Planning a trip is an exciting endeavor, but finding the perfect hotel can be overwhelming. With countless options available online, choosing the right accommodation can be a daunting task. However, with the right knowledge at your disposal, you can master the art of hotel booking so you can choose the right hotel for you, as well as save money and avoid hassles.
In this article, we’ll delve into the best hotel booking tips so you can have a pleasant stay and travel like a pro.
1. Choose the right location
As with everything else, when it comes to hotel booking, it’s all about location. Consider what’s essential for your trip- proximity to tourist attractions, commercial establishments, or a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle.
Even when you’re on a tight budget, keeping location in mind is extremely useful. Don’t just book a hotel because of low rates. You may find that a hotel with good rates is far from the tourist spots in your itinerary, in which case you might find yourself spending more time and money on transport.
Research the neighborhood, read reviews, and use online maps to get a sense of the area before making a decision.
2. Check reviews and ratings
One of the things that you should do before booking a hotel is to read reviews and check ratings online. Read up on real travelers’ experiences to get valuable insights into the state of hotel facilities, quality of service, and overall guest satisfaction. We find that this is particularly important in the post-pandemic era, as hotel establishments have to reestablish their business after the long pause in tourism.
Check trusted review sites for hotel accommodations such as Google Maps. It usually has many reviews and you can even filter for the most recent ones to have a feel of the current status of the hotel.
While you should consider low ratings, take in mind that they may be isolated cases. When reading reviews, it’s best practice to look for consistent trends.
3. Consider the amenities
Different hotels offer various amenities — from on-site restaurants to swimming pools, fitness centers, spa services, and more. Make a list of the amenities that you deem essential for your stay and filter your hotel choices accordingly.
If you know you’re mostly staying out, you might consider staying in a hotel with minimal amenities and lower rates instead.
4. Booking direct vs. third-party websites
One of the most frequently asked questions when booking hotels is this: Is it better to book directly with the hotel or through a third-party website? Each has its pros and cons, and oftentimes, it really comes down to a matter of preference.
A lot of travelers prefer to book directly with the hotel since it is a safe option. Furthermore, it may also come with perks such as exclusive discounts or loyalty points. By booking directly, you will also find it easy to make modifications to your booking and get a refund (full or partial) as necessary.
If budget is not an issue, then it’s best to book directly with the hotel. You can also call them and see if they can price match the rates published on other websites.
On the other hand, third-party websites often provide a wide range of options and competitive prices. However, the problem with this is that it comes with a certain risk. In some cases, you may encounter issues such as the hotel having no record of your booking or being provided an incorrect room and having to jump through hoops to have it resolved.
The best tip we can give you when using a third-party booking website is to call the hotel and confirm your booking prior to your trip. Ask for the confirmation number, which is a guarantee that you have indeed a record in the hotel.
Either choice works. Just choose one that best suits your budget and preferences.
5. Flexible booking options
Flexibility can be your best friend when booking a hotel. While it’s enticing to book non-refundable rooms for their low rates, it also comes with risks. If there is a chance that your travel will be subject to change (due to weather conditions, etc.), then it’s best to look for hotels that offer free cancellation or flexible booking options.
6. Consider loyalty programs
If you travel frequently, consider joining a hotel loyalty program. Which hotel you choose depends on your preference and where you usually travel to.
Loyalty programs often offer perks like discounts on bookings (e.g., with Hilton Hotels you won’t have to pay resort fees and taxes), as well as room upgrades, late check-out, lounge access, and/or breakfast. Furthermore, by accumulating points you may also avail of free nights or other benefits, which makes it extremely useful for frequent traveling.
7. Timing matters
Timing can significantly impact hotel prices. Travel pros know that booking well in advance can secure you lower hotel rates, and as such, seasoned travelers often book months prior to their trips. At the same time, last-minute bookings can also yield discounted prices as hotels try to fill empty rooms.
If you’re still feeling confused about when to book your accommodations, then you can follow the advice of a 2021 study by NerdWallet, which indicates that the best time to book a hotel for savings is 15 days before your scheduled trip.
Additionally, you may also consider traveling during off-peak seasons to take advantage of reduced rates and fewer crowds.
8. Negotiate for better deals
Asking for better rates is one of the most useful “old-school” hotel booking tips that we can give you. We can’t guarantee that it will work all the time, as it usually depends on the hotel – but you’ll be surprised at the discounts or upgrades they may be willing to offer.
Call the hotel directly or ask the front desk for their best deals, especially if you’re looking for a longer stay or a special occasion, such as a wedding or honeymoon. Remember, being polite and flexible can go a long way in securing a better deal.
9. Use a credit card
It’s always a good idea to use a credit card when booking hotels. You can enjoy rewards such as airline miles, cash-back, and even free night stays, depending on your credit card type. They also offer fraud protection and immediate refunds for recharges, which will save you a lot of headaches when an issue arises, as compared to having to wait for your refund for weeks when using a debit card.
It’s also worth noting that even if you bring cash, you may still need to bring a card to cover incidental charges that may occur during your stay.
10. Stay safe and secure
Lastly, prioritize your safety and security when booking a hotel. Look for properties in a good neighborhood and equipped with essential security measures, such as well-lit parking lots, secure entrances, and in-room safes.
Additionally, consider checking for health and safety measures in light of any ongoing health concerns or pandemics.
Booking the best hotel for your trip is a manageable task. By utilizing these expert hotel booking tips, you can ensure a fun and comfortable stay during your trips.
Do you have other tips when booking a hotel? Let us know in the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).