If you don’t shop around then you’ll probably pay extra for the same hotel room on the same night. Every hotel booking site will have different commission rates, promotional offers and deals with the hotels so have a look around – and follow these three simple steps.
(1) Get the Best Hotel
We all have to work within a budget whether it’s big or small and even expensive hotels can be nasty to stay a night in. Remember this key tip the hotel star system is only based on facilities and not how good it is. So a five star hotel may have all the facilities including that shoe polishing service you were looking for but may treat you like doormat when you stay.
Expedia provides this guidance for the star system – but note that the star system also differs from one country to the next, so I wouldn’t rely on it – Star Ratings
Now there are several methods to finding a good hotel, and there are loads of tools now to help you.
Lonely Planet Guides
I have literally loads of these guides but I like to have a good read of them before I go anywhere to get familiar with the area. The guides also have some good information on neighbourhoods which I find really help in the decision making process on where to locate a hotel – is it close to the sights, transport or just next to that restaurant that you want to go to.
This is the resource that many tend to use these days. But sometimes it can be a little tricky.
Beware of the following:
- Hotels with few reviews (it could have just opened but statistically the reviews don’t give a fair indication yet)
- The history of the reviews – this can go either way. For example a hotel that was previously very good two years ago, could now have negative reviews but if you look at the TripAdvisor ratings they could still be showing 4/5. Look at the most recent reviews as a guide to how good it is at the moment. Similarly it could be going the other way, a hotel that was previously bad could now have had a change of management or recently been renovated and enjoys better ratings of late.
- Don’t be tempted to listen to the extremes. Everyone has their own experiences at a hotel, and no doubt this will end up with an average distribution of good to bad. If you just listen to the best or worst of reviews then you could be mis-informing yourself, listen to the majority, as this is most likely the experience you have.
- Check if your friends have been to the hotel. TripAdvisor has linked up with Facebook, so you can now see if your friends/family have stayed at a hotel in the location you’re going to. First hand advice is always great.
- Pay attention to the tips – Tripadvisor posts up traveler tips from those that have stayed at the hotel, there is no harm in request specific rooms etc.
- Don’t be afraid to use the filters – looking for a pool, or a business centre – its easy.
Other comparison sites
Most of the major travel site like Expedia, Hotels.com, or Trivago have their own traveler reviews and ratings, so even if you don’t use Tripadvisor I suggest that you use those as a guide.
(2) Get the best price!
So you found the perfect hotel, so check out its own website for a good deal first. If you book through a travel website such as Expedia they will take a slice of the profit from the hotel, sometimes up to 50%. So hotels will often actively encourage guests to book through their own websites with special deals. I stayed at the Langham in Hong Kong on a buy 2 nights get 3rd free, which was only advertised on their website and not on any of the travel sites, saving me 33%.
(3) Corporate Rates
Check to see if your company has corporate rates than you can use for personal use. If you work for a large firm these will often have a decent discount and you’ll still earn all your points as you’ll be booking direct.
(4) Use a price comparison website
There are loads of comparison websites out there now but the decent International ones are the following:
Trip Advisor – They have added a number of brokers and hotel chains when you look at the various hotels. It’s a handy quick reference to see how expensive the hotel is likely to be for your visit. Tripadvisor also gives indications of current deals on at the hotel.
Trivago – One of my favourite websites for checking out hotel prices. In just a few seconds it checks hundreds of different websites by scraping hundreds of brokers and hotel chains. Trivago also has a very simple search box, and a good number filters including those that you are often interested in – breakfast, wifi etc. The One thing that you should be aware of is that the website shows potential savings in red which are often not that reliable.
Kayak – they have expanded beyond the flight searches that we are familiar with using them for. The site now also looks at Hotels as well. The search is relatively simple and offers a decent amount of filters to use for your personal preferences. On the downside you don’t see the Tripadvisor reviews, nor do you see what is actually included in the price that is shown – you still need to do a bit of work on what the “real price” is.
Skyscanner – Similar to Kayak Skyscanner has branched out into the Hotel booking business. The search is again relatively simple, and offers a great range of filter options with what I think is a good simple interface. I haven’t used it as extensively as Trivago or Tripadvisor but it’s definitely worth a mention.
(5) – Look out for taxes and other fees
As already mentioned many of the headline prices do not include taxes – sometimes up to 10-15% of the room price. Some of the websites only show you the full true price when you click through to the final page for booking – something which I personally hate.
Also watch for sites which have rooms ‘on request’. This only means it’s being requested from the hotel, not that there’s actually a room available. Be careful not to go for one of these and lose a firm cheap deal elsewhere
(6) – Loyalty Points
Remember that if you book through a travel agent such as Expedia you are unlikely to get your loyalty points for your stay so if that is something important to you then consider that. Personally I will tend to see what the cheapest price is a do a short calculation as to whether it is worth booking through the actual hotel. They will sometimes offer a “Best Rate guarantee” which are worth checking out.