Ho(rror)tels: Kick-Off

Over the past years, we have been to many conferences and stayed therefore at a number of hotels. With this little series, we want to shed some light on things that – from our point of view – are important when choosing a hotel. Additionally, we want to review particular hotels that we stayed in, which are compliant to the regulations of our university for hotel booking, so that you might get an idea which hotels could be the right ones for you in case you have to stay in one of the cities we have been to.

For this kick-off, we had a (very brief) brainstorming on features that we consider important for a pleasant stay. We both worked out two things that are very personally important to us, but also thought about things that are important in general for a good conference experience. Let’s start with the general stuff…

The hotel should not be too far away from the conference venue. Sometimes the conferences take place in the meeting rooms of a hotel, which is the best case, because you can stay at that same hotel. But beware, that you will not be the only one with this idea, so you have to be quick with booking a room if you know that you will be attending that particular conference. Depending on the conditions of the hotel, it might be a good idea to do a reservation for a room, which can you cancel in case your paper was rejected or you will not be able to travel to the conference for other reasons. The second best option is the find a hotel that is very near to the conference venue, optimally in a pedestrian-friendly distance so that you are not dependent on public transportation. That’s especially important if the conference has an early start in the morning. The third best option is to get a room in a hotel that is more or less directly connected to the conference venue via public transportation. The best case is a line with no changing of trains or buses. That works very well in cities that have a tube, like London or Paris, it could work well in cities with other types of public transportation. If you are someone that attends the social activities of the conferences with great joy, you should also keep in mind that you have to get back to your hotel (late) in the evening. So, even if you’re staying at the conference venue or close to it, keep an eye on the possibilities to reach your hotel via public transportation. Nothing is more tedious than having to walk wearily and alone trough an unknown city in the mid of the night after having some drinks and with the prospect of getting up early the next morning – trust us on that!

Another, very important thing is flexibility. Make sure that your reservation can be changed until at least two days before arrival. That’s especially important if you plan to attend the conference only for the day you’re presenting on. Sometimes conference schedules change in the last minute. The best option is to have a hotel which allows the change or cancellation of a reservation even at the day of arrival itself, since you may get sick or something.

The third point is something that may be important for only some of our readers. Our university can issue one-time virtual credit cards for your travel. That’s a neat idea, because you do not have to advance money. However, not all hotels accept those cards for payment. So, check in advance if your hotel accepts these kind of credit cards and under which conditions, because sometimes the hotels require some sort of official note from the university that you are allowed to use that credit card or something like that.

Another important issue might be cost-efficient travel arrangements: Sometimes budgets are limited, especially if you are attending a doctoral consortium, costs which usually are not covered by your projects travel expenses, so you might think it’s a great idea to share a room with a colleague.
Well, might be great, but I (Matthias) recommend you from experience to check two things well in advance: 1. Is the booked room equipped with two single beds? Call the hotel, no matter what you clicked on the booking website! 2. Check the hotel in advance, more specifically the bathroom arrangements. There are more and more hotels which have non-lockable bathrooms with transparent glass doors or – even more difficult – the shower cabin in the middle of the room. Yes, shower in the room, separated only by glass. Unless you and your colleague know each other quite well and/or have no problem with nudity at all you might have to expect an unpleasant surprise on arrival.
Another problem of low-budget hotels is almost always space. You might think: „Well I don’t care for this, all I’ll do there is sleep“ until you find yourself in a room without a wardrobe and not even enough floor to keep your suitcase open.

Lastly, make sure that you can communicate with the staff at the hotel. You could think that’s needless to say, but… no! I (Basti) have stayed in Paris in June and the staff at my hotel could speak French and Chinese fluently… English turned out to be a problem, which caused a lot of trouble regarding reservation and payment.

And, having, saved the best for last, what are out personal requirements?

Matthias: coffee Maker at the room, bacon for breakfast
Basti: air conditioner, soft mattress

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