From the Editor – The Perfect Accommodation

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.

Will such luxury ensure that you have a lovely vacation?

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.

Praveen WadhwaNone 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.

29 Comments

  • Abheeruchi says:

    Hi Vibha,

    Very nicely written. It looked like as if you are sharing all my experiences. I wanted to share my experience with the hotels I had visited. When in 2007 we went to Manali , it was normal hotel (I do not think any star rating), I just booked as one of my friend relative was in Reservation team of that Hotel.The hotel is Manali Inn. From the pics and others details,the hotel look quite decent and safe for us. Surprisingly the Hotel experience we had was just just awesome…We haven’t received that type of service, food , stay experience in any other hotel.Second experience was at Mussorie, we were told to go for Uttranchal tourism hotel, reasonable and safe.Unfortunately the Hotel was in such a bad condition damp walls, cockroaches , expensive room service and we found it unsafe.When I reviewed other hotels, we regretted as we could have got far far better hotel in the same price.Next time I decided to book a nice room at Nainitaal and decided not to compromise on room cost so at Bhimtal we booked at Shikha Inn.Good Hotel , good view , food ok ok , but overall experience was good.So I think it all depends on destination we visit. If we have to spend just a night then I will go for reasonable but safe hotel , but if points to be visited are less then we generally opt for good hotel .Like we did at Pondicherry , as we knew that due to hot climate we can’t move out of Hotel in day time , so we booked 5 star GRT Hotel and again it was a great experience as we had spent more time in Hotel then at Beach…

    Sorry for such a long reply, but really wanted to share

    • rastogi says:

      hi abhee
      in future if you visit in uttrakhand try hotels of KMVN or GMVN.

    • Vibha says:

      Hi Abheeruchi, thanks for such an informative response. You do not need to apologise for the length. It is good that you shared your experience and as a writer, such a response conveys to me that you really related to the article.

      I think accomodations will continue to delight or disappoint us, but it’s how we deal with these feelings that matters.

  • Mukesh Bhalse says:

    Vibha,
    Rightly said, accommodation always happens the backbone of a trip. Our mood, our happiness on a tour completely depends upon the quality of stay, if it is comfortable enough and services are good then the the joy of trip multiplies many times. A good write up on a very very important topic.

    Thanks for sharing.

    What about featured story?????

    @ Praveen ji,
    Congratulations for being selected for the honour of The Featured Author of the Month.

  • reeta says:

    No point spoiling the vacation simply because the place we booked didnt come up to our expectations.

    I so so so agree with this attitude! Kudos!

  • D.L.Narayan says:

    First things first, hearty congratulations to Praveen Wadhwa. He embodies the spirit of adventure by choosing to walk on a path less traveled. His skill with the pen and with the camera brings alive his experiences to his readers. As a human being, he is open minded, gentle and unassuming and treats all the people he meets with the same respect. In short, he is the complete ghumakkar.

    Congratulations to RRG too for his story being selected as the featured story of the month. We readers are truly blessed to have so many talented writers and photographers within our family.

    Last, but not the least, kudos to our prolific editor Vibha, who never seems to be affected by the writer’s block and comes up with incredible, thought-provoking and insightful stories month after month. Accommodation is indeed a very important aspect of travel. However, it is different strokes for different folks. When one is in a remote location which lacks basic facilities, one should be willing to rough it out in the open, if need be. When traveling with family, however, one needs to ensure the safety and comfort of women and children. The ambiance of the hotel plays a big part in selection and it is better to burn a hole in one’s pocket rather than expose the family to the risk of unpleasant experiences.

    The experiences of travelers and hotel reviews play a big part in our selection of accommodation. It is preferable to book one’s accommodation in advance. We usually book through websites. The downside of this method is that we often find that hotels which look good in pictures actually turn out to be rather disappointing. The testimonials they flaunt too might also be fake. This is probably why our editors exhort us to share information about the places we stay in during our stay like tariffs, ambiance and quality of service. Like when someone on ghumakkar says that s/he had a great stay somewhere, chances are that I would also prefer to stay there.

    When I travel alone, however, I go VFM (value for money) since I am not going to spend much time inside a hotel anyway. All I need is a clean bed and a clean toilet in a decent location. When I travel with my family, however, I prefer to stay in upmarket hotels.

    • Vibha says:

      Yes true DL. The choice of the accomodation depends upon situations, circumstances, your personal taste, budget and a many more things. Thanks for the nice, meaty response. It is a delight to hear your opinion. And thanks a lot for your kind words.
      :)

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    Congratulations to Praveen Wadhwa. As Hotel Booking in new place we can not go through each hotel. But I heard http://www.agoda.com is good site for Hotel booking. Mr. Mukesh Bhalse has mentioned this site in his blog may be other members can also give their experience.
    Thanks Vibha for such wonderful editorial.

