Mar 23

Check Your Hotel's Rating

There is simply no worldwide or even national U.S. standard rating for hotel quality. That five-star hotel you saw advertised online may not be as deluxe as the three-star in some other locale or country. We've been unpleasantly surprised to find that the “budget” three-star hotel we selected can cost more than the luxury hotel elsewhere in town. So, how do know what to do when you go hotel hunting?

A recent article in the Detroit Free Press describes how the same hotel in Chicago has ratings that range from 2 to 4.5 stars, depending on the organizations, which range from Mobil Travel Guide and AAA to Yahoo, Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity.

First of all, you have to know how the different, reliable agencies rate hotels. In the U.S., the two most recognized brands are Mobil and AAA, the “benchmark” raters, according to the Free Press. AAA has been rating hotels on a scale of five “diamonds” for a generation, and uses professional raters to measure more than 32,000 hotels in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean. The Mobil Travel Guide has been in use for nearly 50 years. Both use professional inspectors to evaluate factors such as housekeeping, room service, hospitality and lodging amenities.

Today's Internet technology permits readers to rate hotels on their own. has both editors' and readers' ratings, based on four criteria, and the two don't always agree.

Internationally, many countries, particularly in Europe, have government- or agency-run ratings systems, usually on a scale of 0-5 stars. But this article from the German Hotel and Restaurant Association's rating system indicates that the expectations for hotels are usually based on domestic travelers' desires. So, a French hotel may lose a star for lacking a bidet, but a Greek hotel would lose that extra star for not having air conditioning.


  • Great post. As someone who does a lot of traveling - I have witnessed this first hand. I look forward to looking through some of the referenced rating guides. Keep the tips coming... Another tip I would like to give is I first tried priceline a few years ago for flights - and hated it. Not being able to select the time of flights did it in for me.

    I recently found out that priceline is FANTASTIC for hotels and car rentals. Make sure you select 'name your own price' at - and off you go. I have found that I can usually get a midsize car for about $16/day - and hotels usually come in at half price. Unfortunately you can not pick the actual hotel - you pick the section of the town your visiting and the star rating (which is what prompted me to post here) - but so far I have had great success - I have been to NYC a number of times - usually get a great hotel room in Midtown for $95 (Paramount comes up the most), and have also had success in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Miami. Best of luck...

    Mar 26
  • I travel for a living - and though it has taken me some time to learn to "see" past the ratings on most hotel websites, it has become close to second nature when I look for hotels online. Many factors contribute to a hotel's ratings. Factors that differ from one source to the next. For instance, large hotel websites like and travelocity factor in things like location and whatever else the hotel might forge on a standard amenity check-list issued by the hotel. For instance, a hotel might checkmark multiple catagories that in truth boil down to a single amenity, like, say, Interent access, and then public Internet, and then wireless Internet. So, what is really just wireless Internet, is seen by the hotel website as 3 different amenities. I know that there are more efficient, more discriminating hotel websites out there that substitute integrity for this, shall we say, smoke and mirror effect. Sites like Reserve Discount Rooms, Travel Helper, and Travel Now, though smaller in regards to number of cities and the hotels within those cities, are much more reliable when booking online and maintain their own criteria for hotel ratings.

    Mar 25