- Terms of stay for children - children allowed?
- Size of Room
- Non-Smoking (usually non-negotiable)
Hotels that do not accept children usually won't even turn up in the search results.
And yes, non-smoking is almost non-negotiable. I can imagine a situation where I have to get a hotel in that location and there are no other choice except for a smoking room, and I might have to compromise, but generally, no.
Sometimes, other consideration may become paramount, but generally that is the order of priority.
For travel in Japan, because trains are convenient and ubiquitous, I value hotels closer to train stations. Unless it is a renowned ryokan with an outstanding onsen and some other special feature but is situated in a the middle of the wilderness to better enhance the rustic and primeval ambience. (Toss in a few dinosaurs and I'm sold!)
But in most cities, the network of trains and stations mean that most hotels are easily accessible. But if you know the place well, you might know for example, that you need to be near the main station and not just any subway station.
Also the first and last hotel needs to be accessible to the airport - either a "Limousine" airport shuttle (bus), or a rapid train service to the airport.
On the very first trip, I did not know the importance of this, and lugged two suitcases around Tokyo to get to the airport Limousine bus (I exaggerate, but it felt that way).
The second time, I planned better but was even luckier. I chose a hotel that is closer to the Limo bus pick-up point. Then found out that the bus would stop at the very hotel I was staying! Serendipity!
When it was just my wife and I travelling, the size of the room was not very important. But with a rambunctious toddler, space is essential for sanity.
Besides, she likes it.
Especially tatami rooms where she gets to play "tea party".
The two best rooms I've stayed it with my toddler were Hotel 1-2-3 Kobe, and Dormy Inn Asahikawa. In both those cases, I had booked a hybrid "Japanese-western" room with a "bedroom" area and a tatami room with traditional low table (Japanese style), and floor chairs or cushions (I'm sure there is a specific name or word for those cushions, but they elude me at this moment).
Now my daughter considers hotel rooms to be right and proper if they have a tatami room with "a dining table and chairs".
I think she might be onto something.
One of the best located hotels I ever booked was the Hotel Coco Grand Ueno Shinobazu. It had a little more space, although the rooms was odd-shaped. Enough space to include a massage chair.
It was close to the JR Ueno Station, and also the Keisei Ueno station. The Keisei station was the main reason I booked the hotel. It was the last hotel before I caught my homeward flight from Narita, and the Keisei Skyliner rapid airport service left from Keisei Ueno station.
Ueno is also famous for the Ameyayokocho night market. Hotel Coco Grand is just one street away from the nightly hustle and bustle.
We were also looking forward to a second visit to the Ueno Zoo. Which was only 10 minutes walk away, and the hotel sells discounted (group rate) tickets for the zoo.
All things considered, it was very conveniently located. Even if it exceeded my budget. But I feel it more than made up for it with their offerings.
I have not tried a traditional onsen. Some people who have, had fallen in love with it. I fear I might just fall asleep in it. I may try it one day. But because I haven't fallen in love with Onsen, it is not a feature I look for in a hotel. Besides, it's only for Japanese Hotels. Generally.
My wife has fallen in love with... electric blankets in NZ. She's excited for our next trip to Tasmania as some hotels promise electric blankets. It is to her what aircon is to me. :-)