Thanks to the internet, it’s easier to book a hotel than ever before. And consumers are taking full advantage: In 2023, there are projected to be 1.9 billion occupied room nights in the U.S. alone. Sometimes, though, the sheer choice of hotel websites and apps can be overwhelming — and you might not get the best deal if you don’t know what to look out for. Read on for seven common hotel booking mistakes to avoid.
You Take the Headline Price at Face Value
The advertised rate for hotels can often seem too good to be true — and sometimes it is. Resort fees, city taxes, and other fees can all add a considerable amount to the total cost. Wi-Fi is another fee to look out for — if a hotel offers free internet access, it can save you a considerable sum. When comparing prices, make sure you’re taking into account all the costs you’re likely to incur. For example, if breakfast is included, that might be a valuable perk, but if you don’t eat much in the morning, a takeaway coffee somewhere else might make better financial sense. Parking fees can add up, too, so work out if you really need that rental car before you book.
You Think You’ve Found a Bargain Before You Look at the Map
It’s essential to factor in the cost of getting around a foreign city when booking your hotel. You might think you’ve found a bargain, but if you have to add on expensive taxi costs — not to mention the time you’ll waste — it might not be the good deal you think it is. If you’re booking a city hotel, see if they offer a transport pass. And if your hotel is located by a train or subway station, and journey times from the airport are quick thanks to express connections, it might well be a bargain after all.
You Switch Brands
If you’re a frequent traveler, sticking with the same hotel chain and signing up for their reward program can pay dividends. You’ll be awarded points each time you stay, which will soon add up, plus if you stay enough to earn elite status you’ll get special perks like late check-out, free breakfast, and suite upgrades. (However, be sure to book directly with the hotel and not a third-party online travel agency; otherwise you won’t earn points on your stay.) And when you’re ready to book that big three-week trip to Europe, you’ll be happy you can cash in those points. Optimize your reward value by comparing points-to-price ratios for different cities or times of year.
You Fail to Factor in Your Specific Needs
On the face of it, comparing the price of basic double-occupancy hotel rooms might seem to make sense. But if you’re a larger party, it might be more cost-effective to pick a hotel where larger rooms and multiple beds mean you can fit into one room. Likewise, if you’re not going to be satisfied unless you have a sea view, check to see what premium you’re likely to be charged. If a hotel’s pricing doesn’t vary significantly, it could make all the difference to your final bill.
You Get Tied into a Non-Refundable Rate
Often, a non-refundable rate works out to be considerably less than a flexible one, but it may not be worth the risk. A missed flight or unexpected family illness could leave you relying on a payout from your travel insurance. Plans often change, so think very carefully before you commit to a hotel bill you might not even need.
You Wait for Last-Minute Bargains
There’s a possibility that leaving your booking until the last minute might result in savings — indeed, that’s the basis of popular apps like HotelTonight. But you also might find it difficult to locate a convenient hotel room so late in the planning process. In certain places, such as near national park hotspots, the supply of accommodation can’t match demand in the high season, and hotels can sell out altogether. And if your intended destination is a business traveler hub, hotels will expect to receive bookings right up until the last minute, making discounts a pipe dream. Save yourself the last-minute panic and book well in advance.
You Get Your Dates Wrong
Surely this can’t be a common mistake, can it? Unfortunately it can, thanks to overnight travel, time zone differences, and complex itineraries. Take particular care if your flight departs close to midnight or arrives early in the morning. It might seem simple, but if you spend an extra moment to ensure your dates are correct before booking, your peace of mind will thank you later.