Good tips on booking accommodation yourself can be priceless – but it takes a little time and some smarts to gain that travel savvy – unless you can poach some ideas from someone who’s done it before! Here are my tips for getting the best deals for accommodation while already travelling.
Be Clear About What Your Needs Are
You can quickly and easily decide against unsuitable accommodation options by the process of elimination. But you have to know what you want – and don’t want. You will surely have a price limit which you can put into the filter of the booking site so that it shows you only prices in your chosen range.
Aside from this, think about other things that are important to you. Do you want a pool? An onsite restaurant? Room service? Airport transfer?
Some basic things to check for include: Air conditioning, fan, fridge, tea and coffee making facilities, shared bathroom, private room, a window in the room, tv, balcony, wifi or ethernet access, hot water shower.
Everyone has different requirements for accommodations, but these are some factors you might be interested in confirming the presence of. Make a detailed list of things you absolutely must have, as well as things you would like to have. This will make your decision a lot easier.
Read Lots of Hotel Reviews
Tripadvisor is great for this but also look up hotels that look good to you on a number of similar sites. I like to use Expedia to search for hotels, and then I go on TripAdvisor to further compare reviews, as well as on Booking.com and Hotels.com.
This will also give you an opportunity to compare prices on the various sites as well. Some sites don’t offer all versions of accommodation at the hotel (more on that later), so that is another reason to shop around.
Independent hotel reviews also help to confirm – or refute – information about the facilities at your planned accommodation.
Read Some Travel Blog Posts
If you have trusted bloggers you follow, check out their recommendations for accommodation in the city you are travelling to (or in!). They could have invaluable first had knowledge of the place and photos of the interior or surrounds that you wont find on the booking site. This will give you a far better idea of the place.
These sites will show you blog content based on the interests that you enter. This is a quick way to source a lot of relevant information from lots of different independent sources.
The information you find there may help to confirm the plans you have made so far – or else they will point you in an even better direction.
Don’t Book Your Whole Stay At Once
If you are going to a new place for a few days and don’t desperately need to confirm your plans, don’t rush into booking a hotel for the duration of your stay. Book for the first night and then take it as it comes.
This is a great opportunity to scope out the area and find areas that you like.
You may book into your new digs and find that the place was completely misrepresented online. If you have only booked a night or two, this won’t ruin your whole stay.
You can easily explore the area and find a new place to stay.
That being said, I wouldn’t so confidently recommend this in large cities – or in the ‘high season’ . The accommodation can be in high demand, expensive and spread over wide distances, but in small towns popular with tourists and backpackers it is a winning approach.
Make Use of Last-Minute Deals on Accommodation
Not everyone feels comfortable doing this, but I am a big fan of booking last minute. It gives a little aspect of excitement to the trip!
I will often book a hotel the morning of the day I need it… and spend the day walking from the hotel of the night before to the next one – using it as an opportunity to discover the new city or town I am in and forcing myself to not be confined to one area of a city too much.
More practically, leaving your booking to the day – or the day before – you need it can put you in a good position to get deals on accommodation which you might not have been able to find when booking well ahead.
Occasionally Book In Person
Don’t underestimate the value of simply walking up to your accommodation of choice and paying cash. Sometimes it’s the best way.
You can see the place for what it is, and where it is before you book. This is great if you don’t have a rigid schedule.
Hostels are particularly good for doing this. They usually have a communal lobby area that you can slip into unnoticed. Use this opportunity to talk to some of the guests and ask any questions you have. This is a great way to quickly get a feel for the place before you decide to stay.
Of course, you will want to do this if you are arriving at your destination early in the morning or around midday. Don’t try this strategy if you are arriving late, or in the middle of the night or you may find yourself sleeping on a park bench.
Check for Additional Fees
It may come as a surprise, but very occasionally a hotel may require you to pay additional fees when you check-in.
This is aside from a quite standard room key deposit that most places ask from you. In Georgetown, Penang Island, I once stayed at a place that required a small sum to be paid additional dollar or so per night. I was ready for this, however, as the booking site did mention it – just something to be aware of.
When it comes to long-term accommodation this is even more common and there may be non-refundable fees for room cleaning, among other things.
Just be aware of what you are signing off on before you get locked into an agreement.
Take Careful Note Of Important Details Before Completing Booking
In particular, confirm check-in and check-out times as well as the presence of a 24-hour front desk. There are things may not matter to you, depending upon your travel itinerary, but if you are arriving in a new city in the wee hours of the morning and your hotel doesn’t have a front desk, you can find yourself in a difficult situation – at your hotel, but and unable to check-in or get your key to get into your room.
Be Safe – Use a VPN When Booking Accommodation
As always, safety first. Have a VPN on your mobile as well as on your laptop or tablet. You will probably be using some very shady WiFi during your travels and it is essential that you are protected when entering credit card details into booking sites. You can utilize free or paid virtual private networks – most do a good enough job for making a quick hotel booking.
Think Outside The Box
I recall once wanting to book a single room at a particular place but Expedia only offered double and twin rooms at the time for that location. It made it seem that there were no single rooms available for that guesthouse on those dates. But that weren’t the case. It were only the site I was booking through that didn’t have the sort of room I wanted on offer.
With that hope, I jumped over to another online booking site to check the same location. On the other site, I was able to book a single room at the same guesthouse for a two-night block.
Then later, after I had already stayed there for a few days, I decided I wanted to remain yet another night. They were all booked out online again (on both sites), so I just went to the front desk of the place and they sold me a room for one more night – cash.
Sometimes there is more than one way to achieve the outcome you are looking for.
What are your tips for booking accommodation while travelling? How do you get the best deals in the locations you visit? Let us know in the comments below.