At any given point in time, there are always at least a dozen options available to us and at least a hundred ways to evaluate an option. Making a choice isn’t easy in most of the scenarios. So when a traveler needs to plan a trip, the dilemmas are no less complex. One of the most risky things to plan is to find a suitable place to stay. The choice of the place can decide the success and failure of your trip. So it isn’t surprising that we often take days to decide upon a place.
Experiences from two of my recent travels forced me to think about this. And you would find out soon but before we go forwards, here is the announcement I know you have all been waiting for.
None other than Praveen Wadhwa is the Feature Author for the month of November 2012. A Ghumakkar since August 2012, Praveen has already written 19 spectacular tales at Ghumakkar. He has a knack for finding the hidden jewels and tucked-away paradises around the most frequented places. In spite of residing in the US, most of Praveen’s stories are from various parts of India. An explorer and adventurer to the core, Praveen is also an avid writer and this reflects in his reflective stories. Click here to visit Praveen’s author page and read some of his stories if you haven’t already.
Now coming back to the dilemma of choosing a nice place to stay during travel, there are several criteria we can use to make our decision. For example, though I know Ghumakkars would never admit to this, star rating could be one of the criteria. The higher the stars, the more certain you can be of the facilities you will find in the property. And to keep the star ratings, most establishments do maintain their facilities really well and are likely to have smooth, hassle-free processes. But this comes at the cost of flexibility. Also can facilities alone decide the quality of your experience? Imagine staying in a 5-star hotel but the person who is bringing you the room service has had a fight with his wife and is still angry at her? Rest assured that alone can ruin your stay. Hotel facilities won’t charm you anymore.
About a decade back, a friend of mine happened to visit Kerala for his honeymoon and had booked his stay at a 3-star hotel at the lighthouse beach in Kovalam. They were promised a beach-facing room. Imagine two newly-weds with stars in their eyes, dreaming of their awesome stay at this place. Needless to say, they were super-excited. So you can imagine their disappointment when upon reaching there, a very polite member of the staff informed them that because of some glitch in the booking system, their booking had to be shifted to another property of the same chain. And upon being driven to this new property by an equally polite chauffeur, they realized that though it was only a couple of minutes walk from the beach, they couldn’t actually see the beach from their hotel, forget their room. They protested but the hotel staff told them that they were helpless. Every other property was booked. So they were forced to put up with the injustice. Just imagine the kind of stay they would have had after that, 3 stars or no star.
With Internet now an integral part of our lives, online hotel reviews are another criteria for some to decide upon the accommodation. These reviews not only provide an authentic insight into someone’s actual experience of a place, they also create a pressure on the Hotel Management to provide the best experience to their customers. But this criteria again cannot ensure that you will have a perfect stay, and as per your expectations. All of us come from different places in life and have different expectations. Same things carry different meanings for different people. So our experience of any place is never going to be exactly the same as anyone else.
During one of our recent family trips to Lansdowne, I had done a thorough research on the Internet and zeroed in on a hotel for which all reviews were superb. They promised us excellent views, spacious, clean rooms, and a very supporting staff. Upon reaching, we found all of these there, but also discovered a tiny, little clause in very fine print. “No room service on Weekends.” This made us grumpy for quite some time because the resort was sprawling on a steep hill and getting to the restaurant from our room and back would mean considerable hiking. And to top it all, we had even dragged our parents in for the trip. After considerable discussions with (read shouting at) the hotel staff, we managed to get them to deliver the food for our parents to the rooms but the younger lot still had to go up and down to be able to survive.
If you have started feeling that this post is all about complaints and horrible experiences, please don’t lose hope. Not all surprises are unpleasant.
At times, I feel that my inability to learn too much from my mistakes is a gift in disguise. Because just a couple of months after that I again booked a hotel in Chail based on the online reviews. Immediately after finalizing the bookings, I stumbled upon some terrifying-enough-to-give-me-goosebumps reviews. Apparently, there was no power backup at the place and the rooms weren’t too good. The gardens apparently looked bigger in the photos than they actually were. I was seriously worried that my family is going to lose faith in me forever. But this time, we were pleasantly surprised. Immediately upon reaching the property, we were struck by how awesome the views of the valley from our balcony were. And to top it, we were offered a free upgrade to the considerably larger suite rooms because of some last minute cancellations. And while it was true that there was no power back-up, there were hardly any electricity cuts, with the exception of the one night when our hotel was struck by a bolt of lightning (yes, that happened!). But even through that the hotel staff did their best to make us comfortable, providing candles, serving food in our room, and just generally making us feel that they are there to look after us. And yes, the gardens were decent enough in size. This hotel was Fernhill Resort.
Even if you prefer to go by your friends’ recommendation, your experience may be completely different from your friends. After all, it is only the matter of choice and opinion. Even a visit to the place or a conversation with the hotel staff may not guarantee that your first impressions will be accurate. So in such an uncertain world, how can a Ghumakkar make sure that he/she gets the best possible experience out of a place?
If you think that now I am about to give some gyan about how to decide a perfect place to stay, you cannot be farther from the truth. Actually I have nothing except these criteria to offer. There are times when my plans work out and then there are times when they fall flat on their face. I guess this is true for every one of us. Our experience of a place depends more upon what our state of mind is than on any external factors. I approach each place with curiosity and willingness to explore. This at least ensures that even if some aspects of the place are disappointing, I can always find something to amuse me. No point spoiling the vacation simply because the place we booked didn’t come up to our expectations. But this is just the way I handle my experiences. How do you choose to handle them? Do share. May be we can learn from each other.