If you're the adventurous sort who enjoys your travel off the beaten path, but still digs excellent accomodation, Lonely Planet's Haystack is serving up a unique 'invitation only' booking service that features only properties that have been chosen, visited, reviewed and recommended by a Lonely Planet author.
"Whenever you go checking places out grumpy hotel owners say "Why do you guys come at such difficult times?" and that's exactly why we do it. We want to see places at their best and worst," explains one of Lonely Planet's intrepid authors. "First thing in the morning when people are checking out is always a good time to see how people handle being busy, plus there's always a helpful cleaner who might let you see a room that you might not otherwise have caught on the grand tour. The most important thing is to avoid the "official tour," where the people at the desk get the manager and you get shown how light switches work or invited for a cup of tea. Sometimes this can mean sneaking around the front desk or talking to people who are staying there or even just breaking up that tour by saying "What about these rooms?" You have to review against what you're being shown, which often means being pretty annoying to hotel staff." Adds another of their authors: "I don't really jump on beds, but I do look closely to see that the bedspreads are clean (I hate gunky-looking patterned bedspreads), suss out the bathrooms for water pressure and mould, test the windows to see if they can be opened and open wardrobes to look for wire coat hangers (yuck!). I often check minibar prices to see if they're extortionate, and I like to look at communal areas to see how guests and guests of guests are treated. I like to say hello to the people who clean the rooms to, you can tell a lot about a place by the greeting that's returned - and I think everyone in a hotel/motel or wherever should be happy to be there, even if it's for work."
In fact, many of their properties were not previously bookable online through any other service. "We are inviting our favorite properties from around the globe to join the service -- whether it's a backpackers in Sydney, an eco-resort in Yap, or a boutique hotel in Rome," says Dan Christian, Lonely Planet's Haystack Product Manager. "Haystack is a unique service in that every property listed is recommended as a great place to stay. Every property review is 100% independent and written by an experienced travel writer." Currently, Haystack boasts over 1000 properties in more than 58 countries, and more are being added all the time. "Haystack will continue to grow daily as more destinations and properties are added to the site throughout 2007 and beyond."
For more info, visit Haystack.LonelyPlanet.com.
- The Travel Snob