This is second in a series of blogs written by one of our colleagues with 20+ years in the travel industry. In her first blog, she wrote about guides and how they can both vary greatly and make a big difference in a traveler’s experience with a tour company. In this blog, she’s chosen to address one of the most prominent elements in the success of a vacation: hotels and how they impacted her clients’ satisfaction. I hope you’ll enjoy the benefit of her insights. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks. Edward Piegza, Classic Journeys President and Founder.

Over the years of gathering traveler feedback about various tours, I have found that the accommodations a tour company chooses will play a big part in the overall enjoyment of a traveler’s vacation. This does not mean that the travelers who can afford to stay in the most expensive hotels always have the most rewarding experiences.  In fact, one of my own most memorable lodgings was in a castle-turned-quaint-hotel overlooking the Rhine River. This was not a luxurious place to stay, but allowed me to have a glass of wine in the dungeon, imagine how other less fortunate inhabitants felt, and to daydream about knights and ladies of medieval times while looking out over the countryside from the castle walls.  This was an experience that I’ll always cherish. Having said that, I was ready to stay in a hotel with a modern bathroom and shower the following night for balance!

Manoir les Minimes

Tour companies take different approaches to choosing accommodations for their tours. Here are a few of the common approaches:

· The approach: Some companies use only large American-style chain hotels that offer standard sized cookie-cutter rooms that will seem familiar to their guests. Their rationale is that this can ensure a guest’s comfort.
· Be alert for: While familiarity can be a good thing, too much of it can rob us of the cultural adventure we seek.  Also, that intimate feeling is lost when a traveler feels like a number rather than a guest.

Top drawer
· The approach: Some tour companies choose to use only 5 star accommodations.  Their goal is always the best of the best. Their rationale is that guests want bragging rights as well as all creature comforts possible, all of the time.
· Be alert for: While it is nice to stay in a luxury hotel, in some cases this can raise the cost of the tour by hundreds, or even thousands of dollars.  In some cases, the luxury property doesn’t really add to the overall cultural experience and can be a bit over-the-top for the region visited. Make sure that the extra cost of staying exclusively in 5 star properties provides the value and cultural experience that you are seeking for that particular trip and region.

Budget Minded
· The approach: To keep the cost of the tour at a level that is more attractive to the traveler, other tour companies choose to use the least expensive adequate accommodations in the area. The rationale is that you are out exploring all day, so the hotel is really just a place to sleep.
· Be alert for: As we all know, price isn’t everything. Value trumps price! At the end of a very full day of cultural immersion, we all want to have a comfortable bed to sleep in at night, and to know that we are in a room that is clean and safe.

Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor

My Professional Conclusions as a Travel Agent: Go for the Balanced Approach
I have found that cultural travelers tend to prefer accommodations that offer a good balance between style, comfort and the unique personality of the area.  In the countryside, that may be a 16th century villa, a castle or a rainforest lodge that showcases the style and hospitality of the region.  In large, exotic cities where the culture can be almost overwhelming, it is nice to stay in a centrally located, peaceful sanctuary that larger hotels can provide. The best tour companies anticipate the traveler’s wants and needs in each region, and choose hotels that best represent the combination of comfort, style and the hospitality of the region.

A closing note from Edward: Thanks, Laura. At Classic Journeys, we choose hotels for how they reflect the style and hospitality of a region. That might mean a converted abbey, an Italian palazzo or a highly acclaimed property within view of the Taj Mahal. You can see a great selection of our hotels at To speak with any of our well-traveled and personable Guest Services team, call 800-200-3887 or email