Have I mentioned that I love hotels? No? Well, I LOVE HOTELS! I love having someone else make my bed every morning, with perfect origami corners that I'd never be able to replicate at home. I love teensy bottles of shampoo and those little bath caps folded up inside tiny envelopes. I especially love the possibility that the in room coffee maker setup just might include cookies. Hotels are awesome.
My Boy and I are big believers in the Mini Break; we love taking one or two night weekend getaways. We do Disneyland pretty often, and Vegas . . . but we've also done Palm Springs where we took a cable car up into the mountains, Joshua Tree for a music festival at Pappy and Harriets, and even a weekend in a Wigwam just for the heck of it.
Leading up to any trip, I'm usually bouncing off the walls excited (OMG! HOTEL!!!) and I find the best way to have a little fun with all that gleeful energy is to stalk our intended hotel online. Flickr is GREAT for this . . . I've found some amazing, truth-y-like photos of real hotel rooms and pools by searching Flickr. Of course, a hotel's own site is a great resource, if a little biased. Ok, a lot biased.
My favorite hotel stalking site though is Tripadvisor. It is important to keep in mind that someone who had a negative experience at a hotel is far more likely to write a review than someone who had a positive experience there. But if you keep that grain of salt in the back of your head, you can find an avalanche of useful information on Tripadvisor. Nuts and bolts things like resort fees, parking fees and whatnot. Useful bits of info like the fastest way to walk from the hotel to an attraction or the best floor to request a room on. And even serious, trip-making gems like where to find the best possible rate or how to scam oneself an upgrade.
After making much use of other people's experience on Tripadvisor, I finally sat down and wrote a few reviews of my own. My Luxor Vegas review got 2 "helpful" marks on its first day up, which I was quite chuffed about indeed!
Nobody paid me to say this (although I keep telling the internet that I am ALWAYS OPEN TO BRIBES), but I really think that Tripadvisor is an example of all that is awesome about online communities. Whereas twenty years ago, one might have asked around and maybe found one or two firsthand accounts of a hotel . . . now I can log into Tripadvisor and find tens if not HUNDREDS of real people, all expressing honest and uncompensated opinions (and sharing PHOTOGRAPHS!). It is enough to give me the warm fuzzies, for sure. And it certainly makes planning and gearing up for a trip a lot more informative and fun.