How we book holidays has changed drastically over the last decade – we now have more control over our trip than ever before! The package holiday is no longer the only option we have, the world is our oyster…
So you have done your research and found the perfect destination(s) for your trip. You have selected the best value flights, but now you have the ultimate decision. The decision that can make or break your trip… the choice of accommodation.
With so many choices, its easy to get this decision disastrously wrong (believe me). But fear not – follow these 5 tips to guarantee yourself a brilliant stay at a fantastic price!
5. Metasearch Engines (Aggregators)
To start you need a price comparison website. I highly recommend using Sky Scanner at this stage. Sky Scanner is a metasearch engine – they take all the prices for the various types of accommodation across multiple marketplace websites and show you the best rates for your chosen dates! You don’t book directly with Sky Scanner, they provide affiliate links to the marketplace websites where you can complete your booking.
BOOM! Job done… right?
Well no, not quite – whilst Sky Scanner gives you a brilliant head start, it comes with some health warnings. Obviously Sky Scanner will promote certain hotels at certain times. On top of this, the order of the hotels is dictated by the website algorithm alongside your chosen filters. Whilst Sky Scanner will do its best to give you the right options, it can only be personalised based on the limited information you provide in your search.
In plain English… you may be missing out on some of the best deals for YOU.
So here is how to use it;
- Search for your destination on the chosen travel dates
- Click on “filters” and select Guest Rating of both 4.5 and 5.0
- I also recommend selecting Free Cancellation for added flexibility – however if you want to save more money, leave this unchecked.
- Click on “show results”
- Now use the map feature (on laptop, this will be on the right hand side of the list results)
- Zoom in to the centre of the destination – e.g. for a city break, find the old town and zoom in slightly.
- The results will refresh once you zoom. And now its time to browse!
- Click on a minimum of 5 hotels and note down the type of accommodation (e.g. hotel, apartment, hostel) and the total cost of your stay. CAREFUL – the first price you will see is the nightly rate, the total cost is just below in smaller text.
4. Use 2 (or more) Marketplace Websites
So now you have a minimum of 5 prices for varying types of accommodation.
It may seem obvious to some, but now its time to use the ‘marketplace’ websites. You should use AT LEAST 2 for each hotel booking. Let me explain why…
There are so many marketplace websites these days and the standards of these websites vary so much that it is always worth sticking to the better known providers. When it comes to booking, I recommend looking for names such as Booking.com, Trivago and Hotels.com.
Travel marketplace websites will try and tie some accommodation providers in to exclusivity deals so the only place to book is through their marketplace. This is less common now than it once was, however following this tip ensures that you have visibility across 2 of the main marketplace providers!
Marketplace websites are also well known for paid promotions. In other words, they charge accommodation owners to boost their properties up to the top of search results. But there is a way to avoid the forced results and find the best ones for you. For this walkthrough I am using Booking.com;
- Once again enter in the location and desired dates in to the search bar and click ‘search’
- On the left hand side you will see a series of filters; ignore star rating and head to review score – I recommend starting with 9+. Consider adding free cancellation for added flexibility.
- Choose your property type e.g. hotel, apartment
- Set the maximum price you are prepared to pay – this way you don’t get suckered in to any places outside of your budget
- Click on map view, and zoom in to your desired location to eliminate any places out of town!
- For the risk adverse – I would advise avoiding places that have less than 50 reviews. If you like living life on the edge, then lower that minimum number to 25.
- At this point there should only be a handful of places left, however if you find there are more than 15, add a minimum price as well as a maximum and select options such as “self catering” or “breakfast included”.
Now its time to rinse and repeat. Head to your second marketplace website and do the same again!
Choose your top 5 options from the photos and user reviews… and there you have it… your shortlist is complete!
Now comes the nice bit. You’ve got up to 5 places that meet your requirements. Wherever you choose now is sure to be a good option! However you want to choose the best one… so its time to refine and separate the good from the brilliant.
(For anyone travelling to less familiar locations, if you start with less than 5 options on your shortlist, then stop refining once you get to your final 2).
If you have followed the steps above then all of the options are affordable – so price should be the last parameter you use to further refine your search.
Lets start with reviews. The lowest reviewed accommodation should be the first removed, followed by the second lowest reviewed UNLESS you have any places with under 100 reviews (or for those risk takers, under 50 reviews).
And then there were 3… that feels a little crowded! So we need to eliminate another one. Time for a slightly more detailed review of the offerings; the filters you have applied during the search phase will have removed most differentiating factors that are of importance however there are a couple to look out for;
Check in / out times – Check the time your flights are due to arrive / leave, and factor in travel time to and from the airport. From this you can work out the ideal time to check in and out.
For example – if your flight is due to arrive at 9am, and its a 20min taxi journey to the accommodation, then with some contingency time to get through passport control and collect your bags, 10am would be ideal check in time. Your flight home is at 3pm, and you need to get to the airport for 1pm with 20 minute travel time – the ideal check out time would be 12pm.
Check the check in and check out times offered by the hotels – if any of them are way off, its time to eliminate them! If they are all slightly out, then try contact them and ask if they can give you early check in or late check out.
Size Matters – if you still can’t separate them, move on to the size of the room and the size of the bed! I cannot stress enough how much difference extra space can make, both in bed and also in the room itself. If you have an outlier – either a double bed versus a king size, or a smaller room, its time to kick it out of the running!
Tie-breaker – If all else fails, revert to price and remove the most expensive. Now you have some extra spending money for your days out or an evening meal!
2. When 2 become 1
I am sincerely hope you sang the Spice Girls hit as you read that heading…
Now comes the final decision – you are down to the final 2. Its time to stop using filters and logical analysis, and let your heart rule your head. You have 2 amazing options – there is no poor choice! Sit down with your travel partner, or if you are a solo traveller then grab some snacks, get comfy and flick through the photographs. Which option is giving you that excited feeling? Which option is giving you the best vibes? One of them will have the edge for you personally, you just have to find it!
If you are unsure, then take a few days to think about it. Have a break and come back in 48 or 72 hours and look again. Sooner or later one of them will edge ahead – once it does, BOOK IT!
1. STEP AWAY FROM THE BOOKING SITES!
You’ve done it. From a list of thousands, you have whittled it down to a shortlist. You have used the tools at your disposal to find the perfect options for you and your requirements. The shortlist has been refined, and you have booked the perfect option!
NOW STOP. There is always the temptation to keep looking – to check back every now and again to see if there are better prices, to see if there are any new places that have become available. It is a complete waste of time. Rest assured that you have booked the perfect spot at a brilliant price for you!
Spend your time looking at day trips for when you arrive, at restaurants for a celebratory evening meal, planning the sights you want to see, experiences you want to live.
Give these tips a try and let me know how you get on! If there are any must share tips to add to my list, let me know in the comments below!
Have a good ‘un guys!