  • Praveen Wadhwa says:

    Thanks Vibha and Nanadan for the honor of the featured author of the month.
    I never book a hotel in advance because I want to see my room first. Usually for the first night I just take any hotel that seems acceptable and park my belonging. If that hotel is not acceptable then I walk around and find other one. I prefer a room with windows and also may be balcony opening on the street. Street must not be noisy.
    So clean room, clean beds and windows are my three preferences and usually I find good room but it may take me visit 3-4 hotels.

    Another trick I want to share:
    Since I take long vacations and many times my friends accompany me and I pay for them too, so I want budget hotels. When you go to a hotel and price is not in your range then you never bargain there, (a cardinal rule: never bargain) but ask them very politely to suggest you some other decent hotel but withing a specific price range. Amazingly at 50% times that same hotel will give you a decent room for your price range (Of-course they’d request you to keep the price secret).
    If not then they will always suggest you some other hotel and no wonder I got almost all good hotel by reference from other hotels.

    • Vibha says:

      Wow, this is a brilliant negotiation (or no-negotiation) trick. Thanks for sharing. :)

      You deserved the award Praveen. Thanks for your brilliant stories.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Congrats Praveen !

    You are one of the true Ghumakkar.

  • Ritesh Gupta says:

    Vibha ji….
    You have written very nicely about Perfect Accommodation. Perfect Accommodation is most important part of our pleasure tour and during journey our Priority to search a good, safe, near market and clean Hotels room.
    Thanks for Good Article.
    Ritesh

  • Nandan Jha says:

    Congratulations Praveen. I was getting worried as I was not sure on any ‘Sandy’ effect. Guess now the turmoil is over and the normalcy is being restored.

    Accommodation is a key ingredient in our planning.

    – Few things which we do is to always call up the hotel, even though they would suggest you to book online, but always always call up. The interaction gives you a fair idea of the place.
    – 2nd thing which we do is when we visit smaller places (like Jasidih for Baidyanath Jyotirling), call us the best hotel in town (and you know that they do not have any rooms) and then politely ask for a referral. A good hotel would never refer a bad one.
    – Find out more about the overall infra. A hotel with a licensed Bar would probably have better equipped eating option. A place with business conf rooms would have more professional service. A place with a travel desk would have a more evolve front-office. A closer reading of facilities would help you to catch all of these.
    – Look a 2nd time at pics. We do not like carpets in hill hotels (non-branded hotels) because they are difficult to wash-n-dry and hence a lot of times are the primary source of typical-hotel-room-odour. Avoid these hotels. To give one more step, my wife sometimes downrates a hotel on the basic of curtain colors :-), because in her extrapolation other facilities wont be good.
    – Before I end (and there are many more things), when you negotiate, do not always negotiate on price, look for other softer things which they might be more willing to do like an upgrade to a better room, free pick up from airport, free additional meal, free extra bed… and so on.

    All this discuss makes me remember a real old story here so let me close this with a link of that story
    http://ghumakkar.com/2008/07/31/udaipur-and-chittorgarh-march-2007/

  • Hi Vibha,

    If anyone planning to come to Saharanpur (don’t laugh please, Saharanpur is known for its wooden handicrafts + wrought iron handicrafts and is an forex earner town of western U.P.), please don’t ever rely on the photographs put up on websites of hotels. In almost all the cases, the photographs of the rooms are from stock library! Means, they are not real pictures of the room, wherein you are contemplating to stay. Here the hotel-wallas feel that it is sheer wastage to money to get their rooms photographed when nice pictures are available on internet !

    It is not the story of Saharanpur alone. You may come across similar things at other places also. 2nd thing is the tariff being quoted on websites is at least double of the actual amount you would need to pay if you negotiate at their counters. There seems to be a tendency on the part of hotels to consider a client “???? ???? ????? ???” type if he is attempting to book accommodation online! Calling over phone and negotiating hard can bring better results.

    When we had visited Udaipur a few years ago, we visited Hotel Wonder View on the banks of Lake Pichhola. Initially, we were told 2,500/- and 3,500 for the two rooms which we had selected for our two families. However, what we actually paid to them was Rs. 1,200/- and 1800/- after the bargaining. However, once the price was settled, there was no problem at all. Excellent service, very neat and clean hotel, excellent views of Lake Palace, Jagdish Temple and City Palace, Bagaur ki Haveli, Bathing ghaat – everything was visible either from the window of our room or the hotel terrace.

