Booking a hotel cannot get any easier. Booking sites like booking.com and hotels.com are doing a great job turning us all into capable self travel agents choosing where we would like to stay. You plug in a destination and your travel dates, hit the enter button and there, you end up with hundreds of choices. And then you stop. Yes, with so many choices, you can literally get a brain freeze not knowing where to go next. I have been through the same experience several times, and with time I have come with a few steps that has made the task much easier. So here you go:
#1 Know your budget: The five plus star hotel with private pool villas can be anyone’s number one choice. But can you afford it? (cheesy smile). Decide how much you want to spend on accommodation, and select hotels within that range. Many booking sites have the price range filter, use it, it will cut down your choices considerably.
#2 Choose your must haves/must be’s: Do you want a place that’s right in the middle of the busy city centre or would you rather go for the quieter suburbs a bit far away? Is a good breakfast an ultimate must have or would you give that up in return for free WI-FI? Come up with 3 things that you cannot give up on and look for hotels that match that.
#3 Look for the nearest bus/underground stations: Unless you don’t mind walking long distances or paying a lofty price for a taxi every time, look for hotels that have transportations stations nearby. Your booking site may have an embedded map to check that. If not, search for the hotel on Google maps and you will get to know where the nearest stations are by distance.
#4 Check the reviews score AND read the reviews: A great deciding factor is the reviews score from other fellow travellers. Start off with the highest score and move down with your choices. But make sure you also check their written reviews. Your hotel of choice may have a great score because of its location but after reading the reviews you may find out that they have the grumpiest staff ever! Something that can make you want to reconsider.
#5 Look at the pictures: If you haven’t done so already…Looking at pictures will give you a feel of how the hotel is like, how the rooms are furnished and spaced out and so on. Choosing a place that “looks good to you” to stay in, is as important as the other factors.
#6 Double check with other review sites: If there is something you are not sure of, or the reviews are not giving you a clear picture go for another review site to check. I usually go for TripAdvisor as it has hundreds of reviewers , gives you the choice to look at the good and bad reviews, and has pictures taken by guests themselves (which are rather more realistic). It will let you find out if the hotel you’ve chosen is really a boutique hotel as claimed or rather a low budget badly furnished one (true story!).
#7 Filter down you choices to 3 and look at them the next day: After using those filtering steps you should end of up with around 2-3 hotels as your top choices. But by then, you’ve probably been in front of the computer for some time, things are starting to look hazy and maybe you are getting a bit hungry, all good signs telling you to stop. Take note of your chosen hotels and come back to them the next day with a fresh mind. Run a quick comparison in terms of price and score and finally choose one (and give yourself a pat on the back!)
A bonus tip that some of us may overlook: Of course you can do it the old fashioned way especially if you running out of time; ask a friend who has been there where they stayed and do a quick review check just to make sure it’s what you want.