Last week Jesse and I celebrated our five year anniversary. We had talked about going on a trip, just the two of us, but decided that heading to the Sonoma Mission Inn together would be enough of a getaway.

I've stayed at the hotel a handful of times over the years and realized there are some tips and tricks for making the most out of your visit. A lot of people ask me where to stay in Sonoma and without hesitation I say the Sonoma Mission Inn. But after our most recent visit I now will have a longer answer.

Okay, here it goes:

Book direct. I know this from consulting with a hotel-- always book direct. Every time you book through a third party booking agent like TripAdvisor or or Expedia, the hotel has to pay a commission rate to them and the hotels don't like that. Booking direct ensures that all of the revenue goes directly to the hotel. In my opinion, you will get better service, more likely for upgrades, and more leverage if there is something you are not particularly pleased about.

Visit Sonoma Mission Inn year around and actually stay in the off-season. This was a big epiphany for me when Jesse and I went. I love the hotel and the ambiance but the truth of the matter is that Sonoma is getting busier and busier, especially with summer and peak early fall weddings. A lot of weddings get blocks of hotel rooms and it causes the prices of the remaining rooms to go up since they have limited supply. I don't think paying $500+ for a room in the Main Building is a good use of vacation funds.

My suggestion is to visit the hotel and get a treatment at the Willow Stream spa and spend all day at the three pools and bath house during the summer and fall. Then I suggest heading up for a girls weekend in November or December (like my sisters and I did) when you have the hotel to yourself and can get the best rooms on the property-- the Mission Suites-- at a GREAT price!

If you're visiting Sonoma during the summer you will be going wine tasting and the hotel is a drive to wineries off of Highway 12, as well as to the Sonoma Square. It's not a great location if you're visiting from out of town and want to see and do everything in Sonoma.

Go with friends and stay in a Mission Suite. This is my real suggestion. The Mission Suites are great, newly updated, comfortable and perfect for a girls weekend. I don't think I can stay in a non-Mission Suite again. Jesse and I were in the Junior Suite and it was lovely but you cannot beat the Mission Suite. Buttttt, they're pricey-- so go for a girls trip or a bachelorette party.

I love the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn very much and have always had great experiences here but I have been surprised recently at the astronomical prices for their rooms and I have to tell you it's because there are no other big hotels in the area. I really do suggest you check out this hotel because the ambiance at the pool and around the grounds is so peaceful and transports you to another place, but I suggest going for a mid-week visit or an off-peak-season visit.