If you’ve read my Bio then you’ll be aware that I used to work for LateRooms.com. Before I worked there, my experience of booking hotels had been confined to the odd business trip with work and an occasional package holiday. Working in the travel industry was a real eye-opener – but not because of any particular ‘insider’ knowledge.
Instead, what surprised me the most is how little I understood about the best way to shop for a hotel room.
Here’s my top 10 tips on how to get more for your money when you’re shopping for hotel rooms!
Metasearch means instead of getting results from one search engine, you’ll be getting the best combined results from a variety of engines. In the context of hotels, this means you can go onto one site and search for the best prices over a series of hotel providers.
TripAdvisor, Trivago and Kayak are examples of this and are good tools to use to check initial prices.
On thing to be mindful of with using metasearch engines is that not all hotel providers are on them which of course means the best price might be elsewhere on the internet! In fact some of the bigger providers specifically are not listed! Be careful of this!
2. Don’t assume direct bookings are the cheapest
One thing people always used to say to me was that I should book direct for the best deals. My experience has taught me this isn’t necessarily the case. Sometimes this might be because there are pricing agreements in place with the agents which mean that they have ‘best price guarantees’ or similar.
Sure, check the direct booking rates, but don’t just assume it will be the best available rate.
3. Don’t assume late bookings are the cheapest bookings
Last minute trips used to be dirt cheap but in recent years the way prices change as the arrival date gets closer is a lot less predictable.
Unless you’re willing to be flexible, book early for a better chance of getting a hotel you like for the price you like.
4. Book now, even if you don’t know if you’re definitely going!
As soon as you have dates in mind act fast to get a hotel booked. This is especially the case where you’re travelling for an event! When I got a place in the Great North Run, I forgot to get myself a hotel booked and ended up looking for one 5 months ahead of the race. By this point, availability was very low in the area and prices for hostel like accommodation were astronomical!
Considering a lot of hotels and booking agents have free cancellation policies, there really is no harm in getting something booked as early as possible. If you find out later that you don’t want to go or that you’d rather stay somewhere else – you can change it!
5. Can’t reduce the price? Get upgraded.
Price wars between hotel booking agents can only drive the prices down so far before there’s a matter of pennies in it. If there’s not much in the price between a direct booking and an agent booking, that is the best time to call the hotel directly.
Whilst they might not be able to offer you any discounts, you might be able to snag some cheeky little upgrades such a better room type, champagne in the room or meal vouchers. Worth a try, right?!
6. Be flexible on Location
It’s always worth considering staying a little bit out of town, especially if you’re going to be hiring a car. We saved hundreds of dollars staying slightly outside of the main park when we visited Yosemite and saved over 350 euros by staying 15 minutes outside of Geneva when we visited the car show there.
Many cities have excellent public transport links so you could save yourself a small fortune simply by being willing to take a short tram ride from your hotel tot he tourist hotspots.
Having said that, if you really want to be in the right part of town – don’t settle for less. Know what you want and be prepared to stump up when you really have to. When we visited New York we knew we wanted a nice hotel near Central Park and close to a big Subway station so we didn’t have to cart our suitcases too far!
7. Don’t be bamboozled by star ratings
A 4 star hotel in New York is likely to be a very different standard to a 4 star hotel in a developing country. Use your brainp and don’t be afraid to go for a more basic (and lower star rating) in big modern cities in order to save a bit of cash.
It’s about ignoring your inner snob when the time is right. Choosing a lower star rating need not be a bad thing – many lower star rated hotels have amazing customer review scores. Check out TripAdvisor for honest consumer reviews if you’re a bit concerned you might end up slumming it by accident.
8. Don’t pay £25 for breakfast
Sounds obvious. In practice though often the room rates for bed and breakfast are equal to room only plus breakfast costs.
In other words, unless there’s a discount involved with booking B&B then you might as well give yourself the flexibility of deciding whether you’d like a hotel breakfast on the morning of that meal (provided you’re up in time and not too jet lagged to eat)!
Also, watch out for extortionate breakfast costs disguised as part of the overall cost of your hotel stay. If you wouldn’t normally pay £25 for breakfast in a restaurant, why are you paying for it in your hotel?
9. Don’t pay for what you won’t use
That luxury hotel with a gym, pool, spa, 24 hour room service, inclusive drinks, inclusive washing and ironing service and free wine reception on a Friday night might sound like excellent value for money but it really isn’t unless you were planning on using those services anyway.
Let’s be honest – every person who stays at that hotel is paying towards covering the cost of the whole operation inclusive of those added extras. If you don’t need it, don’t pay for it. Either go room only or find a hotel which offers a more tailored pricing option.
10. Plan properly!
Study the art of holiday maximisation so you can make the most of both your time and your money when booking your holidays. Take advice of the professionals. Follow blog posts and speak to travel agents so you can make informed hotel choices and be excited about your stay!