Thursday, October 05, 2006

Your own hotel reservations on the web - do's and don'ts

I have made my hotel reservations on the web for several years. In general, using the web this way, has made it easier and much more enjoyable to plan a trip. It is satisfying to do the groundwork yourself and I have to say - I've been very pleased by the hotels I've booked so far.

I am no working on a few articles here on Enjoy - Food & Travel. Before I present my results, I would, however, share some pieces of information that may lead you to the hotel of your choice.

Price, currencies, and payment conditions.


Just one of the reservation services I've used until now, has given you the possibility to choose to get the price of your hotelrroom in your own currency. While some of the websites give the price of the country they operate from, others show the price in the currency of the country you're booking in.

The price does, in many cases, not include local taxes. That will be shown after you have made the reservation. This will increase the price of the room some percentages. This has, however, never given me a shock, but bear this in mind.

Read the terms of payment very carefully. Some will charge your credit card after you have visited the hotel, and gives you the possibility to cancel your reservation with full or partly refund i.e. until 24 hours before you would normally arrive. Others will charge your creditcard when you book, but may still give you right to cancel.

A word of warning. On http://www.hotwire.com/travel-information/terms.jsp?lid=uhp.SMT02-01.SMT01-01.jsp:bnav:loc:0:terms you find the following passage in the payment conditions.

"Hotel Reservation Restrictions

2. All bookings are final and cannot be changed;

4. Reservations cannot be cancelled, refunded, exchanged or transferred to other individuals. Once you book a reservation, your credit card will be charged for the amount shown — regardless of whether or not the reservation is used"


This means that you will not be able to get your money back in any case. So if you do not want to gamble, do read the payment conditions.

Hotel standards

Another challenge is to understand how the websites rate their hotels. In one case the site reveals the criteria on which they base their ratings, and they tell you that they even partly use the rating system of the American Automobil Association (AAA). That gives the consumer a predictability in their reservation process.

I, as a consumer, do assume that the number of stars/diamonds or other symbols, reflect the general standard of the hotel. It is certainly reflected in the price. My general impression is that more symbols increases the price. What would else be the point? The absence of transparency on ratings, creates uncertainty whether you have booked the best hotel at the best price. This would particularly concern me if I'd booked a very expensive hotel. Here I have a little piece of advice. Before you make your reservation - check if the hotel has its own website. This may ensure you that you'll make the right choice.

Location

The number of hotels displayed on the different cities varies from site to site. Some sites actuelly gives you an option to restrict the search to hotels i.e. less than 5 km or miles from the city centre. In that case it is never told where the centre is. Is it Grand Place in Brussels, Westminister Abbey in London or Times Square in New York? The distance is also shown, and I quote as the crows fly, which means that it could be much more difficult to get to the city centre than you think, in spite of the short distance.

Others gives you a possibility to restrict the search to particular parts of the city. This is much better and accompanied by a map where you can see the town plan, you're often able to understand if the hotel you book has a good location.

Some websites display a very large number of hotels, and often it is very difficult to see whether the hotel has a good location. Then you have to check one hotel at a time. This may be worth while if you want to book a hotel in the larger US cities. If you do not rent a car, you do not want to end up stranded in a suburb with a gas station, a Dunkin' Donuts, and a motorway just outside your door. In order to use public transportation in the large cities in the US you must stay in a good location down town. In European cities, however, you may rely on public transportation to a greater extent, and living some distance from the city centre may give you a good bargain.

If you want to check my search-results for Boston and Brussels, and then New York and Paris, I'll try to publish this next week - but this is hard work.

Please share if you experience something that other people may need to know. Give me a comment for me and other to see!

Good luck!!

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