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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Go Small to Save Big: the Low-down on Boutique Hotels


When traveling outside of your own country – and sometimes just out of your own city – there is always the question of where to stay. When faced with lists of new restaurants, stores and hotels, it’s sometimes hard not to gravitate toward familiar names that you already frequent, but travel is a great way to break the habit of familiarity and get you out of your immediate comfort zone. That doesn’t mean you’ll be anxious and freaked out the whole time you’re away. Likely, it will be the opposite. You’ll find that one-off accommodation experiences can be very comforting and rewarding. So, why should you choose a boutique hotel?


Help the local economy and save. Many chain hotels are still owned by corporations in other countries, which means you aren’t helping local entrepreneurs with your stay. You can also save money by not staying at big-brand hotels, because the smaller ones have really competitive rates. Plus, many are more “traditional” to where they are located and can offer more personal service. While you probably won’t get a hotel with conference rooms and a gym, how many times have you ever used those things on vacation anyway? They still offer breakfasts, Wi-Fi, pools and many other amenities you’re used to and will actually take advantage of, and usually it is all included in your regular room rate.


Get more personalized service. When you stay in a smaller accommodation, you aren’t just a number. The front desk staff, as well as other employees, gets to know you on a personal level. Maybe this means that the head chef gives you recommendations on the menu based on what they’ve learned about you and your preferences, you’ll be called by your actual names instead of your room number or staff will give you some local secrets that you otherwise wouldn’t have heard of.

The employees of any hotel should be able to give you tips on where to eat, play and shop, but locally owned hotels can give you the inside scoop and don’t get kick-backs for their suggestions. (Not all hotels do this, but many brand-name hotels often get comped in some way for pointing hotel guests to certain establishments. Make sure to ask hotel workers who don’t work the front desk or concierge for their ideas, because they usually don’t have any affiliations.)


You aren’t one of hundreds of rooms. You know when you stay in giant hotels that have dozens of floors and endless hallways of doors? It makes you feel a bit like a sardine. All the rooms probably look exactly the same. A boutique hotel may only have a dozen rooms, and definitely much less than a hundred. They tend to be a bit more unique and rooms aren’t always clones. Aside from having their own distinctive decor, they can also have different floor plans and mismatched furnishings, making your stay more fun and intimate. You feel as if the details have been hand-picked in order to give you an unforgettable experience.

There are more boutique hotels than brand-name lodgings. While there are a ton of big brand resorts and hotels to choose from, there are considerably more locally owned ones to choose from. Not everyone can own a high-rise building, but there are plenty of people who can afford a smaller property where they can offer a handful of comfortable rooms with amazing customer service. Without unlimited funds and staff, to owners the hotel is not just a job. It’s a way of life. They put everything they have into making their hotel great and making sure their staff is personable and go above and beyond. It’s easier to deal with dozens of guests and rooms, rather than keeping track of a labyrinth of rooms and a laundry list of employees. For each brand-name hotel out there, they may be as many as 100 boutique options.
 


When choosing a smaller hotel, it’s best to look for recommendations on the reputability of the property. You want to make sure that you are getting a deal, but also getting a good experience. Don’t just look at price and the company website, but check out sites like TripAdvisorVenere and MrandMrsSmith, all of which offer honest recommendations, reviews and photos of rooms that may look drastically different from the hotel’s website. If your friends have visited the city you are traveling to, ask them for their suggestions as well.

Once you find a boutique hotel that incorporates everything you want in a lodging, including a great price, you are guaranteed to have a very personalized experience on your trip and it will make your travels even more memorable. You could end up paying much lower rates per night than at big name hotels, while still experiencing the same luxury accommodations, and possibly even better service. Most touristy cities have no shortage of budget boutique hotels to select from, so next time you travel, branch out from your usual hotel choices and look for a smaller alternative.
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