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How to Find a Great Hotel in a City You've Never Visited

GoGirlfriend is traveling to Rome!

If you only had 48 hours to explore Rome, what would you do? From the Trevi Fountain, Coliseum, Vatican, grand churches, museums, ancient history galore – there’s so much to see in Rome. Where do you stay? What do you focus on?

before Venice ... RomeIn a few weeks, GoGirlfriend leaves on a Mediterranean Princess Cruise – and we’re starting our adventure with 2 days in Rome. Time will be short and we want to be in the center of all the activity the whole time we’re there.

Booking.com lists more than 5,000 properties in Rome. How would you take the huge cornucopia and sort, prioritize and choose the right one for you. Don’t forget to factor in language and cultural hurdles into this process. It’s a big job.

The process of learning how to choose where to stay … in Rome

Like any problem, the solution is often found by breaking down the components into the simpler parts. In travel, you need to add that dose of emotional excitement to the rational process, but marry the two and your solution sorta pops out at you.

Here’s our steps that you can duplicate …

  • pick the attractions you want to seePull up a map of the city (Rome in our case or Barcelona, Paris, England) on Google maps to get a lay of the land. Begin by plotting POI’s (Points of interest).
  • Look at the airport you’ll be landing at (or train station) to know where you’ll have to commute to. [Plot it]
  • Pick the landmarks you want to see so you can begin looking at hotels close by. [Plot it]
  • Google “districts in … Rome” to understand the tourist zones and areas of interest.
  • Can you see a visual coming together? This is a long process so give yourself time to learn.
  • What’s your criteria for the hotel? Modern chic or historic structures with a story, food district, tourism district or quiet riverfront? Need a bathroom in the room?

Take 5,000 hotel options down to 5

When it comes to hotels, be clear on your preferences and you’ll begin to see a picture form. For example, a bathroom in our hotel room is a must – a balcony is a nice-to-have. We don’t need a restaurant in the hotel but there must be one within walking distance.

the history and beautyOnce you know what you want, you can make choices in a district, or by searching for those hidden gems recommended by others that have travelled there before (like Da House in Puerto Rico – purely a recommendation from an obscure NYT article that was a wonderful gem of a find), and as you troll Google maps in your red zone for hotel options, you can be confident in your find. Try these next steps …


  • Your top picks – Your weeding process can allow you to sort within price range, location, and style to narrow down your options to a manageable list (4 or 5).
  • Dig deeper – Look at each hotel's website to compare prices in your time window and view photos for any knock-out factors.
  • Score your short-list – Cross-reference your top picks with the heavy-weight engines like TripAdvisor, Booking.com or Hotels.com to get comparator rankings.
  • Pick two and then choose with your gut – Once you’ve searched and shuffled your list and know the top choices are all contenders, go with your gut and book your stay.

our choice was Rome's Hotel Parlamento!For our stay in Rome, we spent a fun few hours getting a lay of the land and cross-referencing our decision and the options for us came down to 2 contenders – Hotel Parlamento and Hotel Giulia – both great selections. Our gut swayed our choice to Hotel Parlamento.

We’ll take pictures and let you know what we think.

Rome done … on to Barcelona!

Other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Don’t forget to convert the room rate to your own currency (USD vs Euro’s) so you understand the true cost.
  • Make sure the basic amenities exist (do you need a private bathroom, is it on the third floor with no elevator).
  • Review the cancellation policy if you’re booking far in advance and know the deadlines.

Can you tell us any stories of how you found a great hidden gem while you were traveling? Any tips you’d like to add. Drop a comment below or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to hear from you!

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