PCWorld, known best as a technology publication, sometimes ventures out of that sphere, as in this article about the best hotels for business travelers. It references recent surveys by JD Power & Associates and Consumer Reports to gauge overall satisfaction with dozens of hotel chains, from budget chains to luxury "collections". The overall winners? Ritz-Carlton in the Luxury category (no surprise), Homewood Suites in the Extended Stay category (great for out of town trials), Renaissance and Embassy Suites in the Upscale category. I like Renaissance hotels, but prefer Westins when possible. (Love that Heavenly Bed!)
I must admit I gladly trade free in-room wireless for my Heavenly Bed. Most upscale and luxury hotels (except Omni Hotels) charge $12-15 a day for acccess, while most mid-scale and budget hotels include it for free. So when I can't get the bed I want, my next criteria for selecting a hotel is free WiFi. HotelChatter has the Best WiFi Hotel list to help make the right choice.
Booking hotels through travel sites is quick, but surprisingly don't always offer the best deals. I use travel sites to find good deals, but then call my selected hotel directly to inquire about local or unadvertised deals. Sometimes that simple phone call pays off: Not long ago I called the Omni Parker House in Boston and was quoted a rate for a standard room. I asked if they had larger rooms for families. Yes they did, came the reply. They had deluxe rooms that were twice as large, but the same rate as the standard room. If the phone inquiry doesn't yield a bargain, I book through the website. I seem to trust websites more these days to get it right!
The PCWorld article also referenced my favorite travel website, TripAdvisor. This site has saved me from disasters several times, including a time I was booked into the Beverly Hilton. I learned from recent traveler posts on TripAdvisor that the hotel was being renovated, so I called in advance and requested a room away from the construction. Other people at the hotel complained all week about the noise and debris, while I was in a quiet, newly-renovated room. The site is also great for getting restaurtant recommendations, although I prefer Chowhound too.
Finally, my brother-in-law introduced me to the best rental car website called RentalCarMomma.com. Not only is it a great name, but they often have the best prices from major brands across the country.
I will close this post and resist the temptation to complain about the quality of air travel today. As my mother taught me, "if you don't have anything nice to say about a person or airline industry, then don't say anything!"