You’ve booked your trip to Europe, made sure your passport is in order, packed your bags, and now you’re off on that trip of a lifetime.
What you might not have thought about is what to expect at your hotel. In the USA., hotel standards are pretty consistent. You know what to anticipate at a Motel 6 and what to look forward to at the Four Seasons. In Europe, the lines are not so clearly drawn.
In order to avoid disappointment and frustration, it’s helpful to know what to expect during your European hotel stay.
1) Star ratings Travelers often assume there is a world-wide standard for hotel star ratings, but these ratings are simply general quality indicators and they vary by country, even by city. On top of that, star ratings are usually awarded based on location or amenities, not both. That means you can stay in a 4-star hotel in the center of one of London’s best neighborhoods and still not have the amenities you might expect.
2) Room size European hotel rooms are usually smaller than those in the USA., so if you want a bigger room, you’ll have to pay for it. Most hotels offer different room categories, often based on size or view. If you’re staying in the historic district of your chosen destination, then you’re probably going to be in an historic property that’s decades—if not centuries—old. Most likely at one time a residence, each room will be different from the next in size, shape, and décor.
Pro Tip: Don’t compare your room to that of your traveling companions. Enjoy the unique qualities of your own space. If room size is important to you, say so before booking.
3) Bathrooms European hotels rated 3* and above come with private bathrooms. In older hotels, the plumbing may be interesting, to say the least. Some rooms may have a full bath with tub, others may have only a shower, and these can be small showers.
4) Single Supplement Most Americans expect a hotel room to cost a certain amount, period. In Europe, a solo traveler often pays an additional fee for the room, even if the space is especially small and holds only a twin bed. So, yes, you may pay more for less when traveling alone. Keep in mind, however, that travelers who share a double room are often paying per person, so they are paying more for their space.
5) Breakfast Breakfast is not always included in the price of your room, but can be added for an additional charge. Most 4* & 5* hotels have beautiful full breakfasts which Soirée will include in your stay for your convenience.
6) WiFi Many hotels provide WiFi service, but it can be spotty, and may only be available in the public areas of the property. This is because the buildings tend to be very old and the walls quite thick. Hotels will often provide a computer or two for shared, free usage in a public space, so if you need to print a boarding pass or send a quick email home, that option might work just fine for you. You might also want to be sure you have service on your mobile phone.
7) Air conditioning European hotels in mild climates (ie, Scotland) do not provide air conditioning. In hotter climates, you can be sure air conditioning will be a feature, but it may not get as cold as you prefer. If air conditioning is essential for you in a mild climate, say so when booking, and Soirée will strive to accommodate you.
Pro Tip: In order to manage the cost of electricity, some European hotels limit the hours in which air conditioning is available. Alternately, they may have sensors on the windows, so that when the window is open, the air conditioning won’t work. In some hotels, if you set the thermostat below a certain temperature, the air conditioning will shut off completely. If you’re having trouble with your air conditioning, ask the front desk for help.
8) Room keys Your room key may also be required to turn on the electricity in your room. If you find yourself without power, check to see if there is a key-card slot inside your room near the door (and probably near the light switch). If so, place the key card inside and, presto, you’ll have lights!
9) Noise You’re delighted that your room is in the lovely historic center of your destination, until you try to sleep. You can hear the dance club down the street, the church bells ringing at midnight, the musicians in the piazza, or the traffic on the main thoroughfare nearby. Keep in mind that the vibrant life of a city can be noisy, and there’s not a tremendous amount a hotel manager of an historic property can do about it. It simply comes with the territory, so to speak.
Pro Tip: If your city-center hotel has courtyard facing rooms, they might be quieter, but you may be losing an amazing view. If your room has windows and shutters, close them both at night. They can really help to block out the noise.
10) Passports You may need to surrender your passport at the desk upon check in, though you should get it back within half an hour. Laws may require hotels to register occupants with local authorities. You may be able to keep your passport in your possession if you show the original and provide a copy for the hotel to keep.
11) Concierge If you are not traveling with a Soirée Travel Liaison and your hotel has a concierge, use him or her. This person can provide you with great insider information on your destination and can make restaurant reservations and other arrangements for you. A money gift will be appreciated if they’ve worked extra hard for you.
Keeping these tips in mind will help you as you plan your stay abroad. Above all, don’t let a less-than-satisfactory hotel experience mar your vacation. After all, you’re in Europe!
Contact Soirée today to plan your Europe travel!