Friday, November 7, 2014

How to pick a place to stay in Belize-or any another country...

There is nothing better (vacation wise) than showing up at a hotel, the first day of vacation, and LOVING the place you are staying. I know I have picked the right one when I immediately picture myself having coffee on the porch, checking emails at the breakfast bar, having dinner on the patio, walking around the grounds, etc.
I have always been overwhelmed when I try to pick somewhere to stay in another country. I think most of us may stay where someone we know has recommended, and that is why Trip Advisor and such sites are great. But, they don't tell the whole story, and unfortunately, a lot of the "feedback" and reviews on a lot of sites are total bunk. Also, if you search for a hotel in a certain area, you might be looking at hotels in a 30 mile radius, which can have a huge impact on your experience.
Here is what I have found to be the most helpful way to narrow it down, without becoming information overloaded which will happen in about 15 minutes of googling a place to stay in a certain city.

1.) #1 consideration has to be budget of course. If you go to Trip Advisor, they are not a booking engine-and a LOT of very cool places will not show you prices. Only large places who can afford a booking engine will show their prices and a link to book, and this leaves out a lot of the really great and special places that really make a memorable vacation. (like booking at a Marriot vs. a super enchanting B&B.) Of course, check Trip Advisor and see what shows up in the city's lists. But don't forget to click on the B&B and the "specialty" units as that is where you find some gems, as opposed to just checking the hotel tab. I also recommend doing a quick search on VRBO or Air B&B. If you do just these three sites, you will have a feel for neighborhoods and prices, and some names will start to look familiar.

2.) VERY IMPORTANT. Decide how close to the action you want to be. I always pick a landmark right in town that I want to be able to walk to (a coffee shop, the heart of town, a certain restaurant, beach bar, etc.) DON'T just look for beachfront because for example in Placencia, "Placencia" is considered to be the WHOLE peninsula. The peninsula is 16 miles long plus a bunch of land on the way in, so your stay will be markedly different if all you looked at were budget and wanting to be on the beach. There are lovely resorts all the way up the peninsula, and many people want the isolated resort experience, and don't mind being far from the action. For me, I want to be able to walk everywhere if that is an option, and here, there are SO MANY awesome places to stay right in the village, where you can literally walk to EVERYTHING. If you are looking at your budget, remember that if you end up having to rent a car, bike, or golf cart, or get a cab every time you want to leave, staying far away for budget sake will annoy you.
3.) Look at the amenities. Do you need a pool? Do you need a pool if you are right on the beach? Do you need to be able to walk to bars to avoid a DUI? Will you be happy with just one walkable bar on site? Will you make use of things like cable, A/C, bikes, kayaks, wifi, free pickup, kitchenette, private veranda? Do the reviews show that the owner takes care of the unit/beach/property? Do you just want to dump your stuff or do you want an experience at the resort?
4.) Do look at the reviews but take them with a grain of salt. I would be more inclined to read the owner's response to bad reviews than the review itself. Some people are born complainers so their feedback isn't valid, and other great reviews may be the owner's friend. But DO look at the pictures people post on Trip Advisor, or google the place and click images to see some more "real life" shots. Some places look like total paradise and really this is just a good photographer. At this point, you are probably going back to a couple places because they just seem right to you. Probably ANY of those few that you have vetted out will make you happy.

How to pick the best place in Placencia, based on the complaints travelers have had (most people have a blast here of course, :), but no matter where you look, it is not going to be the right fit for everyone.***

-If the owners do not clean the beach--we have a lot of sea grass here and this requires commitment to cleaning daily. Be sure that the place you stay mentions this or the reviews note this. It truly makes a difference.
This...
Vs. This....
-Travelers thinking they were booking in the village, but the resort was actually up to 16 miles away.
-It is quiet and peaceful here-but there is not the first world activities like a movie theater, mall, mini golf, water park, golf, etc. There are plenty of restaurants, activities, and excursions, but staying at a place that makes you happy to just chill at is very important. Some places offer free use of snorkel gear, kayaks, bikes, etc and this makes a big difference in your experience.

-Assuming everywhere has things like A/C, cable, wifi, beach towels, beach chairs, etc. Make sure you check this if you need these :)
-The weather--no one can control this, you hope for hot and dry weather, so make sure you go with the odds and pick a time of year where you are likely to avoid what you hate (cold fronts/rain, etc).
-Figuring out the best mix between cheap and charming-so you can have money for excursions, but not picking solely on price, as you do get what you pay for :)

***Of course, if you are coming to Placencia, we highly recommend you check us out :). Walking distance to everything, but in a quiet, private spot. Kayaks, bikes, grills, cooler, snorkel gear, beach towels, games, kitchenette, floats, flashlights, beachfront, good wifi, cable, A/C, clean beach, GREAT hosts, coconut drink at check in......much more :)
                             (real image...)

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