Booking a hotel room online is getting easier all the time – or is it? With so much choice on offer – glitzy photos, seductive discounts, risky ‘last room left!’ warnings – rushing to secure a bargain can result in costly mistakes that may sting you later at check-out. Learn how to avoid these blunders with our industry-savvy guide to saving money on hotel room bookings
#1 Book early (or very late!)
When it comes to hotel room bookings, the old advice is the best advice:
* Book earlyfor small, popular hotels – they fill up many months in advance, especially over holiday periods.
* For larger resorts, if you’re flexible, try booking last minute (within 2-3 weeks of arrival) for great discounts.
* For Europe, early deals are better than last-minute deals. For Asia, last-minute deals are better than early deals.
* Know your climate! Prices plummet during rainy or monsoon seasons and climb again in dry seasons.
* The best UK staycation deals are midweek, Sun-Thurs.
Secret tip: Our Head of Bookings, Kate, says: “Plan your family holidays in November the previous year, when budget flights are released. It sounds crazy, but I save a fortune. And I always get my first-choice hotel.”
#2 Choose a hotel that boosts your budget
Here’s a common problem: you book the fanciest hotel your budget allows, but then during your stay the costs spiral out of control and you end up maxing your credit card. Now you resent the small stuff – how can a beer be £8?!
The solution? Book a hotel that’s cheaper than you think you can afford. Amazingly, cheaper hotels often include more free goodies in the rates.
Secret tip: My top advice to friends is always book the best room you can afford in a chic ‘n’ cheap hotel. You’ll get a fabulous room and have extra cash to splash in the hotel bar and spa.
#3 Book a room that’s best for you
When choosing a hotel room, think about what’s important to you. Some rooms have huge TVs – but will you be spending your time on the beach? Others have balconies, but you might prefer sipping cocktails by the pool. Also check the bed types – it’s so annoying for couples to find 2 single beds pushed together!
If travelling with a young child (or 2), consider a suite with a second bedroom, or properly partitioned living space with a sofabed, so you can stay up while they nod off in the dark.
Secret tip: Our Editor, Jake, says: “Each room category usually has the same square footage and in-room facilities. But bathrooms can vary. Some rooms will have showers, but a few might have bathtubs – you can have a long, luxurious soak at no extra cost!”
#4 Learn the hotel lingo
Hotel room bookings often come with a selection of rates, so always look at the rate type name, not just the price. And always read the small print. Look out for these 3 options:
*Advance Purchase Rate: These are the cheapest prices, but you’ll normally pay 100% upfront and you can’t get a refund if you cancel or change plans.
* Best Accommodation-Only Rate: These are slightly higher, but you only pay a deposit at time of booking. Plus they have flexible cancellation policies.
* Best B&B Rate: These ‘Bed and Breakfast’ rates also have flexible cancellation policies. Remember, some buffet breakfasts can run until late morning and can serve as brunch. Result!
Secret tip: Our Director of Hotel Partnerships, Mike, says: “Be clever about food. Don’t book a B&B Rate if your hotel restaurant is expensive and there are no eateries nearby. Instead, book a Half Board Rate (dinner, bed and breakfast). Likewise, don’t book a B&B Rate at a city hotel that includes £20pp for breakfast if all you want is coffee and a croissant at a local café.
#5 Score a free room upgrade
People think free room upgrades are like low-calorie pizzas: they don’t exist. That may be true in peak summer, but if you time your holiday for the slow periods, and pick the right days (Sun-Thurs), you can get lucky. Hotel staff are less stressed (and probably far kinder) in the low seasons. Just ask politely – when other guests are out of earshot! Also, email the hotel 2-4 days before arrival (which is when they normally allocate rooms) to ask about the possibility of a room upgrade. Mention something personal, and make enquiries about dinner or the spa – this shows you’re willing to spend in their hotel.
Secret tip: Our Bookings Consultant, Emily, says: “The simplest way to upgrade is by sacrificing your sea view. How much time will you actually spend in your room? Bigger rooms without sea views are often cheaper.”
#6 Factor in the kids
Parents should focus on 3 essentials: Rates, dates and roommates!
* Rates: The larger the family, the more likely your travel plans will change or get disrupted. You’re better off with a slightly more expensive but flexible rate.
* Dates: Families with pre-schoolers should avoid travel during school holidays: May-early July, and Sept-early Oct are quieter and cheaper. If you’re bound by the school bell, book your flights as soon as budget flights are released (Sept-Nov). For European breaks, consider a drive + ferry holiday. It’s often cheaper and lots more fun.
* Roommates: Always factor the extra-bed costs into your budget. Most room rates are based on B&B for 2 people, and some hotels can sting you for extras.
We all have horror stories. It usually begins with seeing a bargain and rushing to secure a room. Then you arrive to discover the restaurant is closed mid-week. Or there’s no restaurant at all, and nothing within walking distance. It’s just you and the minibar peanuts (yep, I’ve been there). Avoid this nightmare by reading the reviews beforehand. But read the right reviews. We personally visit and stay at every hotel, and we always write 100% honest reviews – both the Highs and the Lows.
Secret tip: Our Marketing Executive, Abi, says: “Read about our newest hotel discoveries and latest deals by signing up for our free newsletter.”
#8 Talk to a real person, not a robot
Booking a hotel through a massive online travel conglomerate may seem convenient, but you’re putting your holidays in the hands of a computer that is designed to grab your cash. In fact, they may be subtly manipulating search results to show hotels that make them the most money, or displaying false “one room left!” warnings. This is why certain websites are now under investigation.
Instead, choose a website run by real people who actually stay at the hotels they promote, who guarantee the same prices, perks and room availability as booking directly, and who genuinely care about your holidays.
Secret tip: Our expert Booking Team are travel wizards. They’ve stayed at many of our hotels and will help you book the best rooms at the best rates. And the real magic? Their service is 100% free of charge. Call today on (+44) (0) 117 946 7072