Finding and booking the perfect hotels for your upcoming European trip should be an easy task, right? After all, hasn’t the internet made it easy to research and book with confidence?
Yes and no. It’s never been easier to get information about hotels around the globe, but it can also be easy to fall into traps set by hotel marketers, tricky websites, and even other travelers.
Here are five tips that will make your hotel research more efficient and your travel more affordable.
Tip #1: Be wary of online hotel reviews!
Lots of travel websites offer hotel reviews submitted by readers. While the majority of these reviews are probably legitimate, we always suggest approaching these reviews with a healthy dose of skepticism. You never know who’s posting that review, or why they’re posting.
For example, many returning visitors only bother to write a review when they’re M-A-D about something. They often blame a hotel for a frustrating experience that is not the hotel’s fault.
Furthermore, a hotel owner might “flame” a competing hotel with a nasty anonymous review and escape undetected. Conversely, hotel owners might give themselves glowing reviews. You just never know who these reviews are coming from.
Tip #2: Don’t confuse hotel “discounts” with good deals!
On certain reservation websites, you might be thrilled to come across available hotels with massively discounted rates–sometimes as high as 50%! Be skeptical.
When hotels partner with certain websites, they have to compete with other hotels to get your attention. One way to the top of the list is to offer the biggest discount.
Guess what happens? Hotels first inflate their normal rates, then turn around and “slash” those prices in order to offer a room at “50% off!!!” But nobody would have ever paid that “normal” price! It’s a hoax, yet that hotel is placed at the top of the list.
When you see claims of deep discounts, shop around and see what the reasonable going rate is for the type of hotel you’re looking for and compare.
Tip #3: Unchain yourself!
By search around for smaller, independent hotels, you’ll often come across more interesting, better located, and cheaper hotels!
Big reservation websites often prefer to deal with huge chains, as they’re easier to sign up and manage. If you only search on the big sites, you won’t even know the smaller hotels exist!
In many old European cities, strict zoning laws forbid modern construction in their historical centers. Because of this, huge chain hotels (that aren’t luxury) tend to be on the edges of town, while many cheaper small hotels are located in old buildings right in the middle of the action.
Spend time hunting around for the independent hotels out there! Smaller, European-focused websites like Venere.com, Booking.com, and EuroCheapo.com (which I edit), list smaller, non-chain, and family-run hotels.
Tip #4: Double check that hotel rate!
Call the hotel to verify prices before you book online, as you might find a cheaper rate.
Reservation websites charge the hotel a commission for bookings. To cover this, many hotels tack an extra charge onto their “online” room rate, thus inflating the price.
Try to find the hotel’s phone number and double check the prices! This can be quite difficult, as most websites won’t provide you with the hotel’s phone number. After all, they want you to book through them!
And don’t worry about not being able to speak the language! Almost all hotel receptionists in Europe can speak at least enough English to check prices for you.
Tip #5: Watch out for extra charges when reserving.
While researching hotel prices, we often come across well-known reservation websites that show one hotel price at first, but then reveal a much higher total price just when you’re ready to enter your credit card info.
How can they do this? Here are some of their favorite tricks:
They wait until the last minute to reveal the local taxes (which can be very high in Europe and are always a part of the price!).
Another tactic is to tack on a “service fee,” despite the fact that they’re already charging up to a 10% commission from the hotel!
More shamelessly, they invent some business about a “security fee.” Profiteering, anyone?
We recommend only booking through reservation websites that show all costs upfront.
Next step: Book it with confidence.
Now that we’ve spent time going over some of the tricks of the trade, you’re better equipped to research and book with confidence. And don’t forget to have fun! After all, you’re going on a European adventure! Bon voyage!
Tom Meyers is the Editor of EuroCheapo.com, a leading web guide to cheap hotels in Europe. EuroCheapo editors visit and evaluate budget hotels in Europes major cities, and provide objective, detailed reviews with full contact information. EuroCheapo also provides information on budget transportation throughout Europe, and strategies to travel for less.
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