi, looks like a higher end, more luxurious version of what I like - a place that is set in a beautiful area, and that is arranged to take advantage of its natural setting.
- Like someone's house: honestly, we prefer having a kitchen and cooking for ourselves over room service or eating out every night. We like staying at places that are just like staying in another home; it's romantic to putter about and relax, and to do some cooking with local flavors, you know?
Features that I dislike, but inevitably end up booking:
- Hot tubs, jetted tubs. In the room. On balconies. In the bathroom. So, so unnecessary. Sometimes it's nice to stay in a place with a nice soaking tub, or maybe one of those large, walk-in showers, but the whole gigantic whirlpool scene confuses me. And kind of creeps me out.
- Rooms made up to look romantic: Roses everywhere. Romantic, generic landscapes on the wall. Lattice. Seriously, you know you've made a terrible, terrible mistake when you walk into a room decorated with white lattice and flowers.
- Services: I don't need a spa. I don't need a massage. I don't need room service. I don't need someone to bring us bottles of champagne. I don't need anyone to come up to the room to provide a service (massage, manicure, etc), unless it's to bring up extra towels or something. I don't even need room cleaning every day. A cafe on the grounds might be convenient for morning coffee, but is actually not necessary.
- Families: I'm sorry. I support your life decision, and I think it's great when you see happy families actually having a fun time together on vacation, but for some reason, I keep booking "romantic" getaways that are also heavily oriented towards entertaining children. Please don't hate me, but children aren't relaxing.
1. What search terms, sites, strategies, or resources should I be using to find the types of accommodations I am looking for, and avoid the ones I usually end up snagging?
2. Sometimes, it just seems easier to look for condo or house vacation rentals, but where on earth can you find reputable renting resources or listings? VRBO
seems limited, expensive, and sometimes sketchy, and I have never
been able to book a place through airbnb
. Do people have empty condos or farmhouses that you can rent for a couple of days? A couple of weeks? A couple of months? How can I find these people, when they are not in my state?
I am looking for advice for domestic accommodations in the U.S., only. Strategies for international bookings could be a whole other question, surely. Also, I recognize that I would probably have a much easier time finding what I want if I were willing to fork out at least $500 a night. I'm realistic and know I can't find what I want in dirt-cheap hotels, but the budget we're talking usually falls into the $150-$250 range (adjusted for length of stay and location. I know we might not find what we want in NYC or San Francisco, but a lot of our travels revolve around mid-size cities, largish towns, or off-season, outdoorsy recreation places. Essentially, generally cheaper areas, not the major coastal cities).
And I am keeping this deliberately open, and not specific to any city/state, because this is a recurring issue, and because I need some underlying strategy that can I use regardless of our destination, as this is a recurring issue, no matter where we go.