Sometimes it can a bit daunting booking hotels online. Especially if you’ve never done that before or had an expensive/unfavourable experience. How do you know who to trust? Will there be a reservation for me when I check-in? Will the rates be the same?
A friend of mine called me last week. He is planning a family trip to the USA. He asked me how does he book a hotel for New York. I said ‘easy, just use Booking.com. Gasp on the other end – ‘you mean I have to do some work?’
I laughed. Then it occurred to me that not everyone has booked hotels online. My friend though it would require a university degree! So in today’s blog, I’ll show you how simple it is. I’ll cover the steps on how to select and book the best hotel for you.
There are multitudes of other hotel booking websites out there, but I prefer Booking.com. The reasons why are:
- They offer a best price guarantee. You can claim a refund for the difference if you find the same hotel cheaper on another website.
- They also offer Value Deals. These are heavily discounted prices but you must pay in full and it’s non-refundable. Suitable for travellers who don’t make changes to their holiday dates.
- The free cancellation period allows you to hold onto a room while confirming other arrangements. If you no longer need the room or found something cheaper, there is no charge as long as you cancel by the specified date.
- Booking.com provides a wide variety of property options, from hotels to private apartments, B&Bs, resorts, villas and guesthouses. I loved the authentic Tuscan experience of staying in a private apartment in Lucca. I felt like I was living there rather than being a tourist.
- Has an extensive filter list, so you can view only properties that are suited to your needs. For example, includes breakfast, has a pool, set your maximum budget and so on.
- Love the Map View – view the locations of all the hotels in an instant together with its cost. Makes it easy to select hotel based on location.
- You receive an instant email confirmation, complete with the contact details of the owners (email and phone). You can contact the owner directly to ask questions and add requests.
- Booking.com has an App with easy access to your reservations. No need to print out booking confirmations and carry it with you while travelling.
Let's start the process. The following steps help you simplify the process of searching and booking a hotel on booking.com. And I have a cool Hotel Comparison Table you can download to help you gather all the information to make the decision process so much easier for you.
6 Steps to booking hotels using Booking.com
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Step 1: Complete initial search box
Once you have Booking.com website open, in the yellow box enter the City, Check-in date, Check-out date and the number of people travelling (in terms of adults and children).
When you enter the city name, it will show a drop down box with options for you. In the example below, as I don’t know where in New York I want to stay, I shall just choose the first option for the whole city.
Step 2: Refine your search
The results page will now display a huge long list of hotels for you to check out – 409 properties to be precise. To help reduce overwhelm and lots of reading time, this is when you refine your search by using the filters located on the left side of the webpage, under the yellow Search box.
There is a long list of filters to choose from to target your search into exactly what you want:
- The maximum budget you want to spend per night.
- Breakfast inclusions.
- To include hotel facilities such as room service, free Wi-Fi, airport shuttle, restaurants, non-smoking rooms, pool, gym, parking, spa and wellness centre.
- To include room amenities such as private bathroom, aircon, TV, kitchenette, views.
- Facilities for disabled guests.
- The minimum star rating you would consider.
- City locations, districts or close to certain popular landmarks.
- 24/7 reception desk.
- A flexible reservation policy – free cancellations or no pre-payments (pay when you check in).
- Bed preferences – single, double or queen beds.
- Based on the best review score. Booking.com keeps a record of all the scores that travellers have rated their stay and gives you an average. My friend will only look at hotels that were given 5 stars in the reviews.
- Select by your preferred hotel chain. This is helpful if you want to accumulate hotel reward points (just like airline frequent flyer points).
Step 3: Rank the results with secondary filtering
Once you have selected your initial filters, you will notice at the top of the hotel listings that the number of properties has reduced. I selected only two filters - Wi-Fi and property type as Hotel – and it reduced down to 290 properties! The more filters you choose the smaller sample you will need to view.There is a secondary filter just sitting below the number of properties. The two main ones I tend to use are Lowest Price First (especially helpful if you’re on a tight budget) and Review Score and Price (if reputation of hotel is more important to you).
Step 4: Quick scan of the results
Let’s decipher what the initial results page shows.
Immediately you can see:
- The hotel rating
- The hotel location or area. This is clickable link where it can redirect you to a city map.
- The bedding type. Because I had selected two people in Step 1, I can see instantly see that Holiday Inn shows double room (ie. 1 x double bed) and the next hotel is a twin room (ie. two single beds). Very handy to know before you book!
- In the top right corner is the average review score of the hotel, based on Booking.com customer’s reviews once they have stayed. I usually find that a score of at least 8 means the property is good and decent.
- Of course there is the total price.
- And lastly is the blue box “Select Your Room”, which you click on to get more information on the hotel or go straight into making a reservation.
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Step 5 – View hotel details and book room
So from the hotel list you see a hotel that is a good price with a favourable review score. Click on the blue button “Select your room”. Now you can see all the nitty gritty details about the hotel.
