While the best hotel may be defined by its location, amenities or aesthetics, a truly five-star property can also boast record-breaking facilities, world-class service and exceptional culinary experiences. Bland, generic hotels won’t cut it with today’s experience-hungry travelers, which is why it pays to know what makes a hotel truly stand out.
A few things make a hotel truly outstanding: its staff, its dining options and its sustainability features. The former is important because the way a hotel’s staff treats its guests leaves an impression on them that will last long after they check out. In the case of a hotel, that means everything from how friendly the concierge is to how helpful housekeeping staff are when it comes time to change the sheets.
The latter two elements are a bit trickier to assess. The latter involves knowing what sustainable features a hotel has in place to ensure its environmental impact is minimized and that it’s making an effort to conserve resources. In the hospitality industry, these include waste reduction, sustainable sourcing and energy efficiency, to name a few. Some hotels are more focused on sustainability than others, but if you’re looking for a hotel that is environmentally responsible, there are plenty of options to choose from.
One of the best ways to discover what’s on offer at a hotel is to speak with its staff, which is why a call to a property’s front desk should be at the top of any traveler’s itinerary. The way a guest is treated over the phone is an excellent indicator of the level of service they can expect when they arrive.
A recent survey by CivicScience reveals that most people don’t trust the review sites they use to find the best hotel, which should come as no surprise. The sites are rife with fakes, including “mischief-makers” like the fictitious MelissaK and reputation management operatives paid by hotels to bolster their online ratings while lowering competitors’, as well as disgruntled employees who use their real names on TripAdvisor to slag off their former employers. These bogus reviews aren’t just unfair to the hotel industry—they’re also a disservice to would-be travelers.
For a more trustworthy source of information, U.S. News & World Report uses a comprehensive methodology that takes into account the opinions of professional travel experts, guest reviews and hotel class ratings to identify the top hotels. Brand-backed hotels are a good choice because they help guests earn free stays and other perks through loyalty programs, but even independent properties can achieve high marks if they have an impressive reputation among travel experts and stand out for their exceptional experiences. Here are a few of our favorite picks to help you plan your next getaway.