How to Pick the Perfect Lodging

How to Pick the Perfect Lodging: On leisure trips Gayle and I seek ambience and local flavor so we generally avoid the big chains and box hotels. To us, the choice of lodging is much more personal than selecting an airline. Flying coach is like bus travel in the air, seats are seats, aisle, window or the dreaded middle. So why do I suffer angst about choosing the perfect lodging? As leisure travelers we want a memorable and relaxing experience – no negative surprises.

How to Pick the Perfect Lodging – Best Lodging in Georgia

When we contemplate a vacation we engage all of our senses in choosing a destination that will satisfy our wanderlust. Last summer our thoughts drifted to the Mendocino Coast and the smell of salt air accompanied by the sound of waves breaking on rocks as we contemplated our upcoming California vacation. We also longed for the smell of fresh planked Salmon plucked from the nearby inlet. But once we’ve settled on a destination we face the arduous task of picking the perfect lodging.

On leisure trips Gayle and I seek ambience and local flavor so we generally avoid the big chains and box hotels. To us, the choice of lodging is much more personal than selecting an airline. Flying coach is like bus travel in the air, seats are seats, aisle, window or the dreaded middle. So why do I suffer angst about choosing the perfect lodging? As leisure travelers we want a memorable and relaxing experience – no negative surprises. And everyone seeks their idea of perfection. One traveler’s favorite digs is another’s fleabag dump. I will gladly trade a lumpy bed for a stunning view. And in every case, there is the highly variable factor of location, location, location. So, How to Pick the Perfect Lodging

Unfortunately, the major booking sites (Expedia, Orbits, etc.) list the major chains and little more. As Inn owners, we understand that there are dozens, even hundreds of off-the-radar properties to be found in every city, town, tourist outpost and roadside stretch. We have enjoyed visits to many charming inns across the United States that merit the traveler’s attention. So how does a traveler find a good, clean, comfortable local hotel or inn? So How to Pick the Perfect Lodging can take a little time and ingenuity.

It doesn’t help that these days even small hotels and Inns have Web sites full of tantalizing photos and slick promotional copy that make you believe you’ll be bathed in luxury as soon as you step foot through their door. How can you tell if an inn will live up to its own hype — and, more importantly, if it’s the right place for you?

As we prepared for our trip I dreamt of a secluded location on the Mendocino Coast with cliff-side ocean view, fireplace, rustic but with a touch or two of luxury, and with oodles of complimentary amenities. Why was I thinking complimentary amenities? We recently spent three days attending a conference in a luxury box hotel. The conference rate was economical but everything else was extra. The only coffee available was from Starbucks in the lobby. During our stay we paid $27 for coffee, $12 for bottled water out of a vending machine, $24 for WIFI, $36 for parking and $4.00 for two aspirin.

Where to Start? Before beginning your search, ask yourself what type of accommodations you want and what your budget will permit. Price is not the sole indication of quality, but cheap properties can often-times be pretty scary places to lie down your head. We own an inn, so we understand what we expend in order to ensure each Beechwood guest enjoys a safe and clean visit. To increase the likelihood of cleanliness we’re willing to pay a little more to ensure the perfect lodging experience.

Maybe three or four years ago, I would have embarked on this challenge with endless clicking and surfing to Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitor Bureau websites. I’m someone who uses the Web all the time – but I’ve grown impatient, and can no longer abide this tedious process. If I knew someone in the area, for instance if I had a cousin Ernie in Mendocino, I could call him and ask for the perfect lodging recommendation. But, no such luck.

So this time I took a much more random approach. My first Step was to call upon an Integrated Mapping Software Site. Specifically, I used Google Earth. What I wanted was a map that would show inns and hotels as pinpoints on the map. To test this I pulled up a map of the Mendocino Coast and then did a search for Inns and hotels. Within the first 15 listings I discovered a number of properties that didn’t appear on Expedia or other hotel search engines. By the map I could clearly see which properties appeared to “cling” to the coastline – very promising. Then, using Google Earth I could zoom into the property from every direction permitting me to view even the features they may not want to highlight on their website. Wow, really cool, I discovered several properties that looked like just what I wanted.

Okay, they look good on the map, but can we anticipate having a great guest visit at one of these properties? On both Yahoo! Maps and Google Maps, you can click on a particular property to find more information about it, including driving directions, user reviews, photos and a link to the property’s Web site. Reviews can be very helpful. While many negative reviews tell you a lot about the property, sometimes a bad review will tell more about the reviewer, especially where there are mostly positive reviews. In this case, the property I singled out evidenced very positive reviews. While anonymous, the only bad review appeared to have been written by Charlie Sheen.

We ended up staying at a Select Registry Inn (the best 400 inns in North America) overlooking the Mendocino Coast. Each evening we relaxed to the sound of waves breaking on the shore. It was quiet and secluded but with all the complimentary amenities one would want including wood burning fireplace, full breakfast, daily wine tasting, WIFi, cookies, and all the coffee you could drink, but no aspirin. We got to sit with the inn owners who shared tips on local dining, hiking, and site seeing. We had a wonderful visit and it was the perfect lodging.

Finding the best or perfect lodging accommodations offers a challenge, but the personal treatment you will receive is the reward. I found using this mapping tactic increases the efficiency of locating an inn with the location, view and amenities you want. Then, check the reviews to see what other travelers are saying. We’re off to Maine in September, so I have already started my search for cliff clinging inns along the New England Coast. And, best of all, it will be lobster season! Bon Appetite.

How to Pick the Perfect Lodging by David Darugh

About the Author: David Darugh owns and operates Beechwood Inn in Clayton, GA. It is considered Georgia’s premier wine country inn and is a member of the prestigious Select Registry. It also has been named a winner of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.

Beechwood Inn Named to Best Food and Wine Destinations by Wine Enthusiast Magazine