Booking hotels online can save you time and money, but there are many pitfalls that can turn your dream holiday into a nightmare. After spending the last ten years booking hotels, I want to share some advice to help you save and protect your hard earned money.
Here are my tips for booking hotels online.
Check the booking with the hotel
When you’ve booked with a third party (i.e. hotel comparison website) it is always a good idea to contact the hotel 24 hours after booking, and ask them to confirm that they have received your reservation. Over the years I have read numerous stories of people arriving at the hotel to find that there is no booking for them – it’s best to check, even if you receive a confirmation email.
Some hotels and hotel booking websites expect payment up front, and it is in this situation where you need to protect yourself financially. Pay with a credit card so that if the hotel goes bust, you can claim a refund from your bank under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, which protects your purchases over £100.
They’re many scams out there, so do your research before you divulge your personal information and bank card details. Make sure that your data is secure; have look for a padlock on the browser, and the website address should start with https. Read my guide on booking holidays safely online, the same information applies to booking hotels.
Taxes and resort fees
Be aware that some hotel comparison websites do not include additional fees like local taxes and resort fees and this can increase the price considerably, so it is worth checking when comparing prices.
Compare to save money
Finding the best deals has become a skill that I have learnt over the last couple of years, but more so in the last few months while searching for hotels for my round the world trip. Use your favourite booking website to find hotels within your budget, read reviews of your chosen hotel including a quick browse through TripAdvisor. Then, before you book, search on Trivago, which compares all of the popular hotel booking websites and highlights the best price online. I go through this process every time and it has saved me hundreds of pounds over the years.
Read my guide on how to save money on hotel rooms for more tips.
Travel websites like TripAdvisor do a great job at providing an idea of what to expect when staying at the hotel, but bear in mind that these reviews could be written by anybody. I prefer to read verified reviews left by travellers who have booked through the booking website. Also, remember that your perception of a hotel room will be completely different than the person sat next to you.
The star classification system is useless
Do not use the star classification system to identify hotels because the system is flawed in my opinion. I have stayed in 4 star hotels that were 3 star at best. Look at the features of the hotel, and reviews left by other travellers. Bear in mind that photos can be many years old, very few hotels update their photos regularly.
Booking terms and conditions
Read the booking terms and conditions carefully, especially the cancellation policy, because you could find yourself with a nasty hidden fee, or, worse still, have to pay even if you cancel. One hotel was going to charge me a ridiculous 4% admin fee for using a credit card to book, and some hotels only accept cash. This isn’t always obvious when you’re reading through the hotel information.
Secret hotels are not so secret
Some companies offer exclusive deals on hotels and you save money because you do not know the name of the hotel until you receive the booking confirmation. There is a sneaky way though to find the hotel before you book, because the content used on the secret hotel page is often a duplicate of the actual hotel page, so, just paste in a snippet of the text into your favourite search engine.
I found this out on MoneySavingExpert.com, and they have a video which explains it in much more detail. From my own research, it works! I hope this information has been useful for you, and it helps you book hotels online. If you have any questions or additional tips you’d like to share, please follow me on Twitter.
Photo of a luxury hotel room by Christine Obermann.