Many travelers are quite familiar with the process of booking a hotel room; it’s become something so common now that we even have apps on our phones to be able to book them on the move.
Though even for those of us who find ourselves making hotel bookings quite frequently, it’s quite easy to take it for granted that we have established the perfect routine.
Because booking a hotel isn’t just about making a reservation – there’s a lot more that goes into the process before you hit the ‘book’ button if you want to get a good deal on your room.
So, whether you’re new to hotel bookings or an age old veteran, the following are some of the most important things you should do before putting down your credit card and booking your room.
Things You Should Do Before Booking a Hotel Room
Choose the Right Booking Site
Certain booking sites cater to various demographics, so it’s important to choose the right one before you book your room. And different regions might have differences in which booking sites are most popular too.
For instance, booking hotel stays in Southeast Asia is best done through a site that targets travelers to Asia, and this may be a completely different OTA (online travel agency) than one that has good relationships with brands in Europe or North America.
Some sites specialize in shorter trips and family holiday plans, some specialize in homestays, some in apartments, and other sites such as Roomer offer cancelled reservations at discounted prices for last minute bookings.
So make sure you choose the right booking site before you go to make your reservation – it should cater to your destination and your style of travel, and specialize in both areas.
Once you’ve found the right booking site, and you’ve pinpointed a hotel you like, do some digging to see if the stay is ideal for you. And do this before you book it.
Don’t book a hotel solely on the price. First, read some guest reviews about the hotel in question. Then, learn more about the area within the vicinity of the hotel.
For instance, the hotel itself might be safe, but the surrounding areas might suffer from high crime rates. You should consider government travel warnings, pay attention to social and political climates, and research local crime.
Research is vital, but at the same time it’s also important to avoid generalizing a whole area or country based on rough spots in the city. Rather, make the appropriate judgments based on hotel reviews and immediate surroundings.
You also don’t want to stay so far out of the city that you end up spending more money on transport to get to the attractions than you would have had you paid extra for a more central hotel. So make sure this also factors into your research.
Perks and Amenities
Perks and amenities are a big deal when it comes to booking a hotel, and it’s often cheaper in the long run to pay more for a hotel with perks like free WIFI and breakfast, than it might be to book a cheaper one with no perks.
Make a list of all the hotel amenities you need before you even start looking; do you require kitchen facilities so that you don’t have to spend money on eating out? Do you need parking if you’re road tripping?
Things like accessible rooms, 24 hour reception, food on site, social activities, business centers, and even a pool might play into your overall decision for booking a hotel room. So make sure you know what you want before you book.
After choosing the right hotel, you can usually save money by booking directly with the hotel. Online travel agencies are a fantastic way to find the right hotel, but often the hotel will price match to convince you to book with them directly.
This is because hotels have to pay OTA’s a commission of the price; usually around 10%. So even if they lower the price by 5% for you, they still come out winning.
Hotels usually offer stellar rewards programs to remain competitive as well, and there can often be additional perks to be gained from booking direct, like room upgrades, free breakfasts, and potentially extra discounted nights.
And then you have rewards programs from brands like Marriott, Hyatt and IHG that allow you to earn points from your hotel stays which can be put towards paying for your next stay.
When to Start Planning
As you learn how to book a hotel the smart way, remember to start planning at the very least, three to four weeks in advance.
This timeframe gives you plenty of time to compare prices and conduct research on the hotel and corresponding areas, and it also means you won’t miss out on a great deal should rooms start to sell out because of season or an event.
There are many hotels that offer great deals for booking last minute, though this is typically only in seasons when their occupancy is low, and they’re trying their best to entice people in.
During peak seasons, or if you’re traveling during a time of high demand (like the Olympics), the best deals will only be available in advance. So it’s important to include this in your research to know the best time to plan.
If you find that you can likely nab better deals at the last minute, make a plan to plan!