If you have traveled as much as I have, you will know that it takes more than mere luck to find and secure the best hotel deals. Actually, it may take several hours or days before one can arrive at a decision on where to stay during the upcoming trip and how much to pay for the room. Many times, it becomes a confusing process, or we end up booking a hotel at too high a price. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here I am sharing the 5 tips which will help you in avoiding the common mistakes travelers make while doing hotel bookings. I am confident that you will benefit from these.
1. Always Book With Free Cancellation Option
The first and the foremost rule, with two exceptions, of smart hotel booking is that you never do a non-refundable booking. No matter how reputed or highly rated the hotel is, if they are offering only a non-refundable booking option, you must avoid it. This is my unbreakable rule, and should be yours too, unless one of the two exceptions forces you to break it.
Here are the exceptions:
(i) You are doing a last-minute booking, and are fairly certain that you will make the trip. In that case, you should first try to find a hotel that offers free cancellation up to the check-in time, and if such a hotel is not available, you may go ahead and do a non-refundable booking.
(ii) The second exception occurs when a highly rated hotel is offering a ridiculously low price. For example, a room that usually goes for $100, is being offered for just $20 with a ‘non-refundable’ rider. Such an offer is a genuine “steal” deal and can be taken. But again, you need to be certain that your trip will not get cancelled.
If neither of the two exceptions occurs, follow the golden rule. Book only with ‘free cancellation’ and preferably an additional ‘book now-pay later’ option. A booking with the free cancellation benefit enables you to avail of any subsequent offers in terms of lower tariffs and/or higher quality rooms.
2. Do A Metasearch
There are metasearch engines, such as ‘hotelscombined’, which show you hotel offers from dozens of booking sites with just one search. With a metasearch, you get to see more options in terms of the availability of hotels and also the prices, as compared to searching for a hotel on a single booking site. However, the lowest price revealed by a metasearch may not be accurate due to the “local discounts” factor.
Local discounts, or the discounts offered by local booking sites, must be considered before choosing an offer shown by a metasearch. Here is the best practice: do a metasearch first, make a shortlist of desirable hotels and prices, and then compare those with the offers on your local booking site.
3. Never Click Affiliate Links
Many travel-related blogs and commercial websites display affiliate links which promise the best hotel deals, etc. You must know that any commission or incentive, which the affiliate marketer is earning, will eventually come from your pocket.
4. Know Agoda.com’s Dirty Secret
Agoda is one of the largest hotel-booking sites in the world, and many of us regularly book with them. However, there is something you need to know before you do your next booking on their website. It may come as a shock to you that Agoda maintains at least three levels of prices for each of the hotel rooms they offer to book for you.
The most expensive price-level is for those bookings that materialize via affiliate links. I know this for a fact that you will pay 5 to 10% extra on Agoda if you go through an affiliate marketer. Whatever commission Agoda pays to the affiliate, is charged to you via an inflated hotel price.
The second most expensive price-level is for those who go to Agoda directly, by typing their web address in the browser. When you go to them directly, they try to trick you by showing some discount offers but regardless of that, you will end up paying more than what you should.
The cheapest price-level for hotel rooms on Agoda is revealed to you only when you go to their website via a metasearch. My personal experience has taught me that if I want the best hotel prices on Agoda, I must go to them via hotelscombined. Don’t take my word for it, rather do an experiment yourself. You will come to the same conclusion.
5. Read Guest Reviews From Different Sources
There are certain hotel booking sites, such as Goibibo and MakeMyTrip in India, which hide negative guest reviews by using some clever tricks. I will write a separate article on that, but for now, I will suggest that you read hotel reviews from different sources, before choosing a particular hotel.
My strategy is that I try to find and read all negative guest reviews on a particular hotel, on my regular booking site, and also on other sources such as TripAdvisor, Agoda, and Booking.com, etc. I know that the time spent doing this activity often saves me from a disappointing hotel experience later.
When a booking site is showing “Most Helpful” or “Featured” guest reviews on top, they will usually show only positive reviews so that you quickly decide to make that booking. They want your money, and do not care about your comfort and safety. When you dig deeper and find the negative guest reviews, you will learn that the average guest-rating highlighted by the booking site is not at all reliable.
There is not much honesty in the hotel booking business, and you cannot trust anyone with closed eyes. It is better to spend time doing research before doing a booking rather than having regrets later.
Please share your personal experience and feedback using the comment form below. Thank you for reading.