Hotel preferences

By Stanley Mui
This item appears on page 14 of the June 2021 issue.

Everyone has their own travel preferences. I travel alone and prefer to mingle with the locals, not setting myself apart. I don’t want to stay in a 5-star hotel and be treated like royalty. I’d rather have people think I work in a hotel than that I’m a guest.

Going to an all-inclusive resort is not my thing because it’s too tiring to resist the temptations of all the “free” food (though, since I actually did pay for the food, it’s not exactly “free”), resulting in gaining a few pounds.

I book almost all of my hotels through, where every hotel, hostel, apartment, etc., has a review score. When trying to decide on a hotel, I consider hotels’ overall scores as well as their specific scores.

I prefer to stay in a hotel that has someone in the reception area 24 hours a day. I don’t usually go out after dark (except in Spain, where restaurants don’t open until 7 or 8 p.m.), but if I get sick or there is an emergency or someone’s recreational activities are keeping me awake, there will be someone in the hotel to help me or to tell my neighbor to quiet down.

I’ve considered using, but, since I prefer to have the whole apartment or house, the landlord wouldn’t be living there. He or she would only be there when handing me the key, showing me how the appliances work, etc. (or they would tell me where they hid the key in an email and send me a “how to” file).

Airbnb is worth it if I’m traveling with friends and rent the whole apartment or house, but it usually requires a lot of communication on how to find the place and get and return the key, so I feel it’s just not worth my time to communicate with the landlord for a short stay. If I stay in a hotel with 24-hour reception service, I don’t have this issue; I just show up.

If I cooked my own meals, Airbnb would be a good choice, but even when a kitchen is available, I don’t cook.

Listed below are five things I look for in a hotel:

Centrally located — I don’t want to spend too much precious time traveling to and from a suburb just to save a few bucks. Also, in the tourist areas, it’s easier to find restaurants after dark.

Moderate cost — Usually, the farther a hotel is from the city center, the less expensive it is, so I try to find a happy medium — as close to the city center as possible without breaking the bank.

Wi-Fi in my room — The Wi-Fi must have good reception, since I need to plan my activities for the next day, look up bus schedules, etc. Wi-Fi quality is often mentioned in hotel reviews on If a hotel’s “Free Wi-Fi” rating is only, say, 7.6, the Wi-Fi quality is questionable, so I will read a lot of reviews to know why people gave it such a low score.

Hotels give descriptions such as “free Wi-Fi” or “Wi-Fi only in public area.” My preference is always Wi-Fi in my room. I don’t usually stay in a hotel where I have to go to the lobby to use the Wi-Fi.

Hostel — I like to stay in hostels, if they’re available, but I prefer my own room and bath. I’ve found that people staying in hostels tend to be friendly and approachable. Also, hostels sometimes have reasonably priced local tours listed on their bulletin boards.

When a single room with bath wasn’t available at a lodge in Ecuador, I spent a night in the lodge’s dorm, and the whole night I heard snoring. On top of that, I was worried about people stealing my stuff (a worry which was unwarranted). If I can’t sleep well, I can’t function the next day.

Refundable deposit — I never book a non-refundable hotel room unless I have no choice or it is super-cheap.

Woodland Hills, CA