When I was 18, I booked my first solo trip. It was a weekend journey to Pittsburgh where my best friend went to school. I hopped online, booked my flight and never looked back. It was so easy, that I didn’t hesitate to book more trips. Since then I have booked dozens of trips in much the same way.
But lately, I’ve noticed a change in online booking. Things aren’t as simple as they once were, and if you aren’t careful, you can end up biting off more than expected. When I was planning our trip to Disney World for this past May, I did what I always do: turned to online sites to facilitate my planning. But after more than a decade of booking travel exclusively online, I was surprised by the terms hidden in fine print — especially for hotels.
Here are some tips for navigating online booking for hotels.
Check the Fees!
Does the price sound too good to be true? Then it might just be. When booking for Disney, I planned to book an amazing sounding condo unit near Disney World. The price was affordable. It was close to the parks. And it was a fantastic size for our family. Thankfully, I looked closer before clicking “book.” When I looked closer, I discovered that the property charges a cleaning fee — that was as much as the one night I was booking for. These aren’t the only fees that you need to watch out for. Some hotels charge $25 or more per night for car parking. There are also hidden internet fees at many hotels, and of course cleaning or maintenance fees. Be sure to read everything about fees before booking anything online — even if it means spending a little more time digging through the listings to ensure you’ve covered all your bases.
Read the Reviews
Reviewers on Expedia, Hotels.com and other sites often tell it like it is. While you should always read with a grain of salt, these reviews can reveal warning signs that your perfect hotel booking may not be so perfect. You have to decide if their complaints a) are for real and b) really matter to you.
Double Check the Location
If you are heading to a new city, there is nothing worse than accidentally booking a hotel far from where you want to be. Be sure that you know what you are getting yourself into — and how close it will leave you to important things like public transportation, restaurants and attractions. Even if you think you know where the hotel is, double check it before booking.
Check the Hotel Website
When you’ve narrowed your choices, pop over to the hotel websites for more information about the properties — you never know what pro or con might appear when you find out a little more.
Don’t Be Afraid to Call and Ask
Have concerns or questions? Pick up the phone and call. Often, this will help alleviate your fears. But, sometimes it can be a great, big warning. While booking this past spring, I discovered that a hotel I’d booked wasn’t as great a deal as I thought. I discovered that they were under construction and had questions about whether the pools were open and the noise levels. After a quick call and a brief conversation with the rudest employee ever, I cancelled our reservations and booked elsewhere.
One More Thing
When booking, make sure you will get your money back if you cancel your reservation. While it may take a week or so, being able to change your mind is a huge asset when booking online.
What’s your best booking advice? Share in the comments!