I have to admit, I hate booking a hotel online. It is probably my least favorite part of planning a trip. Through all my travels, I can’t say I have found ONE site that I love more than another. They all have their pros and cons.
Honestly we try to avoid staying in a hotel if we can and tend to base our vacations around visiting and staying with the many friends and family we have all over the world. Not everyone is so lucky though. Here is what I’ve done in the past and lessons I’ve learned about booking a hotel online:
1. I love using TripAdvisor.com for their reviews.
I trust their reviews and generally if there are enough bad comments on a hotel, even with more positive, I stay away. The few times I have ignored the comments and arrived at the hotel I’ve said to myself “well, you knew what you were getting into as you DID read those reviews.”
2. Understand the rules.
Last year I used Hotels.com for the first time. I had an office job that involved travel and had several hotel nights I would need over the year. As a registered user at Hotels.com after booking 10 qualified nights, you get one free. Also, hotels.com sends out emails with great last-minute deep discounts.
The drawback of booking on hotels.com or any similar site is that you may not get the points from the hotel reward program if you use one of these sites, so look into this. We learned the hard way on a trip to Florida that we would not receive Starwood points at a Holiday Inn Express because we had booked on Hotels.com.
3. Make sure you are logged into whatever site you are booking with.
What was worse about our situation in #2 is somehow I logged out of hotels.com before booking for that trip so we didn’t even get ‘credit’ towards the 10 nights. Seems like an amateur move so you can imagine how frustrated and confused I was!
4. Compare prices across sites.
Many times we now book directly with a hotel if we can’t find a better deal. This gives us more flexibility in case we have to cancel last-minute or if the hotel has an issue you generally get notification directly.
5. No matter where you book, confirm directly with the hotel.
I used Expedia.com a few years ago and although I love the site and deals, somehow when we arrived at the hotel they did not have our reservation. We still don’t know what happened but the hotel told us they never received our booking from Expedia. I can’t imagine this happens now as they are such a big company, but you never know. Confirm those reservations!
6. Using points is a nice option if you’ve accumulated them.
We used Hilton points for our last night in San Francisco as we had an early flight at the end of our trip, so we wanted to stay near the airport. It worked out well.
7. When booking international, remember that somewhere there are fees for the foreign exchange rate.
With our old credit card (Citibank AAdvantage) we had a “foreign exchange fee” that usually appeared after we paid the hotel. Maybe one day this will change. Better yet, look for credit cards that don’t have foreign exchange fees (I’m working on this one to share with you!).
8. Book with a kitchenette when traveling with kids.
If you are traveling with kid(s) like us, we would rather have some sort of kitchenette as it makes life easier on vacation. When booking with the sites I’ve mentioned so far there is no guarantee you will get this. For our week-long vacations where this is necessary, we have used VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner). You can search by number of bedrooms, location type, features, etc. and generally find something in your budget too.
There are plenty of other sites out there that will help you with your travel needs. On occasion I use Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline but there are lots of newer sites out there that we are still working our way through (like kayak.com, although it’s really not new anymore!). There are so many sites for booking a hotel online that you really have to find the one that fits your needs best and go from there. Or you can be like us and just mooch off of family and friends!
I’d love to hear your tips or tales on what your preference is in booking a hotel online so we can try it out and share what we find. Feel free to include a link to your blog post about that service if you have one!