- Hotel description
- Map links
- Room rates table. Here you will find a list of all room types, bedding configuration, what is included (eg. Breakfast) and payment policy (free cancellation or non-refundable options for a cheaper price).
- Hotel surroundings – distances to major attractions.
- Reviewer’s comments – get an insight into how good the hotel really is.
- Full list of hotel facilities
- House rules
- Any fine print –MUST ALWAYS READ. You don’t want any nasty surprises later!
If you’re not happy with what you are reading/seeing or want to view other options, just hit the Back key and choose another hotel from your filtered list you created earlier. You may do this process several times to compare and choose the ‘right’ hotel for you.
Once you’ve found the hotel you’re looking for, all you need to do now is book it. Just select the number rooms required in the little box and then click on the blue button “I’ll Reserve”.
Before you do this, make sure you are happy with the room type, bedding configuration, inclusions and payment details. If you are set with your dates then the non-refundable option is a possibility. If you’re the type of traveller that does tend to change dates, then its better you select the refundable price options – written in green ‘free cancellation’ with the date and ‘no pre-payment required’.
Step 6: Complete your details
- Check the booking details on the left hand side of the page – ensure you have selected the correct hotel, dates and room type And the check the final price too!
- Then enter your personal details on the booking form.
- Re-read all the fine print – all the inclusions and cancellation/payment policy.
- Complete any requests to the hotel. This is where you can send a message to the hotel with any special requests you may have and let them know your arrival time (especially if you arrive late at night – you don’t want them giving away your room!).
- Click on blue button “Final Details”.
- Complete address information and credit card details (even just to guarantee the booking) if required.
- Click on Blue Button “Complete Booking”
Free comparison template for booking hotels
If you're like me, I do look at a few hotels to check them out. But then I forget which hotels I looked at and what was included. So I end up wasting time going over the same details.
To save you time, I've created a Hotel Comparison Table in excel for you to use. Just download it onto your device and complete each section as you read it on the booking.com website.
In the tabs I've included the most popular features one would look for. However, as the excel spreadsheet is not locked, you can change the headings to the features that suit what you're looking for. I also left a few columns blank so you can add other features that are important to you. Plus, there is a Notes column at the end so you can your own personal thoughts on the property.
All the columns have the filter function added to them - you can see the little drop down arrow in the heading cell. You can click on that to then filter your final results of your analysis.
Bonus feature: Use the Map View to refine even further
Sometimes low priced or highly rated hotels are not centrally located. This is where Map View comes in real handy. I like to use Map View to make my first selection of 3-4 hotels based on location and price. Then I read the hotel information and reviews before I make my final decision.
Firstly, back on the results page with the hotel listing, click on Map View in top right corner (above the secondary :
A city map will pop up with hotel tags dotted all over it. The more you zoom into the city, the more hotel tags appear.
Just hover over each of the tags to see the name of the hotel and price. If you see something you like, you can click on the hotel name and it will redirect you to the hotels information page, like in Step 5.
I like this Map View feature the best and use it all the time. What I like to do first is hover over all the prices. I take note of all the hotels that are within my budget (as price is always my main factor when making a decision). Then I look at the location of all these hotels and choose the ones that I like the location of. I try to stick to a maximum of four hotels to make the decision making process easier and quicker. Too much brain drain when you look at too many hotels.
Have a go yourself now by entering in the box below a destination you’ve been thinking or dreaming about lately and see what response you get!
The next steps after completing the booking
You will be sent a confirmation email:
- Confirming your reservation details.
- Advising the free cancellation date (if applicable).
- Confirming the total price, plus the cancellation and payment policies (it is repeated several times in the email).
- Direct links to easily edit your reservation (change dates or room type), send messages to the property, advise special requests or arrival time, it will advise how to contact the hotel/apartment directly if you have any special requests or to advise your arrival time.
- There is also a Cancel button for easy cancellation.
On the Booking.com App, you can easily view, amend and cancel your bookings while on the phone as you travel.
My experience of booking hotels
I add an extra step before I book. I tend to check on the hotels own website for their prices to compare. Obviously, if it’s cheaper, then I will book on the hotels website. I’ve only had this situation happen once. Quite frequently I find that Booking.com is either the same price or has cheaper options.
I just booked my parents hotel in Melbourne with Booking.com because it was cheaper than direct with the hotel. However they did have to pay in full at time of booking. As they don’t ever make changes to their holiday arrangements, they were happy to pay upfront to save $150.
I have used Booking.com myself on several occasions and never had any issues.
- My reservations were always there when I arrived at the hotel/apartment.
- I did not incur extra charges or fees every time I cancelled a booking (within the time they specified).
- Their prices have either been the same or lower than other popular hotel booking engines or my other favourite hotel booking site – Qantas Hotels. Therefore, I highly recommend Booking.com.
Share below your experiences of booking hotels online with Booking.com or any other hotel booking websites.