Hotel Booking Guide
There are so many hotel booking websites out there, how do you know which one offers the cheapest rates?
In my experience of booking hotel rooms, some sites have room availability even when others say the hotel is completely booked out and full. Other sites have special exclusive hotel discounts, and I have found hotel rooms that are cheaper by up to 70% on one site compared to others.
The following are the top 3 hotel booking search engines and websites that we have found that consistently offer the best selection, the best room availabilities, and most importantly the best value and cheapest room rates.
3) Lastminute.com (3 out of 5 stars)
They have a one-stop-shop for everything, from flights to musical tickets, and dining reservations to car hire, and also hotel bookings. While their database of hotels is quite extensive, I found that their prices were rarely the cheapest. In addition, the search function was a bit too simple and for a power-searcher like me I like to have more search options and methods than just basic text. For example it lacks some simple search functions like searching by hotel star category, and while you can view the search results on a map, if there are multiple pages, the map only displays results from each page separately. However, once in a while lastminute.com has special offers that last for 24 hours (called When Its Gone, Its Gone, or WIGIG for short). Most of the hotels in that offer were not really that good a deal, but there are some gems once in a while.
The one reason to check their site is their Top Secret Hotels. These are hotels where they won’t reveal the names of, but are genuine big-chain hotels where you can expect a certain standard. Because the names are kept secret until you book, the hotels are able to offer lower prices, usually between 15-30% lower. However, you take the risk as although it gives you a rough approximation of the location, you can’t be sure what hotel it is. Luckily though, with a bit of research, you can be almost absolutely certain which hotel it is before booking. By visiting the Top Secret Hotel Revealed thread on moneysavingexpert.com, you can see what hotels other users have booked and revealed as.
2) Expedia.co.uk (4 out of 5 stars)
Expedia is a similar website to Lastminute.com, where they are also a one-stop shop for all your holiday needs. However, Expedia is US-based, compared to Lastminute.com which is more UK-focused. Nevertheless, it has a wide range of hotels in London and around the world. The best thing is that for Nectar card holders, you can get 200 nectar points per hotel booking, which is a bonus.
During my searches I also found that they had the best availability for London Hotels; while other websites like Laterooms.com or Lastminute.com said that rooms weren’t available at the selected hotel, Expedia managed to return rooms that were available, and at a good cheap price too.
Expedia also has an excellent map search function, where you can zoom in and move the map to the area where you want to find hotels (i.e. central London, or just the Docklands, for example), and then press a button and voila; only hotels in that area are displayed. They also have their own rating system by users, so you can see what other users have said about the hotel. However, my bible when comparing hotels and finding user reviews is Tripadvisor. That website has the most user reviews on hotels, and they have a useful ranking by city function, so you can see the top 10 hotels in a particular city for example.
1) Hotels.com (5 out of 5 stars)
This is my favourite hotel booking site, and the majority of bookings I made went through them. While they don’t have unique products like Top Secret Hotels, or a good search function like Expedia, they do hotels really well. They usually have the lowest cheapest price available, and their interface is very neat and tidy. You can see exactly what type of room you are getting, whether breakfast is included, and all the amenities in the room. They also have a simple booking system, although make sure you don’t press the back button when your order is confirmed! I did that once and my booking went through twice. However, a quick call to them and the second booking was canceled and the money refunded immediately. There was no waiting on the line while on hold, I was connected immediately to their customer services department.
The best thing about Hotels.com is that they don’t charge ANY fees for booking cancelations, only what the hotel charges for cancelations. Other sites might charge you up to £40 for canceling, and some don’t even allow cancelations at all. Hotels.com, as far as I am aware, don’t have a non-cancelation policy, and all the cancelation terms and conditions are stated very clearly during the booking process.
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