Updated: Dec 4, 2019
It's not always easy booking a hotel, especially when you're booking in a foreign country with no idea about what to expect. So, I've put this blog post together to give you some of my best tips that I use when booking hotels online to ensure that you minimize your chances of taking unnecessary L's (L= losses, you'll probably see this lingo on the blog)
1. BOOK IN ADVANCE
I usually like to book in advance, especially if I'm going to a popular festival or concert out of town. When you book in advance you have a better chance of finding accomodation closer to the venue of where the event is happening and you're more likely to secure better prices which can help you save or reallocate the money to better uses. I always anticipate a high demand for hotels for these kind of events and book way in advance (sometimes even before tickets are out) to avoid spending an arm and a leg.
Side note: Booking 3-4 weeks in advance and on a Sunday is the recipe for best deals!
2. READING REVIEWS IS A MUST
Typically, I use www.booking.com to book most of my hotels, but on any platform that you decide to book with, It’s always worth checking the reviews of the hotel you're considering, since these sites usually have some really good and honest reviews on there from paying customers. This is essential, as you’ll be able to figure out pretty quickly which hotels are the real deal and worth staying at.
side note: when booking a hotel, always check the pictures. If the hotel doesn’t have any pictures of the bathroom? RUN. Lacking pictures of hotel facilities? SPRINT.
3. PLAN FIRST, BOOK LATER
Planning your itinerary FIRST and booking your hotel LATER is always a good idea. There’s no point in booking a hotel that's miles away from everything that you plan to do. You’ll end up spending an unnecessary amount of money on transport to and from your activities… unless you have cheaper alternative travel arrangements of course.
Side note: Just researching the activities and noting down the locations is enough to figure out where to stay, it doesn't have to be a detailed plan.
4. SKIP BUFFET BREAKFAST
In most hotels, the buffet breakfast isn't exactly cheap. Delicious? Yes, but certainly not cheap. It would definitely be cheaper to go and have breakfast in a local cafe or grab food while you're out. This will encourage you to go and discover nice and affordable eating spots around town.
Side note: If you plan to travel solo for the first time then I would recommend opting for half board (half board : choose breakfast lunch or breakfast and dinner). This will give you one less thing to worry about as you know that if all else goes wrong, you won't starve. Thank me later!
5. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH!
Find out the rules of the hotel and country you’re visiting BEFORE travelling. You’d be surprised that in some countries, they have VERY strict hotel rules. So if you’re going for a baecation then you would have to get a separate rooms from your partner,m unless you’re married and have a marriage certificate to prove it. Wild right
6. KNOW YOUR BOOKING SITES
In no particular order, here are a list of Google's top 10 hotel booking sites:
Hotel booking websites usually specialise in creating the best options for a specific category. For example, Agoda specialises in hotels in Asia, while anpother site not on this list Roomer offers customers rooms that have been cancelled at the last minute `at reduced rates (these reductions can reach up to 80 per cent!!!)
7. PRICE COMPARISON IS KEY
I can't stress enough how important it is to compare prices. When booking hotels, I notice small differences in prices across booking sites. Even if it's only a few pounds difference, money saved is money earned. You may be thinking 'How do I compare prices?'Well, you can often get a better price on the room you're booking when you use 'aggregator' sites which are sites that automatically compare the prices of hotels for you to give you the best rate. See below for examples of these sites:
Side note : While it's a general rule of thumb that most hotels will match the lowest price seen online when booking directly through them, some booking sites do the same! Hotel booking sites such as Hotels.com and Wotif often price match the cheapest quote discovered online. Even if you've already paid for your booking, they;re usually happy to refund the difference if you spot a lower rate elsewhere.
8. APPS ARE WHERE IT’S AT
Booking via apps can give you access too exclusive discounts and options that you wouldn’t be able to see on their website. For example;Expedia offers double the reward points when you download their app and book there.Some specific apps will allow you to check-in online One Night sells unsold rooms in 4 and 5* hotels in a few select cities in the US & London from 3pm on the same night (only when booking via the app).
9. BEWARE HIDDEN FEES
Always ensure you read the small-print. Sometimes, when booking hotels online there is information plugged about the fees that are included in your booking that are payable at the hotel. You should also be wary of the cancellation policies of the booking sites you’re using before booking. Other fees include resort and non-resort fees that have been recently introduced by some booking sites and destinations. If you’re visiting The Big Apple (NYC) and are staying in a major hotel, then you could be charged up to $40 per night on top of what you’ve already paid. This is called the “Urban destination charge”If you’re booking an Airbnb, then expect to pay 5-15% in charges on all booking, as well as cleaning fees for various properties. Although, if you have joined the loyalty scheme, then you could be exempt from these hidden charges (but sometimes only if you’ve booked using points).
10. USE FILTERS WHEN SEARCHING
To ensure that you’re getting all the inclusions in your hotel for the best price., make sure that you are using filters such as ‘Wifi-Included’ and ‘Late checkout’ when booking. Some hotels listed on Expedia offer guaranteed “free extras” such as room upgrades, late checkout and spa credit.
11. PAY NOW, NOT LATER OR PAY LATER, NOT NOW?
If you’re on a tight budget, then it’s always best to pay ASAP. Especially if the exchange rate is favourable to you at the time. That way it will lock in your accommodation at the strong currency rate, with the peace of mind that you won’t have to fork out more than you anticipated, if the exchange rate fluctuates in the lead up to your trip.
If you’re not too fussed about budget and are quite indecisive and you know it, then don’t pay until you get there. It gives you the opportunity to get your coins up, but also gives you the freedom to change your mind and go for another hotel, in which case nothing is lost. (This is dependent on you reading the small print- some hotels on booking cites do NOT offer cancellation options. In which case, pay and get it out of the way)
12. REMAIN FLEXIBLE TO SAVE $$
Most hotel booking sites are becoming increasingly diverse when it comes to the range of accommodations that they offer. Hotel booking sites such as Booking.com are actively competing with sites like Airbnb in offering all types of accommodation. From hostels, to houseboats, to castles and everything in between. So, if you’re a traveler on a budget that just cares about exploring and having somewhere to rest their head…these sites will be heaven for you. You can find reaaally cheap accommodation if you don’t restrict yourself to just hotels.
13. SHOP BUNDLE DEALS
You can make killer savings when you book packages that include transfers hotel and flights. For my solo Thailand trip, I booked it using www.teletextholidays.com and was really impressed because it was not only convenient, but it saved me money and everything went smoothly upon arrival. If you have a set budget for your holiday, you can also use booking sites like Wotif, which allows you to search deals by “package discount” or price.