Accommodation in a hotel is an expensive part of any trip. The choice of accommodation affects the level of comfort and the overall impression of the trip. It is important to know how to choose and book a hotel on your own, as the price-comfort ratio is a very subjective parameter.

In 12 years of family travel, we have tried different ways to find hotels on our own. In this article we decided to transfer our experience into a manual – where and how to book a hotel room profitably.

How to book a hotel

The most popular way to book a hotel at the moment is to use internet booking system.

Reservation systems – internet services, which have in their database many hotels around the world. With their help you can compare offers of different hotels by price and level of service and book a suitable hotel. As intermediaries between tourists and hotels, services serve as a kind of guarantors of quality of services provided.

🟠 The most famous example is Booking.com.

Why reservation systems became so popular? Firstly, high competition between hotels does not allow unreasonable price increases. And the system of reviews provides tourists with up-to-date information about the level of service of hotels. Also these systems are easy to use, which allows everyone to book a hotel by himself.

➡ In comparison with other ways of searching for hotels reservation systems have distinct advantages due to the extensive and clear base.

You can search for hotels via maps (Google) and other non-core information and advertising resources that provide hotel contacts. But that way you’re sure to miss out on a lot of good hotel alternatives.
Searching for accommodation on the spot like before “the old-fashioned way” is justified only if you’re flying to stay for a long time. So do winterers – book a suitable hotel in advance via the Internet for the first time, then look for on-site accommodation at a discount on account of rent for several months at a time. If you come for a few days or weeks, it is not justified to spend money on searching for a hotel “with your feet”, it may cost more. Often hotels charge a higher price than in the reservation systems for those tourists who come and ask for a hotel room on the spot.

How to save money when booking a hotel

There are special metasearch engines that compare prices between different reservation systems. In their search you can cover and compare several different sites at once – the same Booking, major tour operators and others.

In addition to the technical part of finding a low price, there are also general principles of saving when booking hotels:

  • The earlier you start looking for a hotel, the better. Closer to the check-in date there will be fewer and fewer options with the best price-quality ratio.
  • Hotel prices vary depending on the season, holidays, and weekends. If you have the opportunity to change dates, try different options for your chosen hotel.
  • The location of the hotel is also directly related to the price. Closer to the sea, the city center and subway stations – the prices are higher. Before booking a room carefully study the map, the location of attractions of interest to you and the scheme of transport. This will help you find the best and most convenient hotel.

Step by step guide – how to book a hotel room

The principle of hotel booking on all sites is similar. In order to book a hotel online, you must have:

  1. A bank card. There must be money on the card! Hotel as a check may freeze part of the amount for a period of time. If there is no money on the card, booking may be denied. The best card for travel and everyday expenses, with free service and home delivery can be ordered here – we recommend it!
  2. Email.

If you are used to a particular site, select the hotel on it, but before booking check the selected hotel on other sites. So as not to miss a possible discount on this hotel, which may be in other booking systems.

  • On the main page specify the city (hotel or place), arrival and departure dates, number of guests – press “Check Rates”.
  • Then we go to the hotel search page (for example, 4821 hotel properties in Barcelona).
  • To sift out unnecessary options and find the right one faster, use filters according to your needs. Parameters with which you can get relevant options for you: sorting, price per night, rating by reviews, type of accommodation, distance from the center, neighborhood, amenities in the room, amenities in the hotel, room options. If you are already familiar with the area, you can switch to map mode.
  • To find out more about the hotel, you need to click on its name. On the page of each hotel you will find a description, as well as prices in different booking systems for each accommodation option. By clicking on “Book” you will go to the hotel reservation system website, where you can also read the information about the hotel, accommodation conditions and directly book a hotel room.
  • Go to the website of the reservation system, confirm your choice by clicking on the “Book” button in the desired option of accommodation.
  • On the final page of the reservation you need to carefully fill out the form. These are names and surnames of the guests, e-mail address, phone number, card details. Be sure to carefully read all the conditions of the reservation and then confirm your desire to book the hotel.
  • You will then receive an email voucher confirming your booking. If you have a personal account in the reservation system, you will also see your booking there.
  • 8. We recommend that you print out the reservation voucher and show it at check-in. Alternatively, you can show the voucher with your cell phone.

