Booking hotels online is quick, easy, and everything’s at your fingertips. But what pitfalls should you look out for, and how could you get a better bargain? Here is a six-step guide.
Step 1: Set the right filters
Filter first according to price, and then by rating, equipment requirements and any other personal preferences. Don’t forget to deselect the hostel and apartment options if you’re only interested in hotels.
Remember that there are often hidden extras on top of the price quoted. “Fees such as transient occupancy taxes, city taxes or single supplements can come still on top,” says German consumer travel expert Sabine Fischer-Volk. It might also help to specify how you intend to pay, because sometimes bargain prices only apply to particular payment methods.
Step 2: Check with the hotel
It’s worth making a short call to the hotel to double-check all the details. “You’ll be able to quickly establish whether the family room actually has four beds, or whether there are other arrangements like sofa beds,” says online travel booking specialist Michael Buller.
Also, it might not be clear on all platforms whether the hotel is suitable for any special needs you might have. If you’re taking your dog, for example, it’s a good idea to check directly with the hotel.
Step 3: Look out for the usual tricks
Bear in mind that hotels get themselves listed higher on website lists by paying more. “It is better to filter for the lowest price than for something like bestsellers,” advises Fischer-Volk.
Beware also of star-like rating symbols. “Often, these reflect the evaluations of the portals and not a valid hotel classification," warns Fischer-Volk.
Some portals use phrases like “in high demand” or “only three rooms available” to encourage speedy booking. But there are often still bookable rooms in other categories. “Sometimes there are rooms available for just a few euros more,” says Michael Rabe from the Federal Association of the German Tourism Industry.
Step 4: Compare portals and prices
A look at other portals or the hotel’s own site can help you get a clearer picture about whether you’re getting a good deal. The prices quoted on platforms may also vary depending on the time of the search query. Fischer-Volk recommends observing the prices carefully over a longer period of time, at different times of the day, and using different terminals.
Step 5: Note extra costs
Even if the hotel room is cheap, it is worth paying close attention to the conditions of the offer. Sometimes drinks or meals are included, for example, sometimes not. For many holidaymakers, breakfast is part of their booking, but it is by no means always included in the overnight price.
Being flexible about when you travel might get you a bargain. Prices are often cheaper during the week than on weekends, for instance. Hotels are usually considerably more expensive if there’s an event like a trade fair taking place in your destination city. And, on some portals, you can save more money if you book without a cancellation option.
Step 6: Check booking several times
Before completing your booking, check all the details carefully, including travel dates, names, cancellation conditions and whether any extra requests are included in the final booking price.
If you’ve booked a package, you should know exactly who it’s booked with – the website of a reputable tour operator will provide company name, legal status and commercial register number. – dpa
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