First of all, please keep reading reviews. Particularly ours and the ones from other BoardingArea bloggers but also those on TripAdvisor, Oyster and whatever other sites you want.
The question I’m asking is can reading too many reviews diminish our enjoyment from traveling? I’ll use hotel reviews as an example. For a popular hotel, it’s possible to find online reviews that will show you almost every inch of the hotel from the exterior to the lobby and full views of the room including the bathroom, closet and coffee maker. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting before you even go. Does that take away the wow factor we used to get when walking into a place not having any idea of what we were getting?
I’m writing this because I’m currently wrestling with this issue myself, after our recent trip to London and a stay at the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel. Here’s our review of the stay 🙂. While I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed our stay, I had a sense the whole time that somehow we were missing out on something. Here’s why:
I feel that I’ve been reading about the St. Pancras Renaissance hotel forever. Just before our visit there, Greg from Frequent Miler and Jon from No Mas Coach both posted about their stays (both of them were upgraded to a suite, just as we were by using our upgrade certificate). However, both of them were upgraded to a room over the base junior suite.
So when we checked in and were brought to our suite, it was a beautiful room but I still wasn’t overwhelmed by it. There was no music, such as a British fanfare, playing in the background. No dramatic lighting. It was just a very nice suite. But in my mind, it just wasn’t as nice as the other ones I’ve seen online. Should I have said something like “I know you have nicer suites, could I have one of those instead”?
Asking for a better room is totally not in my DNA. Well, maybe it is because, until this day, my father notoriously still never takes the first room he’s offered. Would I be happy with that other room or would I only be content if I asked for the exact suite where Greg or Jon stayed? (Wow, the more I typed that last sentence, it just got creepier and creepier, didn’t it?).
Now, this is really the first time I’m experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) when checking into a hotel. I will do research on hotels before we stay anywhere, usually too much (Note from Sharon: Gee, ya THINK? #rolleyes), but that’s to find out if the room layout will work (is there a desk to work at?) or if the hotel is in a suitable location. I don’t obsess over the room once I’m happy about what I booked. This stay was different because I was excited about staying at this hotel, and even moreso after our suite nights cleared. We were going to have an amazing stay in one of those rooms I saw online, and then we didn’t get that room.
I set myself up. I know I did. Building expectations to a point where it was impossible to overdeliver. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I was over the moon when I snagged a suite at the Park Hyatt Washington D.C. While the room was very large, what I was waiting to see was the bathroom, which looked amazing. It was since, the shower was bigger than the bathroom of the apartment where I grew up.
In this case, I got exactly what I was expecting and it was great.
Most of the other times I’ve been overly impressed with staying in a hotel, it’s because I wasn’t expecting what we received. The surprise increases the value of the experience. I can name so many of these off the top of my head.
- Getting the “brochure room” at the ryokan in Japan
- Staying at a Bright Angel Cabin at the Grand Canyon
- The upgrade we received at the Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg, Austria
In all of these examples, we either received an upgrade we weren’t expecting or there just aren’t any pictures that can capture the charm of a location.
So what did I learn from this experience? If it’s possible to relearn a lesson, for me it’s remembering not to get too excited over a single part of the vacation. Whether it’s flying on a specific type of plane, like Singapore Business, a specific activity on a group tour like Adventures by Disney or staying at a specific hotel, like the TWA Hotel, it’s OK to get excited but don’t build something up so much that you’re not going to enjoy it, no matter how nice it is.
You need to appreciate what you have in front of you instead of longing for what you don’t have. If you like reading reviews (and I hope you do), there’s nothing wrong about anticipating your trip. Just don’t get so hung up on the specifics. Maybe you won’t have the same experience as the review you read online. That’s OK because that experience was the one the writer had. Live your own adventure and make your own memories instead of spending your time comparing them to someone else.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary