A guide to planning your hotel stays (UK)

A guide to planning your hotel stays (UK)

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A hotel cheat sheet - planning your hotel stays (UK)

Choosing a hotel that meets your needs can be difficult, especially if you’re planning a trip to an unfamiliar area. There can be lots of choices to make and some pitfalls that could lead to you paying more than you expected. In this guide, we take a look at some common questions to ask when planning hotel stays in the UK, so you can book with confidence and get everything you want (with no unwelcome surprises!).

Hotel cheat sheet

The first choices to make concern the location and type of property. Do you want a smaller boutique hotel, a large historic property, or a contemporary chain? Much of this will come down to the purpose of your trip. After all, your requirements for a convenient night at an airport hotel before an early flight will differ from a lavish luxury weekend away to celebrate a special occasion.

Of course, having a budget in mind is a good idea, too! Go too cheap and the accommodation and amenities may be sub-par. Likewise, splash out too much and you might find you’re paying for services you simply don’t need.

Once you’ve defined these basic requirements, here are a few additional things to think about when planning your hotel stay.

Guest reviews

Nowadays, finding out what hotels are really like is an easy task. There are lots of online review sites where you can see past the hotel’s marketing to discover what guests think of the accommodation, amenities and customer service. TripAdvisor is maybe the best known, plus we at SpaSeekers encourage customers to leave reviews of their experiences, which you can check out on our individual spa hotel and package pages.

It’s important to look at reviews with a critical eye. Indeed, some bad reviews might just refer to a specific guest scenario or an isolated negative experience rather than offering a general review. For example, if a guest expected something that their booking didn’t cover. Likewise, some people are just plain picky and may leave a two-star review just because the towels weren’t fluffy enough or there was a short wait at reception to check in! Also, be aware that older bad reviews might reflect a hotel prior to a change in management or a major refurbishment.

To get the most from guest reviews, look for the overall average score and for recent general points made by multiple reviewers. That way, you can build up a general picture of what staying at the venue is like.

Tip: Covid-19 has changed the world in lots of ways, including hotel services and amenities. Certain things, such as dining and leisure facilities may be restricted, while rooms may have had some items removed for hygiene reasons. Recent reviews can flag these restrictions but they’re no substitute for contacting the hotel directly.

Amenities – and, yes, this includes Wi-Fi!

Amenities vary between hotels, so it’s important to understand what’s on offer before you book your UK hotel stay. In general, luxury hotels tend to have more in the way of amenities than budget properties. When we talk about amenities, we mean in-room comforts, such as fancy toiletries, hairdryers and mini-bars, as well as hotel services including a concierge, baggage store and dry cleaning.

Of course, one of the most popular amenities is access to wireless internet (Wi-Fi). While you might expect that all hotels would offer free Wi-Fi as standard, this is not always the case. Some venues will have free Wi-Fi only in the common areas, such as the lobby, while others may charge for access. Also be aware that the coverage may not be great at more rural properties. You might be able to check your email but not stream a movie, for example.

If you plan to use Wi-Fi during your hotel stay, either for work or pleasure, it’s a good idea to check before you book. As with all amenities, don’t assume it’s available and free, as you might be disappointed!

Tip: You can input your chosen hotel’s postcode into an online broadband coverage checker to get a general idea of the speed and available services (e.g. https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/en-gb/broadband-coverage).

Check in and check out options

The vast majority of hotels (in fact, we would guess all hotels) have set check in and check out times. These help the hotel manage its room availability. Check in time is usually 3pm, with check out time at 11am. However, these times can be an hour or two earlier or later, depending on hotel policy.

Many hotels offer early check in or late check out. This usually needs to be arranged in advance and may incur an extra fee. If you arrive really early or want to enjoy some extra time in the area on your departure day after your check out, the hotel should have facilities to securely store your baggage.

Be aware that for spa days and spa breaks, the spa may have different times than the hotel. For example, if the hotel check in time is 3pm, you may be allowed to leave your bags and access the spa’s facilities earlier in the day or use them later than your 11am hotel check out time.

We would recommend confirming all these times with the hotel prior to your arrival so you can tailor your travel plans and itinerary accordingly.

Tip: When it comes to the check in time, some hotels are strict, whereas others may allow you to access your room earlier than the stated time. If you arrive early, it never hurts to ask! Check out times will be stricter, as the hotel’s housekeeping staff need time to prepare the room for the next guests.

