Several travel adventures are planned for our upcoming year. While just going and finding places to stay along the way with no planning ahead might sound adventurous, it's not in my DNA. I need to know where I'm placing my head on a pillow each night. When we book our stays, we consider quite a few things besides price and availability starting with the reviews on TripAdvisor. Look at the good and bad reviews and the dates they were posted. Things may have changed since the most recent review listed there.
Beware of those pictures on the hotel website that are just really too good to be true. You can make anything look really good with the right angle, lighting and a little computer magic. Check out the photos on TripAdvisor that have been taken by people who actually stayed there. They'll be a lot more realistic.
When the place we want to stay is in an area we are really not familiar with, we drop one of those little yellow men that Google has on its Google Maps page in a spot where we can look around and see what the neighborhood looks like. It's been helpful too when we arrive especially if we are on foot and dragging luggage. A few landmarks as seen on Google Maps makes us feel a little more secure about finding our hotel without getting lost. It certainly would have been helpful years ago when we booked a hotel that was nice enough but in the middle of a bunch of car factories in a German city.
An email to confirm or even a phone call will help to verify the kind of service you can expect. If your accommodations are in a foreign country it also helps to know that they can respond in English if necessary.
And if you are really paranoid about bed bugs, you might want to check the bed bug registry. It's a place where you can check to see if there was ever a problem with bed bugs that was reported. I don't know how reliable it is. There are some really nice hotels on the list and some of the reports are very old. Best advice is to check the TripAdvisor reviews and then always check the bed before you drop your suitcases. Here's a link to a USA Today article on how to check.
A little careful planning helps keep that travel adventure memorable in a good way.