A fair number of factors need to be taken into account when planning a vacation, from picking a destination to deciding upon your dates, putting together an itinerary, and booking transportation. And of course you also need to figure out where to stay - and this can be especially challenging if you are traveling to the destination for the first time.

Making the Most of Hotels & Resorts

If you go the hotel route, in order to keep unpacking and repacking to a minimum on a trip to one place, choose a property that offers a pay-laundry facility or perhaps an aparthotel in which units have their own washers. This way you don't have to pack nearly as much stuff, as you can wash and rewear clothing repeatedly; you also then have the option of washing it all at the end so you don't have to get home with a bunch of dirty clothes.

On the hotel-eating front, stay away from vastly overpriced mini bars, but perhaps do think about availing yourself on occasion of the convenience of room service, particularly if you don't feel like leaving your room or it's late at night and outside options are limited or nonexistent. Sure it might cost a bit more, but it is completely worth it to be able to kick back and relax while your food comes to you.

Do you stay at a particular hotel or resort chain fairly often? Consider signing up for their loyalty club. As long as it's free to do so, you really have nothing to lose. Giving the company your contact information could mean getting special perks that you can use the next time you stay there. Similarly, many airline frequent flyer programs allow your points to be used for participating accommodations. Check airline and hotel websites to see what you qualify for.

Also look into club-level rates, because while these rooms are more expensive up front, they can typically offer great values. For example, included in the price could be breakfast or dessert, Wi-Fi service or other perks like drinks and snacks. See what is offered and decide if the extra cost is worth it to you.

Finally, a note about a health and comfort issue that's become a problem in recent years at even better hotels in recent years, so upon entering your hotel room, check for signs of these critters. Check for stains on bedding and behind walls. If you notice any signs that point to the possible presence of bedbugs, request a different room. Bedbugs can travel home with you in your luggage, causing an unwelcome infestation in your home.


Online Is On Point

While travel agents and advisers definitely still have their place - especially when it comes to complicated or specialized travel and itineraries - in many cases you're perfectly fine using the myriad hotel-search tools and OTA's (online travel agencies), all of which allow you to locate great deals fast at properties that fulfill any particular requirements you might have. They allow you to find out the average and discounted rates of most chain and even independent hotels. And many also have destination content to help you figure out when you want to go on your vacation and what to do there.

A number of OTA's are familiar names, including Expedia, Hotwire, Kayak, Momondo, Orbitz, Priceline, and Travelocity. Others are more specialized in lodging, such as Booking.com, CheapHotels.com, Hotels.com, Hotel4U.info, and Trivago.com. Most can bring lodging costs down to moderate - even in some cases nearly rock bottom - at all price points from budget to upscale; there's no reason in this day and age that you should be paying full rack rate.

So get booking and get traveling!

(And when headed to Birmingham, England check out hotels onHagley Road)

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