Your hotel choice may be the most important decision you make when planning a trip. An ugly, poorly or smelly hotel room, or a room with no internet access or a broken TV, can easily ruin a trip. And you have pay for that hotel room every day. A hotel that has a low base rate but doesn’t include any amenities can often end up costing you more than a hotel that includes complimentary everything.
So, here are some tips to get the best room in the best location at the best price:
1. Booking at the wrong time
As most procrastinators will readily admit, waiting until the last minute to make travel plans can have dire consequences for your credit card balance. Hotel rates can soar in the days leading up to a particular date, and you could be left without a room if everything books up (or if nothing left is within your budget). On the other hand, being an advanced planner can have its own disadvantages: Sure, you may want to have all of your travel ducks in a row as soon as possible, but it can actually cost you money to book your hotel room too early.
The fix: There are no easy answers as to when, exactly, is the best time to book a hotel room. Rates depend on many factors: location, seasonality, convention crowds, even weather. As a general rule of thumb, booking more than 21 days ahead of your arrival date is a no-no for the most popular destinations; you’ll be putting yourself at risk for jacked-up prices. Your best bet is to start checking prices at least 40 days in advance and monitor the trend. If prices seem to go up, book.
2. Not comparing prices
Saw a hotel you loved advertised at a “great price!” and immediately plunked down a credit card number and booked? Wrong: Without doing proper research, you could be missing out on big savings.
The fix: When it comes to prices, compare, compare, compare. Use websites that have meta-search functionality (which means that they show multiple prices from multiple booking sites in one window).
3. Sign up to websites and receive notifications about deals
Most of us are familiar with all the annoying pop-up ads that take over our screen when we enter hotel websites. So, we tend to intuitively close them and continue to searching the hotel’s website. But if you’re planning to go on vacation soon then you should definitely enter your email address and wait for special offers these webs offer.
Many times the supplier, e.x. Booking.com, buys a large quantity of rooms in certain hotels and “get stuck” with many rooms left empty, and then there’s a situation in which prices of rooms, even in hotels that are considered excellent, go down drastically – and the first to know are the people signed up to get notifications from the site.
This is also relevant for the hotels’ actual websites, too. When the hotel predicts that it won’t be fully booked, they offer special deals via e-mail to attract more customers.
4. Don’t believe everything that is written about the hotel
Every hotel presents information formally describing the facilities and the experience the hotel provides, but sometimes there’s a huge gap between what’s written and reality. Therefore, you should read previous costumers’ reviews and figure out exactly what advantages and disadvantages are from a real perspective.
People tend to write about the level of cleanliness, the food quality, room service and surroundings. Websites that provide these kind of reviews are Booking.com, TripAdvisor and others, but you can also find more reviews by typing the hotel name in Google and adding the word “review”.
5. Type of the room
Hotels offer a variety of room types according to different budgets – from standard rooms to presidential suites. When booking a room, pay attention to the relevant room to the pricing on the site (they usually present the cheapest price for the standard room) – what the room’s size is, where the windows face (if there are windows) and how the bathroom looks.
Usually the rate increases with a better view (rooms with sea views are more expensive than rooms facing the pool).
Please note that the sites often show the exact same images for the different types of rooms, in which case the pretty pictures are mostly likely of the better room – take it into consideration and check other sites, too.
6. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of breakfast
The actual per-night difference between a hotel that offers a solid continental (or even full) breakfast included in the rate compared to one that offers a €23 buffet can be significant. You can usually find out this information on the hotel website or by calling the front desk directly. Since most folks prefer to breakfast at their hotel, this is an important question if you are concerned about your budget.
7. Don’t take internet access for granted
If you absolutely need internet access, you need to consider it part of your nightly hotel budget when comparing prices. A hotel where you save $10/night but then pay $19.95 a day for internet is no savings at all. This is a tricky one, though, so make sure you check this closely; internet access may be free for loyalty members but not other guests, for instance.
Additionally, some hotels have started charging for access per device, or sometimes allowing only two devices per paying customer. If more than one person is staying in the room, this can become a problem, as most folks connect with at least two devices these days (e.g., a laptop and a smartphone). So, check the fine print!
8. Don’t forget to check if the hotel has an airport shuttle
Starting and ending a trip by hauling massive bags through an unfamiliar subway system can be a grueling experience. But getting to and from your hotel in a taxi can be expensive, especially since most airports are quite a distance from the nearest city center. When considering the cost of one hotel vs. another, you will want to know whether the airport offers a complimentary hotel shuttle.
9. Pay attention to the fine print
So you found a hotel that looks great and is also located in the hottest place in town, and surprisingly, the price is also excellent – even too good to be true. Wait just a minute before you get excited and charge your credit card! Did you read the fine print?
First of all, check the cancellation policy – will you be charged an extra fee in case of cancellation? And if so, how much time in advance can you cancel at no extra cost? What about breakfast – is it included in price of the room, or do you need to add extra money for it? Are taxes included? Many cities collect additional taxes that aren’t included in the room’s rate, and they tell you only when you checkout.
10. Don’t be afraid to call the hotel directly
If you have a hotel that is showing no rooms available, or really high rates, or lack of availability of certain special needs rooms (pet-friendly, kid-friendly, etc.), you should call the hotel and ask directly. The front desk often has information about cancellations, additional rooms and more that may not immediately show up on hotel or booking sites.
Even if you have a simple question, such as “How much does internet access cost?” or “Is breakfast included?” a quick call to the hotel can settle pretty much any doubts you might have.