We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. At no extra cost to you, I only recommend products I have experience with.

If you’re looking for more than a cookie cutter hotel experience, you’re likely looking for an independently owned, family-owned or a unique hotel. These are not always easy to find via the big websites. Granted, sometimes your major booking engines do have the smaller unique hotels, but not every family-run hotel finds it easy or even feasible to join these larger sites.


One of the things we look for when choosing lodging is an authentic experience. A few weeks ago I wrote about choosing either a home rental or hotel. We have found that we can get the same authentic experiences doing both. While you may need a little research to find a unique hotel, I can offer a few travel planning tips to get you there faster.



Start Local

Find the local and official visitors bureau or CVB (convention/visitors bureau) and do searches there. Most will have listings for places to stay and the smaller hotels find these sites a good use of their investment. Recently, when I stayed at Cay Pointe, I found them through the Visit St. Pete/Clearwater visitors bureau website.

How to Find a Unique Hotel - East Shore Resort Clearwater

If I’m heading to an area, I also like to follow the local visitor centers on Twitter and Instagram. These sites will tweet out recommendations and post pictures of top attractions and places to stay. On Instagram, you can also see what hashtags they use and search for more content that way. For example, some popular hashtags in Florida include #LoveFL, #SunshineState #VisitFlorida. If you do a search on hashtags, Instagram will also suggest related hashtags.


Be careful! You can easily get sidetracked searching on Instagram!

Go Bigger

Search the state or country’s visitor sites. Google “Visit _______” and you’ll likely find what you’re looking for. On this post, I’ll list the US 50 States visitors websites. Some of the various countries might be a bit more tricky to find, so search using “Official {country name} visitors bureau.”

Not only will you find extensive hotel, bed & breakfasts, resorts, campgrounds, etc. but you’ll have a wealth of information about activities and best of lists of things to do.

Bed and Breakfasts are almost always independently owned. I’m a little obsessed with BedandBreakfast.com right now. They have a ton of great listings and beautiful photos.

Trip Advisor

Tried and (mostly) true Trip Advisor includes listings for independently owned hotels. You can even filter your searches to include only those hotels in a designated area.

I am wary of reviews on Trip Advisor and read them closely. Not all bad reviews are the hotel’s fault (some people are just grumpy) and not all good reviews are real (yes, people get paid to put fake reviews up.) Knowing that I still believe that most of the reviews you find, especially for the independent hotels, are authentic. Since Trip Advisor is a free site, you’ll find most unique hotels listed here.



In my opinion, Pinterest is a better place to search than Google, largely because it’s blogger content (yeah, I’m a blogger… of course I think that) but also because it’s visual. Search Pinterest for unique stays and you’ll come up with hundreds of unique hotel places to stay. Need some inspiration, you can view my unique stays board to get started.


Word of Mouth

Not sure if we think of this often, but we’re all on social media right? Put it out there to your friends and family and ask, “Where should I stay in ____.” Who knows what you might hear?


With that… what’s your favorite independent or unique hotel that you’ve stayed in? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you.


Want more? Keep reading Part 2 of How to Find and Book a Unique Hotel.

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