Whether you are solo-traveling for years or like to indulge in a retreat every once in a while, vacations and leisure travel is always a good idea! The array of absolutely unexpected, wild, and thrilling experiences coupled with the curiosity of discovering a new place. Doesn’t matter if it is a well-planned family trip or an impulsive solo trip, as a traveler there are some things that you just cannot compromise with. Planning your itinerary, finding the cheapest air tickets, and researching the best hotel with exclusive deals is a standard process. While there are fewer surprises when traveling by air, the same can’t be said about accommodation.
Choosing the perfect hotel room is often what makes or breaks the vacation experience. No one wants to be in a shady place with terrible customer service while they are away to chill. Your hotel room doubles as your home for as long as you are vacationing. Therefore, it is important to look for a comfortable and cozy place. Thanks to the internet, you can view, compare and reserve hotel rooms and resorts online before your land. But again, everything has its loopholes! Even though online reservations hardly ever get cancelled, there may be a chance that reality is far different from your expectations. In this blog, we are going to cover the 11 things that you must check before booking a hotel online.
Perhaps the most important factor at the time of making a hotel reservation is the location. If you have already planned out an itinerary, make sure you look for hotels that are centrally placed and conveniently accessible. At the time of booking, remember to check the distance of your hotel from local tourist sites. After all, you don’t want to spend hours being stuck in traffic on a holiday. If you are traveling with your family, double-check the area with a friend or colleague who has already visited the place. This is also a great way to get referrals and save some money. Also, before you go, print out a map or save the Google location offline – this will come in handy in times of emergency. Moreover, the ride is always more enjoyable when you know where you are going without any detours.
It is no secret that vacations are expensive! Therefore, ask any traveler and they will tell you to compare hotel prices before reserving. Prices, packages, policies, and promotions vary depending on the website and the date of your travel. To get the best deal, it is best to book directly using the hotel’s website. Since there is no online travel agent or commission involved, direct bookings are usually cheaper. You may also get an upgrade or free breakfast when you book via the hotel’s website. If you are a student, you will find many hotels that would be happy to give you a special discount. If you are looking for more than 3 days, you can call the property and ask them for a special deal or even a free stay for the 4th night. Using cashback, discount codes and referrals can also help to save up some money.
3. Cancellation Policy
As a traveller, before you confirm a reservation for a hotel or rental property, review the cancellation policy. This ensures that if you happen to change or cancel your travel plans, you will not lose any money. Reading the fine print of the cancellation policy saves you money, time, and stress. Most hotels offer a 24-hour cancellation policy. This means you can cancel at any point in time. However, various other properties have terms like a 72-hour cancellation policy. Some hotels even demand a cancellation fee, while others provide free cancellations up to a specific point.
Even if you are using an online travel agent or aggregator sites, don’t ignore the terms and conditions. These websites often have a dedicated filter that allows you to reserve hotels that have ‘free cancellation’. This will help you avoid paying cancellation fees in case of last-minute changes.
4. Hotel Reviews
According to a recent poll, it was found that 91 percent of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. This data is proven by the popularity of review websites like Yelp, Google Maps, and TripAdvisor among travellers. Whether you are going for a short-term stay or planning your next work from home location, it is critical to properly read online reviews before making any payments or reservations online. Check the date of stay and profiles to confirm that the reviews are genuine. It is best to read 5-10 reviews, both positive and negative, before making the decision to reserve. This will help you learn more about customer service, cleanliness, and the general atmosphere. Negative reviews will prepare you for the typical complaints and challenges you may experience. It is best to avoid booking hotels or rental properties without any photos or reviews.
5. Hotel Payment Policies
Depending on the location you are traveling to, the hotel payment policies will differ. However, a standard practice that most hotels and properties follow is holding onto your credit card for security deposits at the time of check-in. But since the digital revolution, a large number of hotels and rental properties have started accepting online payments. If you are using online travel agents, you have the option to pay and reserve or pay during check-in. Although this might be beneficial if you wish to book ahead of time online. But if you want to get the best for your buck, hold the payments until you have reached the property. Another common practice while checking into the hotel you have booked is having your name and ID verification. Although with new cloud-based property management systems like Hotelogix, guests can use the contactless check-in option and skip the front desk completely. Also, remember, some hotels may only accept credit cards and not debit cards, so it’s a good idea to check ahead of time.
6. Check-In/Out Time
Before you make a reservation, make sure you find out if the front desk is open 24 hours a day. This is especially useful if you are arriving early in the morning or late at night. If you are expecting flight delays or are stuck in traffic, it is best to know about the terms of late check-in. On the other hand, if you plan to come in sooner, enquire about room availability. Depending on the occupancy, some hotels will let you check in early if the room is ready. However, if the room is occupied, you may have to wait until the guest has checked out and housekeeping has done their job. It is also a good practice to check if the hotel or property charges a fee for late check-outs. If you reserve using an online travel agent, make sure to coordinate your arrival time with the property manager using their contact details.
7. Luggage Storage
Once you check in, remember you will have to be responsible for your valuables and bags. Travelers often share stories where their items go missing when they leave their hotel or hostels. While many hotels and hostels today provide free luggage storage, it is best to double-check. If the property you are keen on does not provide luggage storage, research the location. It is also a good idea to carry your own lock to keep your bags and belongings safe.
8. Customer shared photographs
Photographs are just as important as reviews when it comes to choosing a hotel. Before reserving any property, look for photographs uploaded by both – the hotel as well as former guests. Within a few seconds, you will be able to tell if the photos match. Compare pictures of the room and surrounding areas. Also, look for pictures of the amenities mentioned in the description (if any). You can also use Google Maps street view to figure out if the neighbourhood and property are safe.
9. Safety Features
Since you are traveling out of your comfort zone to an unknown, unfamiliar location, safety should be a primary concern. For women travellers, especially, safety cannot be a compromise. Before making any online reservation, look for security elements such as on-site guards, fences, and surveillance cameras. Reviews can also help you understand if the property itself and the area is safe. Interacting with online communities can help gain the first-hand experience of tourists who have already been there.
10. Additional Taxes and Fees
Depending on the location you are traveling to, some properties or hotels may collect additional taxes that are not included in the initial booking cost. Also, if you are booking online, make sure you pay attention to additional booking fees, so you are not charged extra at the time of check-in.
11. Extra Amenities
Are you planning to work remotely? Are you road-tripping cross-country on your bike? Is there a restaurant on-site (and what are the prices)? Everyone’s travel needs are unique. To cater to a variety of guests, most hotels have standard amenities that cater to the most common needs like parking space, on-site restaurant, free Wifi, etc. If you are looking for something more specific, try contacting the property manager before reserving.
Finding a hotel that feels like home is one of the greatest challenges, even for pro-travellers. Most people generally book either the first hotel listing that shows up on search results or the cheapest one. When you are traveling on a budget, it can be difficult to find amazing properties. However, with a few tips and a checklist like the one above, booking a hotel online will be a cake walk.
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