Palm Garden Resort for $84 a night? For Christmas? Yes please!
Travel trends may change at the drop of a hat, but one trend that seems to have stuck is that of the savvy traveller. The kind that cherishes the budget wanderers lifestyle, but likes to live it up in fancy hotels; those that choose the destination on the back of a cheap flight deal then throw their savings at a stay in a sumptuous hotel. On the ground they relish street food and extraordinary experiences - the freedom to point their cash at what matters to them personally.
The problem with this type of travelling is that the main focus is often concentrated on the hotel. We're willing (and happy) to risk the small stuff and make spontaneous decisions on practically everything else - often feeling braver making daily choices in the knowledge that we have that fancy boutique five-star to return to, should we get struck down with a touch of sunburn. For those that feel the need to 'do everything' that plush pad takes the guilt out of taking a day or two out to just relax by the pool.
With hotels, we want the best deal - we also want to know exactly what we are paying into. A problem when often the best deals to be had on fancy resorts are through aggregate sites selling 'Secret Hotels' like Last Minute, Agoda or Hotwire (our favourite) where star ratings are mainly gathered from TripAdvisor reviews (rather than official ratings) a system that is frequently abused and holds little trust when based on the limited rankings available to view.
On our recent vacation to parts unknown we decided to let our hair down and take a risk on a secret hotel deal, what we learnt is that these secret hotels are fairly difficult to fathom. We booked one on the promise that it was just 8kms from the action (a distance we were willing to travel given the onsite facilities and our need for solitude and relaxation in a big city) only to discover they'd knocked off a 1 from that number - meaning that any savings made on the booking were eaten up in transportation for the 18km journey from hotel to hotspots, a distance we would never normally have considered. The five star ranking the hotel was sporting turned out to be from travellers that had booked the hotel through normal resources, supplied with all the correct details up front and happy to position themselves in a cosseted environment somewhere sunny - the average guest at the hotel during our stay was not like minded to say the least.
Being more than a little familiar with Hoi An hotels, upon our return we ploughed through local offerings - it was easy for us to workout exactly which hotel was listed; the good, the bad, the amazing, and the unforgivable. We were then able to cross reference to see if the room was available at a better deal elsewhere (occasionally they are when you call direct, if not - and they aren't booked out - they are more flexible with room upgrades and nice little add-ons when you go in knowing how low they are willing to go to fill rooms). On this basis, should you be curious enough to risk a secret hotel in our neighbourhood - pop the link in the comments and we'll tell you privately which hotel it is.