Hotel booking hacks – Tips on finding the best deals online

Joanna Horanin

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Hi, I'm Joanna, the author of The Blond Travels. In the worlds of Thailand and Portugal, I feel like a fish in water - and it's no coincidence! I've been exploring Thailand for over a decade, and I've settled in Portugal for 6 years now. My mission is to support Dreamers - just like you - in discovering these fascinating countries and helping those in love with them find their own place on Earth, preferably for good! Let's uncover these unique corners of the world together.

Finding cheap, but good accommodation online can be intimidating. Sometimes it takes quite a long time to spot the best deal. Do you struggle with it and need some help? Here are the best tricks and hacks that will help you to book an amazing place for a good price.

During the last 10 years I have travelled extensively to different destinations. My first trips as a backpacker, consisted of travelling to a city and walking from one hostel to another, asking if there were vacancies. A lot has changed since then and whenever I go somewhere, I tend to book my accommodation online ahead of time. I have learnt a lot and thanks to my experience I have saved a lot of money.

If you are an avid traveller and would like to find out how to find the best deals for hotels and accommodation online, this post will help you with just that.

Hotel booking hacks for the best deals

After I book a flight, I search for accommodation online. This is my favourite part. I like to browse around, check prices, look at photos and compare different options.

I normally go for price comparison sites, where I have long lists of available accommodation. The rates there are lower or the same as booking directly with a hotel, it’s also convenient and you can earn points that are then redeemed as a discount at the next booking.

The first place I check for deals on hotels is I find it the most straightforward and the easiest to operate. I have been a customer of theirs for a long time now.

Another one of my favourites is Agoda. This is especially useful in Asia. I found that they have more options there for less known destinations in Thailand. This is how I found a great place to stay in Mae Kampong, near Chiang Mai, where I spent a lovely weekend.

If I can’t find anything for a good price, I go to Airbnb. I found that in Europe, they offer the best deals. Staying in apartments is not something I like very much, but sometimes there’s not much choice.

Other price comparison sites are:

Normally, when I look for the best hotel deal online, I first put my location, dates and the number of people I am travelling with.

If there are special requirements, I add them, too. Sometimes Pyś and I go to a nice hotel for a weekend, where we want to swim in a pool, have a spa and a gym. Other times, we just want something simple, in a good location, from where we can easily explore the area.

The price is important, too, of course. So, after I get my results, I filter them by rate per night.

When it comes to travelling somewhere to explore the city, or the nearby area, I want to make sure that I’m in a good location. So, first, I check on Google where the best area to stay is.

In case of cities, you can check this on Google Maps. Staying in the city centre is usually the best, but might be expensive and noisy. If you are not prepared to pay a lot, then look for something further. In cases like this, I google ‘best areas to stay in….’ and read blogs and advice on forums. I make sure that the local transport around is good and it can take me to the city centre and best attractions in a short amount of time.

When it comes to staying somewhere outside of cities, such as islands and the mountains, I google first and find opinions about certain areas. This is how I found my accommodation on Koh Lanta and Koh Phangan. I knew that I wanted a quiet beach with access to shops and entertainment areas. I found some opinions about the regions on travel blogs and then I looked for hotels online.

Hotels vs apartments

Personally, I like booking hotels more. The biggest advantage of them to me is that I have breakfast included and my room is cleaned every day. Additionally, when I arrive, there is a receptionist I can ask questions about the location.

Staying in a hotel makes me feel more comfortable.

Apartments can be great, too. They provide you with an insight into the city. Quite often you stay in the suburbs and can enjoy the local way of life. On Airbnb you can also easily find an unusual place to stay, like a mountain hut, or a luxury villa.

Apartments are often cheaper, especially in Europe. Sometimes, when I travel, I choose to stay in a flat as hotels seem to be overpriced, especially in the high season.

Best time to find a deal on hotels

Similarly to flights, finding a hotel for a good price online, requires good timing. Typically, the cheapest times to book are low seasons – for example, in Thailand it would be May to October, or for Portugal November till April. Unfortunately, this usually means travelling somewhere when the weather is not the best, but everything is cheaper, including accommodation.

Pay attention to sales. Price comparison sites run Black Friday deals, Christmas sales and New Year’s sales. It’s the best time to book then.

If you like a particular brand of hotels, you can join their loyalty programmes. I know that Marriott has them. Book directly with the hotel, collect points and get discounts, deals and free accommodation.

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What to look out for when booking accommodation online?

There are some things that are good to pay attention to.

The most important one for me are the reviews. When I find a place I like, on for example, I read reviews. I go through the first 5-7 of them. If there are certain things that repeat themselves, then I know what to look out for.

For example, if a lot of reviews mention that the room was dirty, or it was noisy, then it means that it’s probably true and the place is better to be avoided. Similarly, when the reviews are good, then I know that the hotel I want to book online is worth the money.

Watch out for fake reviews as well. Some hotels pay ghost writers to write reviews under fake accounts. Sometimes it’s hard to notice them, but the general advice is – if there are short reviews without many details, they are all too good to be true, then they might be fake. To make sure that these are genuine, check reviews on Google Maps.

Understanding cancellation policies

When booking a hotel or an apartment online, make sure you know the cancellation policies. Usually, they are clearly stated at the time of the booking.

Many booking platforms allow you to cancel up to 24 hours before without being charged. This normally happens when you book way in advance. When your booking is closer to the travelling times, you might not have this opportunity and you’ll be charged some percentage of the rate, the full price, or only for the first night. This depends on your accommodation.

The most popular cancellation policies are:

  • Free cancellation policy – you will not be charged if you cancel.
  • Non-refundable policy – it takes full payment for the whole stay if you cancel.
  • Partially-refundable policy – you will be refunded a part of the charge.
  • No-show policy – if you don’t cancel, but don’t show up, you will pay for the whole stay.
  • Group cancellation policy – if you are travelling with a group of friends, or with your family, you might have a different policy. It is usually stricter than when travelling alone or with one other person.
  • Minimum stay policy – this is when a hotel decides to charge you a minimum fee if you cancel.

Finding pet-friendly accommodation

A lot of accommodation don’t allow pets, but it is still possible to find places that are pet-friendly.

The best place to start is Google. Simply write ‘dog/cat/pet-friendly hotel in….’ and see what you will get.

In some countries, there are sites that have lists of pet-friendly accommodation. This will show up on Google as well.

Finally, price comparison sites, such as Airbnb and also have special filters, which will help you to find the right place for you and your furry friend.

Make sure that you also read the policies and rules and regulations when travelling with a pet. Sometimes they are quite strict, especially when it comes to apartments.

Choosing the right accommodation can significantly improve your travel experience. That’s why it’s so important to take your time and go through available options.

Remember, the devil is in the details when booking accommodation online. Take the time to read and understand guest reviews, be aware of room policies, and ensure that the listed amenities align with your preferences. Armed with this knowledge, you can avoid surprises and ensure a comfortable stay.