What you should pay attention to when booking a hotel

It is very important to understand the hotel offers booking conditions, as well as the check-in. We have collected the main points you should pay attention to when comparing hotels and accommodation options.

  • Free cancellation of the reservation. This option affects the price of the room – it is cheaper without it, but there are risks of losing the entire amount if the trip does not take place. Free room cancellation also has conditions: how many days before arrival it is valid, as well as how much is deducted if these conditions are not met. You should pay attention to this, otherwise the “free cancellation” will not turn out to be so free.
  • Booking without prepayment. Payment at the time of booking or later at the hotel upon check-in – is also stipulated in the hotel’s terms and conditions. It is good when the hotel allows you to pay on site, but sometimes, if the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate is good, it may be advantageous to pay the entire amount at once.
  • Meals at the hotel. The availability or lack of food also affects the cost of the room. Sometimes you can choose a room with or without meals. Evaluate the cost of food and read reviews to decide whether it is worth paying for it.
  • Tourist Tax. In some countries there are taxes for tourists, which you have to pay at the hotel upon check-in. The amount of tax will be listed when you book the room.
  • Deposit. Some hotels at check-in take a deposit in case you use the bar or break something (you get it back when checking out).
  • Check-in counter working hours. Some hotels do not check into the room if you arrive late. Read about the check-in time and agree with your plans.
  • Check-in and check-out times. Do not count on the fact that you will be checked into the room for free if you arrive before that time, and allowed to stay beyond the scheduled check-out time. But sometimes you can make an agreement, it all depends on hotel policy and the availability of rooms.
  • Type of room. There are often a lot of hostels on the search that offer either a bed in a shared room or, for example, a private room but with a shared bathroom and toilet.

How best to book private accommodation

Booking rooms, apartments (flats), cottages and other private housing – a separate niche with its own characteristics. There are special booking systems, which develop in this direction.

In what cases apartments are better than hotel rooms:

  • If you are traveling as a family or a large company. Renting a spacious apartment can be much cheaper than staying in a hotel;
  • if you would rather cook your own food, for economical reasons or for special dietary requirements;
  • If you want to live in a residential building to see with his own eyes how the locals live, and just get the atmosphere of the city;
  • in popular tourist cities where hotels charge high prices, renting from a private person might be cheaper.

Where best to book an apartment

For private rentals we recommend the following trusted services:

Airbnb.com – an extensive worldwide database

What to look for when booking an apartment with a private person

Reviews. When booking an apartment keep in mind that you will not have a reception with an administrator, who you can turn to in case of emergency and ask to move to another room. So you should carefully study reviews, and we recommend not to consider options without reviews at all.
Accommodation option. On the sites, the search presents not only individual apartments and houses, but accommodation in rooms. We are traveling as a family, so I immediately limit the type of housing, so that the options were only individual apartments without roommates.
Deposit. The deposit amount is not removed at the time of booking, but it may be required at check-in (will be returned on departure). Within this amount the owner may make a claim to you after you leave, if something is broken or damaged. We advise on the first day of check-in take a picture or video of the apartment, and if you find any damage inform the owner and attach a photo. It may happen that the tenants broke something before you, and you might be responsible for the damage.
Cancellation rules. It is best to choose options with flexible cancellation policy to get a refund if the trip does not happen.

How to save money when booking an apartment

Airbnb.com has an invitation-only program. You can get a discount on your first reservation through our friendly registration link.

You can also get a bonus afterwards by inviting your friends. You can also specifically register a new account for your fellow travelers and relatives to get a discount on the first booking.

Another feature of the service – some of the owners are willing to make a discount that depends on the number of days booked (a week or more). Booking for a month, you can save up to 50%.

But that’s not all. There are discounts for booking on the day of arrival. It is best not to procrastinate until the last moment, but if you suddenly find yourself in this situation, you can even save money.