Now that the flights are booked it’s time to look at your accommodation options. After flights this is the next biggest cost of your trip. Your search will primarily depend upon the type of accommodation you wish to stay in. Your first decision is to work out what style of holiday you want; luxury, self-catering, backpacking, business etc. Most people know the type of travel they are going to be doing so the first decision should be fairly straightforward.
Choosing a Location
When I book accommodation for my family I always start by researching information in regards to the location of tourist attractions, accessibility to public transport or parking if we are hiring a car and whether there are facilities such as restaurants / shops in the local area. Sometimes it is cheaper to stay outside of the center and catch public transport. It is also worth checking the cost of public transport to double check that the savings are worthwhile. Also we noted that in Singapore it was always cheaper for our family of four to take a taxi instead of buying four separate metro tickets, crazy hey?! I then go onto Google maps and look at the area noting whether there is an adequate amount of accommodation. Street view also gives you a good indication of the type of area, for example, residential, business, touristy, trendy etc.
It first appears that there are a myriad of hotel booking sites but in reality two key players own most of them. Priceline Group bought Kayak and they also own Booking.com and Agoda while Expedia Inc own Trivago, Wotif Group, Travelocity, Orbitz and Home and Away. On the other hand Airbnb is a privately owned company that provides a service for people to list their property as a place to stay.
If you are new to booking online it is best to use a comparison booking site such as hotelscombined.com or Trivago.com. Over time you will find your favourite site to use, however it is always beneficial to check for the lowest price (see further down for information about prices) on different sites.
I personally have successfully booked with Booking.com, Expedia.com, Home and Away, Wotif.com as well as booking directly with several accommodation hosts.
Entering the correct search criteria is crucial as getting it wrong could cost you more money. First enter the name of the place, e.g. Melbourne and then enter your travel dates noting that the second date is the day you check out. Some sites may want a check-in date and then ask for the number of nights instead. It is also important to enter the number of guests including all adults, children and infants. Usually there is a drop down button that allows you to change the search from a double room to other options such as family rooms or multiple rooms. I will also try different search criterion; for example, sometimes it has been cheaper to book two double interconnecting rooms instead of a family room.
Most of the booking sites have options to filter the results displayed. It is pointless trailing through hundreds of accommodation options if a number of them are not appropriate for your needs. For example, the price is above your budget or there is no car parking available. Think of as many filters that apply to your needs, maybe you need a kitchen to prepare food, you will require baby sitting services or you want to eat breakfast at the hotel. Usually on the left hand side of the page it lists the different options that can be selected or deselected. Set the price to your budget on the slider bar and you will get the best results for your needs.
Coming soon, my article on many other considerations when booking your perfect accommodation.
Check the Reviews
Once you have narrowed down your search to a few choices it is time to do a little detective work to make sure the pictures and information are true to form. For 18 years Tripadvisor has become a useful resource for reviews on all types of accommodation as well as tourist attractions, restaurants and other travel information. The only downside to Tripadvisor is the possibility of astroturfers, the practice of writing false reviews in favour of the accommodation. It is worth reading the reviews on the booking sites as they tend to use reviews from clients who have booked the accommodation through their site. It is also worth noting that some people will complain about everything, for example, a complaint about no lift may not bother you.
Ok, so now you have found a few places that meet your requirements and the reviews are fantastic. How do you get the best possible price? As previously mentioned the comparison websites such as Trivago and Hotelscombined are terrific to see which sites offer the lowest cost. It is also worth checking directly with the hotel to see if they can offer a better deal. However this may not give you the best price as detailed in the explanation below from the Choice website, link; (https://www.choice.com.au/travel/accommodation/hotels/buying-guides/hotel-booking) written by Zoya Sheftalovich and Jodi Bird.
An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigation found Expedia and booking.com had parity clauses in their contracts with Australian hotels. These clauses bind the hotels to offer the best price and availability to the online travel agencies – the hotels can’t offer better rates on their own site.
Parity clauses aren’t unique to Australian hotels. The booking behemoths have similar clauses in many markets. This explains why in our mystery shop, the prices on the hotel’s own sites were the same as on the online booking engines.
Some competition authorities in Europe are fighting back. And the ACCC reached agreement with Expedia and booking.com to allow accommodation providers to “offer lower rates through telephone bookings and walk-ins, offer special rates and deals to customer loyalty groups, in addition to offering deals via Expedia and booking.com”.
That’s not much use if, like most people, you book online. The contracts still prevent accommodation providers from even marketing or publishing offline rates on their website.
So if you find yourself stonewalled by the same price for a room everywhere online, get on the blower and ask for a price over the phone.
Time to Book
Before you press the book button have a look to see if they offer free cancellation before a certain date or if they offer best price guarantee. Both these options will allow you to back yourself in the event you find a better deal at a later date.
And finally….don’t forget to either save or print your reservation confirmation.