Do you know where to look to find your ideal hotel?
If you do a quick google search you’ll find any number of hotel booking websites with thousands of hotels at your chosen destination. So how do you decide which one is the perfect hotel for you? You can use this advice for hostels and apartment rentals too, not just hotels. It’s all about where you search and how.
I think that finding the right hotel is one of the most important parts of your holiday. We’ve been pretty lucky with our choice of accommodation when travelling and I put that down to a system that I’ve developed my to search for the perfect hotel, hostel or apartment.
Use a booking website
First, choose your booking website. Even if you don’t want to book through one you can use them to narrow down your search. I’ve tried several but I mainly use booking.com now.
There are a few reasons that I prefer it. Firstly, they only allow people who have booked a hotel through them to leave a review. So the reviews you see are all from genuine customers, not their competitors or someone paid to leave one. It doesn’t mean you can believe everything you read but it does make them a lot more reliable and a useful tool for narrowing down your choice. If you’re interested in more advice on how to evaluate accommodation reviews then check out my article on How to Read Between the Lines on Accommodation Reviews.
Another reason I like booking.com is because if you book with them regularly you get an extra genius discount. You also get a dedicated genius helpline number if you have any problems. I’ve rung a couple of times and they’ve been very helpful. But this isn’t a big advert for booking.com. Occasionally, they don’t have any suitable hotels at my destination so I do use others. Agoda is also very good and has a great range of hotels in Asia. Another good way of searching is to use TripAdvisor. It works slightly differently as it brings up deals on all the main booking sites. It’s another website I use a lot for gathering information on a hotel before I book.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to use booking.com to outline my system but you can apply it to any search website. I’ll also explain how I use TripAdvisor as part of my process.
Where do you want to stay?
First, you need to decide where you want to stay. So if, for example, you want to book a city break in Paris. Enter Paris and the dates you want to stay in the search box and press enter. You’ll get a long list of accommodations. Sometimes with a few featured and/or sponsored ones at the top.
Now, we need to narrow it down a bit so you’re going to add some more criteria. Firstly, I always look down the list of criteria on the left where it says ‘filter by’. Under ‘review score’ check the two boxes next to ‘Superb 9+’ and ‘Very Good 8+’, I always ignore any hotels that score below 8 on booking.com if at all possible.
You’ll see the list on the right refresh and it will now have fewer hotels in it. Hopefully, though there’s still plenty to choose from. Back on the left-hand side, right at the top is the section headed ‘your budget’. Check the boxes next to whichever prices you want to include. I usually play around with this a bit to see what I can get in each price band. It’s very useful though to ensure you don’t just get long lists of hotels you can’t afford to stay in. I don’t know about you but I really hate it when I see the perfect hotel and when I look at the price it’s way over my budget.
Would you prefer an apartment?
Now you’re narrowing the list down nicely. Next, look for ‘Property type’ and check whichever options you want. If you particularly want a hotel or an apartment check that box. If you don’t care leave them all unchecked. After that look at the ‘Facilities’ list and check any which are important to you. If you’ve got a car you’ll probably want parking and I always like to check ‘free wifi’. There is also a section headed ‘room facilities’ which will help narrow down your search even further.
You should be left with a much more manageable list but in a big city like Paris, you might find that you still have too many to choose from. At this point, you need to consider more specifically where you want to stay. You can do this in a number of ways. Firstly, you can just reorder the list so the hotels nearest the city centre appear first. This works well a lot of the time. Or alternatively, you can take a look at the hotels using the map option.
Do you want a property near the city centre?
Unless I know I’ll be driving I like to select a hotel which is either within walking distance of the tourist attractions I want to see or near public transport. Ideally, the metro in a big city but bus and tram routes are also handy. You might prefer to stay further out of the city to get a better value hotel and then travel in each day. These are all personal choices so adjust your search criteria to meet your requirements.
Now, you should have a manageable list of hotels. Read through the details. Check the prices. Look at the photos. You can tell a lot about a place by its photos. I know they’re promotional photos but even so, you can usually see if a hotel looks as though it’s your kind of place. Pick one you like and we’ll investigate it a bit further.
Read the hotel reviews
You will be able to see how many reviews the hotel has received and what their score is. Anything over 8 is pretty good. In my experience, the hotels which score over 9 tend to be smaller family-run hotels, guesthouses etc where you get really personal service. So don’t be put off if your chosen hotel doesn’t have a 9.
Now you need to read the reviews carefully. It can be a bit of a minefield so check out my guide How to Read Between the Lines on Accommodation Reviews. Assuming you’re now clued up on reading reviews take a look at what past guests are saying about your chosen hotel. If you’re happy with what they have to say then you may have found your perfect hotel.
Double check your findings
But don’t book just yet. There are a few more tricks to ensure you’re making the right choice. Now is the time to head on over to TripAdvisor. Put the name of your chosen hotel into the search and have a look at what reviewers are saying about it on there. This is useful because you do tend to get more reviews for each property. You’ll be able to see if the feeling you got about the hotel on booking.com is generally reflected in these reviews too. While you’re here take a look at the prices at the top of the page. You might be able to see a better deal.
You’re almost ready to book but just one more thing first. Use the link on Tripadvisor to go to the hotel’s own website. Check if they offer any perks or discounts to guests who book directly through their website. I think this is becoming more common and it can include all kinds of things such as free breakfast, free spa passes, late checkout etc. Whatever you do though check the prices. Sometimes hotels are cheapest on their own websites, sometimes they’re not.
Should you book direct with the hotel?
You should book direct if it gets you the best deal or on booking.com if you get the best price there. Regardless of where you book check the terms & conditions of the booking. The lowest-priced deals tend to be non-refundable. That means that if you book now and then have to cancel you won’t get your money back. Some hotels make you pay in full on booking, some take a smaller amount, others just let you pay on check out. There are lots of variations but it should be clear on the booking page.
Also, be clear about what’s included. Booking.com have recently started including all taxes in the price shown. This is another reason I like them as not all sites do this and I find it really helpful to have a final price. If you are booking hotels direct then you need to double-check that tax is included. What extras are included? Do you get breakfast for example? Breakfast in large hotels is often very expensive to buy separately but doesn’t cost much extra to include it in your room rate.