I have worked in the hotel industry for over seven years and traveled extensively using a variety of booking methods. I will go into detail about the five most common methods for acquiring lodging and list pros and cons for each. Should you have any questions about accommodations or wish for further elaboration, please do not hesitate to reach out and comment!
Hostelworld.com and hostelbookers.com are the two most common websites to make reservations. Hostels are often shared rooms with bunk-bed-lined walls. They are prevalent worldwide; yes, even in the USA! I have personally enjoyed one in the San Francisco City Center for a girl’s trip. The hotel room rate was $300+ and the hostel was $30/night with breakfast included.
- Very affordable accommodations, especially for long trips when disposable income for excursions and delicious eats may be a priority.
- Often centrally located near major hotspots that travelers wish to frequent.
- Provides basic necessities like a bed, shower, WIFI, breakfast, and kitchen for your own meal prep.
- Provides a community of fellow travelers to become friends and interact with. The new conversation partners can be especially revitalizing during long bouts of solo travel. It’s also refreshing if you’ve been sharing the exact same journey with your own travel companions.
- Lack of personal space. Most hostel offerings are shared rooms (co-ed or same sex) and lined with bunk beds.
- No true “unloading” as everything needs to be kept locked up. Be sure to book a hostel with lockers. Bring your own padlock to minimize chances of your stuff being rummaged through.
- Difficulty getting sound sleep. This can be due to lacking bed comfort, sounds as people come and go, and/or lights coming on throughout the night. It’s recommended to pack eye masks, earbuds, and headphones to help minimize the impact. If on a bottom bunk, a sheet can be put up to shield the light.
- Sanitation of bathrooms can be questionable. This is especially so if they are incessantly humid due to poor ventilation.
Direct Booking – Through Hotel Websites or the Hotel’s Reservation Team
This refers to booking accommodations directly through the hotel brand you intend to stay with i.e. Hilton, Marriott, Four Seasons, Hyatt, etc.
- Special discount to those participating in their “loyalty” programs. After signing up for their free loyalty program you can qualify for 3-10% in savings by booking directly. Other perks can include complimentary WIFI, late check-out without a fee, complimentary bottled water upon arrival, etc.
- Some companies now offer keyless entry to your room (i.e. digital check-in with Hilton). They even allow you to select your room location with the app. This means you can forgo front desk check-in and check-out. Helloooo efficiency and good-bye needless conversation; if you want!
- More likely to get complimentary upgrades or unexpected extras by booking directly since booking direct limits the hotel’s cost of acquiring your business.
- Hotel websites will have the most up-to-date information regarding their property’s services, fees, local attractions, directions, renovations, and updates to the property.
- Privacy of your own room and bathroom that are serviced daily; giving a greater sense of relaxation.
- Easily 2-3x more expensive than hostels. This is not ideal for penny-pinching travelers unless you’re with multiple companions to split costs.
- This is becoming less common, but some alternate websites or apps (i.e. Booking.com, Bookit.com, Expedia.com, HotelTonight, etc.) may show lower available rates. If you find this, you could contact the hotel directly to request they match the offer or simply book through the alternate place you found the lower rate.
- Keyless entry can be a challenge if multiple people are staying in the room as only one will have access to the room via their phone. You will likely need to get a room key if this is the case, but at least it is when you wish to have assistance.
Third Party Accommodation Suppliers
These are your expedia.com, booking.com, hotels.com, priceline.com, etc. of the world. They do not actually have their own hotels but supply hotel inventory for guests to book. They have their own loyalty programs and help you filter through many hotel brands, offerings, price points, locations, etc. all on the same platform.
- Ease in comparison of many hotel types and brands based on criteria you deem most important.
- Can book and modify your reservations for the hotel directly through the website you are currently on.
- Many hotels will participate in package offerings which combine hotel + airfare as a blended rate to get a discount on your adventures.
- Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for hotels at rates 50%+ off of what a typical hotel would cost. The caveat is that you don’t know which hotel you are booking until you pay. Therefore, you must be flexible with the type of hotel you are willing to stay at to feel this method is worthwhile. Also, you will likely get their lowest value room type: a room with a single bed. If traveling with another companion, plan on sharing a bed and not having any exceptions made.
- These websites do not list all room types available at the hotel so you may miss out on a better room option. For example, suites and/or penthouses will not be listed if the hotel only has a few in inventory.
- If a cancelation or stay revision is needed, you must go through the company you booked your stay through and not the hotel. Hotels are not able to alter reservations. Also, if you do not adhere to the cancelation policy of the hotel, you are less likely to get the fees waived.
- Any issues with refunds will be delayed as the third party must get approval from the hotel booked. This back and forth can take numerous days and is dependent on the hotel’s decision to honor a request.
- Third parties have a generic template for each hotelier to complete; limiting customization regarding all the hotel features, fees, and other pertinent information. For example, I once booked a hotel in Bordeaux. It had a king bed that was simply two twin beds smushed together with a fitted king sheet and comforter laid over it. When we told the hotel staff that we booked a double bedded room, housekeeping simply separated the beds and put twin sheets and comforters on them. Quite versatile of the hotel, but if I had booked a king bed for me and a companion to share, how uncomfortable for whoever got caught in the crack…
Personal Home, Apartment, Condo, or Room Rental Accommodations
Airbnb.com and VRBO.com (vacation rental by owner) are the popular options for making these reservations. Due to these being an individual’s home, these tend to be more cozy, private, and provide more than basic amenities.
- Fully furnished home lends to a relaxing and decompressing environment while traveling.
- A fully stocked kitchen allows for home cooked meals. This can minimize food costs while traveling.
- Often includes accessories for the surrounding area. This can include body boards, snorkel gear, beach mats, and more if at a beach location. This eliminates the need to rent from a company. Again, lending to the idea of “home” and cost-controlling your vacation.
- Check-in policies vary. Some owners wish to meet you to provide initial access and an overview of the property. Others provide a lockbox with a code prior to arrival and you may never meet your host. It can be nice to meet the owner, especially if they’re extra hospitable and greet you with local goodies. I had one in Hawaii bring me a pineapple. Another in Spain provided cheese, jamon, and a bottle of wine as a greeting.
- Some can feel irked by the idea of staying in someone else’s home. Some concern themselves with the idea that there may be cameras hidden or that the owner can access the premises at any time.
- Check-in policies vary. Some owners wish to meet you to provide initial access. This can be a con if you just want access to the property with minimal human interaction.
- May not be in the most ideal location i.e. not the city center. This can lead to difficulties getting around where you’re visiting.
Last Minute Hotel Booking Apps for Quick Accommodations
- Efficiency of scrolling through the accommodation options, selecting a hotel, and booking it for your stay. This process is especially beneficial since these apps are designed for travelers looking to stay the same night they are using the app.
- Hotels may participate in flash sales. This can lead to even steeper discounts than what you see on the hotel website or from third-party suppliers.
- No need to charge your card at check-in. The app lets you pre-pay your stay. A card is held on file for any accidents, but it makes check-in much more succinct.
- Limited hotel options mean the hotel accommodations may be in a less desirable location or more expensive than their counterparts on other websites. This could be considered a detriment of not researching ahead of time but that’s the cost of ease I suppose.
- Room type selection is not permitted at the base rate advertised. This means you will be placed into the lowest value room type available at the hotel.
- Great for solo travelers but not for families or groups. Those that need rooms with multiple beds will struggle. There is no option to select how many beds their room will have. Typically a single bed is the lowest value room type and exceptions are rare. This is especially so on weekends when double bedded rooms are often most preferred.
- Non-refundable, non-cancelable. Ensure you intend to stay or your money will not be returned.
For more of Morgan’s meanderings, see her blog here: https://morganchaneux.wordpress.com/