Is breakfast included?

Breakfast is another hotel amenity that, like Wi-Fi, many believe is always included in a hotel’s room rate. However, you’ll often find that breakfast costs extra. This may be paid upfront as part of the nightly rate, or it may be an added (optional) charge.

If a hearty full English is something that you want to enjoy as part of your UK hotel stay without paying extra, check that your booking includes both bed and breakfast.

Tip: Staying in a town or city centre? There are likely to be nearby options for breakfast that will be cheaper than the hotel, so check the map before you pay for a hotel breakfast. Rural properties may not have anywhere else close by, so a free hotel breakfast becomes even more valuable.

Hidden fees

While we’re on the subject of extras, it’s important to be aware of additional fees you might incur for amenities and services at your chosen hotel. Confusion about this can arise because costs vary. For example, at some properties, parking is free for guests, whereas other properties (usually those that are centrally located) can charge a daily rate.

Other services and amenities that may lead to extra charges include laundry facilities and childcare. Taking something from the in-room mini-bar and making an outside call from your in-room phone are also ill-advised if you’re watching the pennies (or pounds!). At spa hotels, guests who are not booked on a specific spa day or spa break package may be charged for use of the leisure facilities.

The overall advice is to ask questions, read the reviews, and check the venue’s website to satisfy yourself as to what your booking includes, what costs extra, and what you can expect to enjoy during your hotel stay.

Tip: Be aware that some hotels charge different rates depending on the flexibility of the booking. The lowest rate will be the non-refundable option. If you think there’s a chance you may need to cancel your booking before arriving, you can choose the flexible rate, but you will pay more for the convenience.

Hotel cheat sheet

The first choices to make concern the location and type of property. Do you want a smaller boutique hotel, a large historic property, or a contemporary chain? Much of this will come down to the purpose of your trip. After all, your requirements for a convenient night at an airport hotel before an early flight will differ from a lavish luxury weekend away to celebrate a special occasion.

Of course, having a budget in mind is a good idea, too! Go too cheap and the accommodation and amenities may be sub-par. Likewise, splash out too much and you might find you’re paying for services you simply don’t need.

Once you’ve defined these basic requirements, here are a few additional things to think about when planning your hotel stay.

Guest reviews

Nowadays, finding out what hotels are really like is an easy task. There are lots of online review sites where you can see past the hotel’s marketing to discover what guests think of the accommodation, amenities and customer service. TripAdvisor is maybe the best known, plus we at SpaSeekers encourage customers to leave reviews of their experiences, which you can check out on our individual spa hotel and package pages.

It’s important to look at reviews with a critical eye. Indeed, some bad reviews might just refer to a specific guest scenario or an isolated negative experience rather than offering a general review. For example, if a guest expected something that their booking didn’t cover. Likewise, some people are just plain picky and may leave a two-star review just because the towels weren’t fluffy enough or there was a short wait at reception to check in! Also, be aware that older bad reviews might reflect a hotel prior to a change in management or a major refurbishment.

To get the most from guest reviews, look for the overall average score and for recent general points made by multiple reviewers. That way, you can build up a general picture of what staying at the venue is like.

Tip: Covid-19 has changed the world in lots of ways, including hotel services and amenities. Certain things, such as dining and leisure facilities may be restricted, while rooms may have had some items removed for hygiene reasons. Recent reviews can flag these restrictions but they’re no substitute for contacting the hotel directly.

Amenities – and, yes, this includes Wi-Fi!

Amenities vary between hotels, so it’s important to understand what’s on offer before you book your UK hotel stay. In general, luxury hotels tend to have more in the way of amenities than budget properties. When we talk about amenities, we mean in-room comforts, such as fancy toiletries, hairdryers and mini-bars, as well as hotel services including a concierge, baggage store and dry cleaning.

Of course, one of the most popular amenities is access to wireless internet (Wi-Fi). While you might expect that all hotels would offer free Wi-Fi as standard, this is not always the case. Some venues will have free Wi-Fi only in the common areas, such as the lobby, while others may charge for access. Also be aware that the coverage may not be great at more rural properties. You might be able to check your email but not stream a movie, for example.