    In fact, when we left the hotel after 5 days and were sitting in our taxi, the owner of the hotel came running to us. He had my camera bag in his hand ! Can you imagine what could he have said to me at that time? He said, “You are most likely to forget name of our hotel. Whenever you would mention Udaipur, you would perhaps say, “I lost my camera there.” This we can’t accept. Please check all of your belongings before leaving. And yes, take this camera please !” He was more worried about the image of his city than of his hotel ! Such people are great hosts and I like to stay with them, stars or no star !

  • Please ignore all the typos ! Please !

  • Congrats Praveen jee for well deserved honour .

    And Vibha ,

    Similar thing happened to me I booked hotel from Mumbai when I did my Kashi trip after research and next day I left that room at 4.00 AM in the morning. I was so frustated by the staff.

    I didn’t book anything in Pahalgam in Kashmir before and I got tremendous facilities. The hotel was small but the staff did each and everything what I said.

    Thanks for sharing

  • First of all congratulations to Praveen for being the featured author of the month, though slightly late.

    A very nice post indeed, Vibha.

    True, there is no point spoiling the vacation simply because the place we booked didnt come up to our expectations. We travel to see the place, of course, the place should be a decent one, safe, good behaviour of the staff, just a smile can change the surroundings. Tx to Praveen for sharing a secret…I just hope hoteliers will not have time to read his comments and it will still be a secret for them. All the inputs from everyone will be immensely helpful to all of us.

    The timing of the post is just perfect for me, as we are now planning for our winter vacation in Jaisalmer and some other parts of Rajasthan on the way, so I am going through reviews one by one, checking out the details etc. etc.

    Can anyone suggest me some good hotels in Udaipur, Bikaner and Jaisalmer. We plan to leave home on Dec 29th morning. Thank you all,

    • Mahesh Semwal says:

      RTDC hotels are good.

    • Dear Amitava,

      I had stayed at Hotel Wonder View on the banks of Lake Pichhola. There is a much bigger hotel – Lake Pichhola Hotel which shares its right side wall with Hotel Wonder View which is smaller in size. Whether staying at any Hotel – Wonder View, Lake Pichhola or the Amet Haveli, try to get a room on any floor which has a balcony opening into Lake Pichhola.
      If you happen to have lots of Gandhi Ji’s in your wallet, you can even try Udai Kothi which is at a stone throw distance from Lake Pichhola Hotel. It has got a full size swimming pool on 6th floor. Wow! It was a kothi of Maharaja Udai Singh and is converted into a hotel now.

      Sushant Singhal

  • AUROJIT says:

    Congrats Praveen,

    your posts have been elaborate and enjoyable…

    Vibha,

    An important issue indeed. My Totka for choosing something through the net would be –

    1. Choose a place which has been widely reviewed (by a number of people across a number of sites).

    2. After shortlisting thus, go through the negative comments since they are more authentic than the positive ones.

    3. Pick up the phone and speak to the property owner, clarify all your doubts; and of course, the response over telephone will enable you form an opinion about the place.

    4. After deciding and paying , tell yourself firmly that you are going to enjoy the place howsoever good or bad it is :-)

    Enjoy travelling, all Ghumakkars.

    Auro.

  • Nirdesh says:

    Hi Vibha,

    Accomodation does not make or break my holiday. I choose to travel to lesser known places and that too during off seasons. In fact, I have gotten suites for the same price. Some examples are places like Warangal, Kakinada (beach, Hope Island, Coringa Mangrove Forests, Yanam), Dharamshala (with room heater!), Dhar (Mandu), Hospet (Hampi). Of course, corporate visiting cards help as I travel alone. You can also play one hotel against another. And since hotel room is a perishable commodity, you will get a good rate.

    Congratulations to Praveen! He is an intrepid traveller and has motivated me to walk and see!

    Nirdesh

  • Kailash Mehta says:

    Hello Vibha

    I agreed with the fellow Ghumakkars that accomdations are a big issue while plan for traveling. Best option is go off season so you get less crowd and all hotels persons provide facility and service to you or take fellow Ghumakkars / friend advice those already visited that place. I never booked in advance because my holiday vacations are not planned and after reaching the place book the hotel at that time and hardly feel any problem with it.
    Thanks for all the fellow Ghumakkars for their travel tips and advice while planning for any of the adventurous trip.

    Kailash Mehta

  • Taher Kagalwala says:

    One tip: if you see a hotel with the suffix “International” or “Global” and it is not a 4 or 5 star property, and esp. if you see colourful flags on the driveway that look as if they have never been laundered or are actually torn …. run away! I had this experience a few years ago at Manali, where I fell for a hotel with the suffix International (Hotel Kalinga International) … one of my worst hotel experiences …

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