What do you look for in a hotel room – A big blue swimming pool? A picturesque view? Or proximity to the key areas at your destination?

There are numerous factors to consider before choosing your hotel. Not only do you want full value for your money, but you also want to feel secure and comfortable. Getting stuck with the wrong decision may end up resulting in a ruined vacation or an unproductive business trip.

There are an enormous number of offers, promotions and deals with tantalizing photos that will have you believe that you’ll be bathed in luxury as soon as you enter. But how do you really tell if a hotel will live up to its own hype – and more importantly, your expectations?

We put together a few tips you can follow to choose the right hotel for you:

Identify your needs

Is this vacation meant to be a romantic getaway for two …or a big break with the whole family? Is your trip going to be strictly business or are you planning to enjoy with a bunch of friends?

The goal of your trip will decide your choice of hotel – whether you need a simple bed and breakfast or the luxury of a seven star. The amenities you need could range widely from between a crèche to a conference room.

[Compare travel insurance in the UAE]

Check out reviews and real life experiences

You can learn the truth about the smallest details of your chosen hotel on websites like TripAdvisor, VirtualTourist, LonelyPlanet. Fellow travelers give out little nuggets of information about how friendly the staff is, how clean the rooms are and whether the Wi-Fi actually works.

The photos of the hotel posted by the reviewers reveal more – since they are untouched versions of the glamorous ones on the hotel’s own website.  You can filter reviews to those that are submitted by solo travelers or business travelers.

Do make it a point to look at negative reviews and figure out if there’s a common theme. However, do remember some reviews may be written by the hotel in disguise. Try to discern for yourself which review is an honest and unbiased one. You can even ask for advice and feedback from reviewers by posting on message boards.

[Related: Renting a car abroad? Don’t fall for these traps]

Ask about the services and add ons

Will you need to have your clothes washed during a long stay? Do you need a gym and spa facility ?

A lot of hotels charge extra fees for things that you might assume are included in the room tariff. Wifi is one of the most commonly charged services – if you are on a business trip that requires constant access to email, you may need a hotel that provides free internet usage.

Free shuttle services and private drivers would also be a great add on. You wouldn’t have to worry about renting a car, driving around in unfamiliar streets and parking.

Research the neighborhood

If you’re going on a family vacation you want to ensure that your hotel’s neighborhood is safe and children friendly. If shopping is the reason for your trip then get a hotel next to the biggest malls of your holiday destination.

In case of business trips, look for hotels near your meetings. However, be cognizant of the neighborhood. Sometimes financial districts aren’t the best areas to stay as they aren’t well populated. Walking down eerily empty streets after the business day ends, in a new city is not the best idea.

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Find out about your meal options

Check whether breakfast is included in your stay package. Are you a vegetarian or a vegan? Ask whether your hotel can meet your dietary requirements in advance!

Some hotels offer rooms with a small kitchenette with basic meal preparation facilities, so think about whether you would like to fix your own meals. This could even help manage your budgets. Also research about the restaurants and food joints near your hotel, if you don’t want to stay restricted to the options your hotel provides you.

Can Scooby Doo join you?

Don’t want to leave your pet behind while you enjoy a vacation? Quite a few hotels let animals stay in room with guests. On the flip side, if you want a pet-free zone be sure to find out. The best way is to inquire on email regarding the hotel’s pet policy.

Enroll into a loyalty program

Travel a lot? Become a member of a hotel chain’s loyalty program. Usually big brands in the industry have a hotel in many countries and top locations. By becoming a member, you know the quality of experience you are likely to receive and you may be able to bag special offers and deals.

Your credit card can also help you score a discount out partner hotels.

[Compare credit cards in the UAE and apply online]

Have a conversation

While most of your research for the hotel can be accomplished online, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and talk to them directly. You can ask as many questions as you like to ensure your needs are met with and you may also get an idea of the service quality you are likely to get with the hotel’s demeanor on the phone.