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Like a great many things, the Internet has drastically changed how we handle making hotel arrangements and for the better.
Where at one point a person may have had to spend copious amounts of time of the phone or in an office with a travel agent looking for the right logging, now we’re just one click away from an ocean of amenable options.
This could be the best thing to ever happen to enthusiastic consumers but, can also be a most tedious endeavor to say the least. So I’d like to offer a few helpful tips before diving into the deep end of the web booking pool.
1. Booking on Desktop vs. Mobile
First off, you may not think it’s important, but you may want to consider which device you’re using when on the hunt for your destination stay. Your desktop or laptop computer will provide you with ease of use and a nice viewing space for all the photos and reviews you’ll be looking through.
If you’re on the go though, almost every hotel booking site offers a mobile based app for smart phone. Of course, you can access the site’s mobile based websites through your mobile device’s browser, but the apps are optimized for easier use and will help you keep track of what you’ve already looked at. Depending on the site, an app may even offer a few better deals.
That said, who needs another flaming app taking up valuable real estate on their smartphone? Certainly not me. I find it all too fiddly, regardless of having a decent size smartphone. For this reason, I choose my laptop when booking hotels; it just makes it less stressful.
2. Make Use of the Feature Filters
Is there some “must have” amenity you’re looking for that without would be a booking deal breaker? (i.e. Breakfast or free Wi-Fi.) Booking sites offer multiple types of filter to help you narrow down what could be hundreds of choices.
For example, want to look at only prices, consumer ratings, or amenities? With these filters, this type of information can be accessed quickly and easily. The filters are usually situated on either the left-hand side of the page, or across the top of the search listings.
If you’re a social media fan keep an eye out for the “save” and “share” functions as well, should you want to let your mates know what your considering and where you're going.
3. Read the Hotel Details!
When you find a place that intrigues you, make sure you are able to see everything your hotel offers, from beach access to childcare facilities, as well as proximity to local attractions. Seek the “What’s Nearby” section to view what is around your potential abode so you’re close to the thing that interest you most.
Be cautious of a listing that is vague or incomplete. This is usually an indication of a substandard venue and the lack of attention to detail surely spreads to other areas of their business. The last thing you want is to arrive at a hotel situated next to a stinky canal — which can happen in Thailand, believe me!
4. Beware of Flattering Images
It’s easy to be misled by a pretty picture. I think just about everyone has gone for a hotel because “the pictures look nice”, only to turn up and see that those pictures were either 10 years old or photoshopped beyond recognition.
In light of this, I recommend using a site that has access to customer images as well as the hotel promo pics. Hotels.com is a good options because it uses TripAdvisor reviews that feature real images from people who actually stayed at these locations.
*TripAdviser.com is the long time, web-based standard for travel food reviews and ratings.
5. Read Deeper Into Reviews
Reviews can be a shopper’s most helpful tool; however, make sure to read a few before you pass final judgement. Sure, if a hotel has a slew of bad reviews then avoid it, but don’t be put off of a potentially great place by one scathing review from a customer who just likes to complain.
Additionally, you may be able to use one of the filters to see only the bad reviews or just good ones. Whatever site you go with, make sure to use the review section to its fullest.
6. Remember: Big Discounts Aren’t Always Great Deals
Discounting isn’t always as transparent as it may seem. Hotels know that everybody is looking for the best deal, so they often list their rooms as discounted knowing that this is the rate everyone can usually get.
Additionally, you may come across a massive savings deal, only to get to the hotel and realize the reason why — maintenance work is being carried out next door or the pool has been drained. Conversely, you should always keep an eye open for that perfect deal, especially during low seasons. Some even offer you an alert if a hotel you’re interest in has a price cut.
7. Make Use of the Map Location Feature
One popular function you’re sure to like is the map locator. Say you know exactly where or who you like to stay close to. Pull up the map listings options and check out the establishments nearest to your ultimate destination. Some of the sites even offer travel times to help you plan your transit.
8. The Reservation Process
Once you’ve set up an account with any of these services, the actual booking process is relatively easy. Whether you’re on your desktop or mobile device, it should only take a couple of steps to get you locked in. Be advised, most listings require you to use a credit card. Some sites may let you use PayPal (like Agoda) and some may even have a pay-on-arrival option (not many).
9. Join the Rewards Program
If you are a customer who likes to have a “go to” that they use consistently, you'll be happy to know that a number of the services out there offer rewards for loyalty. You can rack up free nights from regular booking, get discounts for booking extra nights and upgrades!
10. Don't Worry About Customer Service
This is the part people worry about the most, and rightly so. It's also a reason many old skool travelers still book direct with hotels. But hey, the most popular booking sites have been around long enough to have decent systems in place to handle any issues.
The 5 in my list all stack up very well when it comes to responsiveness to cancellations, booking enquiries and altering bookings. So rest assured, if things go wrong, there are customer service phone numbers you can call to get your problems handled.
Take Agoda.com for example: I booked to Krabi last year, only to realize an hour later that the side of the island I'd booked was wrong!
I wanted the side without the mangroves, which can get smelly when the tide goes out. I was able to cancel my hotel by ringing Agoda, and then book a new one online within minutes. Phew!
Incidents like this aside, most of the time your questions can be answered right there on the website in the FAQ section. Additionally, the hotels that book using these sites know how to handle any issues that arise such as refunds.
Usually, once you arrive at your tenement, the staff is more than willing to satisfy you, the customer. After all, you hold the power of the review in your hands!
Lastly, just be clear what the cancelation policy is for the hotel before you finish your purchase. Some of the best deals don't allow cancellations. Sometimes it's worth paying a bit extra just to have that luxury if you need it.
Take Your Time & Enjoy the Process
If you’re new to the world of online bookings, have no fear. You’ll get the hang of it in no time, and it's actually pretty fun reading through all the reviews and comparing prices.
The good news is these are the new industry standards for getting you in the place you want to be and nearly the entire hotel traveling world does their business this way nowadays.
When it comes to booking a hotel in Thailand, the sites in my top 5 have all proven themselves worthy of your business, albeit that in terms of pricing and proposition, they excel in slightly different areas of travel.
Enjoy your trip!
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