If you plan to use Wi-Fi during your hotel stay, either for work or pleasure, it’s a good idea to check before you book. As with all amenities, don’t assume it’s available and free, as you might be disappointed!

Tip: You can input your chosen hotel’s postcode into an online broadband coverage checker to get a general idea of the speed and available services (e.g. https://checker.ofcom.org.uk/en-gb/broadband-coverage).

Check in and check out options

The vast majority of hotels (in fact, we would guess all hotels) have set check in and check out times. These help the hotel manage its room availability. Check in time is usually 3pm, with check out time at 11am. However, these times can be an hour or two earlier or later, depending on hotel policy.

Many hotels offer early check in or late check out. This usually needs to be arranged in advance and may incur an extra fee. If you arrive really early or want to enjoy some extra time in the area on your departure day after your check out, the hotel should have facilities to securely store your baggage.

Be aware that for spa days and spa breaks, the spa may have different times than the hotel. For example, if the hotel check in time is 3pm, you may be allowed to leave your bags and access the spa’s facilities earlier in the day or use them later than your 11am hotel check out time.

We would recommend confirming all these times with the hotel prior to your arrival so you can tailor your travel plans and itinerary accordingly.

Tip: When it comes to the check in time, some hotels are strict, whereas others may allow you to access your room earlier than the stated time. If you arrive early, it never hurts to ask! Check out times will be stricter, as the hotel’s housekeeping staff need time to prepare the room for the next guests.

Is breakfast included?

Breakfast is another hotel amenity that, like Wi-Fi, many believe is always included in a hotel’s room rate. However, you’ll often find that breakfast costs extra. This may be paid upfront as part of the nightly rate, or it may be an added (optional) charge.

If a hearty full English is something that you want to enjoy as part of your UK hotel stay without paying extra, check that your booking includes both bed and breakfast.

Tip: Staying in a town or city centre? There are likely to be nearby options for breakfast that will be cheaper than the hotel, so check the map before you pay for a hotel breakfast. Rural properties may not have anywhere else close by, so a free hotel breakfast becomes even more valuable.

Hidden fees

While we’re on the subject of extras, it’s important to be aware of additional fees you might incur for amenities and services at your chosen hotel. Confusion about this can arise because costs vary. For example, at some properties, parking is free for guests, whereas other properties (usually those that are centrally located) can charge a daily rate.

Other services and amenities that may lead to extra charges include laundry facilities and childcare. Taking something from the in-room mini-bar and making an outside call from your in-room phone are also ill-advised if you’re watching the pennies (or pounds!). At spa hotels, guests who are not booked on a specific spa day or spa break package may be charged for use of the leisure facilities.

The overall advice is to ask questions, read the reviews, and check the venue’s website to satisfy yourself as to what your booking includes, what costs extra, and what you can expect to enjoy during your hotel stay.

Tip: Be aware that some hotels charge different rates depending on the flexibility of the booking. The lowest rate will be the non-refundable option. If you think there’s a chance you may need to cancel your booking before arriving, you can choose the flexible rate, but you will pay more for the convenience.

And now you can put this into practice…

If this article has inspired you to plan your next UK hotel stay, here are a few of our favourite destinations that you can book now using the SpaSeekers’ online booking facility.

London: Always a popular choice for a short break, the UK’s capital city is great for sightseeing, excellent shopping and dining, and relaxing spa experiences. Book now.

Manchester: Another of the UK’s vibrant cities, Manchester has lots to enjoy, from entertainment and culture to retail therapy and spa indulgence. Book now.

Cumbria: Home to the spectacular Lake District, head to lovely Cumbria for the ultimate countryside getaways and plenty of spa luxury. Book now.

Yorkshire: Enjoy the finest UK hotel stays and spa breaks in this diverse county, which offers buzzing cities, charming towns, beautiful coastline and rolling countryside. Book now.

Bristol: This bustling city is a popular destination for tourists, as is its neighbour, Bath, which is only a short train ride away. Book now.

Scotland: From historic Edinburgh to the stunning Borders and Highlands regions, Scotland is perfect for serene country stays, pampering spa breaks and exciting city escapes. Book now.

As you can see when you browse our site, we’ve taken a lot of the stress out of booking hotel stays, offering you packages with clear inclusions, lists of hotel amenities and spa facilities, and all the other information you need to make an informed choice. So, why not take a look at all our latest overnight spa deals?