UK Trip 2: Managing Hotels

MANAGING HOTELS: We used Booking.com. At first we were making reservations online direct, but found it difficult to manage different policies and invoices and varying levels of communication. Booking.com doesn't chg fee, sends confirmation with cancellation date and cost ("before this day/time will cost nothing..after this day/time will cost you ___"). Brilliantly easy.

Posted by Elle
Iowa
19 posts

Susan,
We were staying in a B&B in Pitlochry, Scotland and the owner wrote this on our bill: Please note that by using Booking.com you are being charged 25 GB more than we would had you called us directly. Hmm... I had no idea that it was so much! While Booking.com, which I agree is so very convenient, says there is no charge for the client, they must charge the inn keeper, who just adds it to the bill. This made me think that I need to skip Booking.com and call directly. Has anyone had a similar experience?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7978 posts

Here's the hierarchy/technique of finding a place to sleep in descending cost: 1. Use any booking engine. 2. Use the town website or TI. 3. Walk up to the door and knock. 4. Offer to pay cash. 5. Ask for a discont because its late in the day and rooms are still available, the economy sucks, or anything else you can think of. Simply put, reservations are generally a screw job since there are more rooms than takers. The panic sets in when places with an internet presence or guidebook listing aren't available. Fortunately, there's always something next door that's just as good. Management: if you have to make reservations, the name, address, and date fit on one
line of a 3 x 5 card - - there are ten lines per card if you're poor and can work up the gumption not to make reservations, you can get a month's worth of town names and dates on the back of a business envelope if you can work up the gumption to not have a schedule, you can lighten your load by not lugging around the envelope

Posted by Susan
Avon, MN, USA
6 posts

I know what you mean. Everybody says it's cheaper, but when i received a confirmation from a london hotel with my Visa number out in the open, with no security, i said no more. i often have gone to the hotel website to see what the room would cost direct, and so far have not found it a significant motivator to deal with the confusion of having numerous reservations outstanding at once. But that wouldn't be so hard to do... checking the hotel site and then booking.com. As far as walking up to the hotel: we were in england, scotland, wales may 14-June 24 and if you don't care where you stay that may be ok, but it's high season and we wanted decent rooms. and walking around with a backpack was not my idea of a fun time. It wasn't easy even 4-7 days sometimes to find the kind of room we wanted ... struggled at times to find a room near train station so we wouldn't have to slog around. If you have no standards, or unlimited budget walking up to any hotel might be a breeze, or if you don't require en suite bathroom. But we quickly learned to get a reservation at least a day or two ahead.We needed wifi, en suite, lovely to have a safe, too. But once you get out there.. to wherever you're going.. you'll quickly find out the best way to handle hotels/hostels. it may be different for us in France, Belgium and Holland next year. bon voyage.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7829 posts

Susan I almost always book direct,, but I do look on booking sites too once n awhile... if I see a deal I look up hotels own website and see if they are offering better deal. I prefer to deal direct with hotel as I think they honor their direct reservatins first and if people have a problem because they booked through an agency the hotel can just shrug their shoulders ..
I am not picky but like clean, safe and central, I almost always get a safe and a mini fridge and always get a/c in summer, and I almost always pay less then 120 euros a night.. sometimes a lot less even , ( I have paid more for treat hotels once in awhile) . I find I just print out all my hotel confirmations,, put each one in an envenlope with date on it and then throw them away as we go.. easy system. I neve pay in advance and I never book any hotel that does not have an acceptable cancellation policy ( which to me is no more then a week in advance, often 24-48 hours )

Posted by Susan
Avon, MN, USA
6 posts

Just wanted to add: There are many ways to manage the confirmation numbers or print outs.
Pat prints out and carries envelopes. I did a little of that the first week, but found another way that fit our travel-style a little better. I got a little notebook, wrote the day and date for each day of our trip into it (next year i'll give myself a few more pages per day), and every night's hotel name, address, confirmation number into the day we would be staying there. even had room to note cancellations so i didn't have to open up my laptop to see hotel details. And although i'm a writer,i found i preferred to be talking to people or reading the local newspapers rather than journalling, so next year i'll have room to note great restaurants, names of people we meet,etc and other little details that will help me recall our wonderful adventure.

Posted by Betty
Missouri City
201 posts

Susan, I make a hotel list on my computer with all our hotel info on one sheet of paper (address, phone #, conf#, dates, cancellation info, directions, etc). I can forward this to anyone who needs to know how to reach us and I keep a copy for me to carry in my travel bag. I also put a copy in each of our suitcases, so if our luggage gets lost, anyone opening the bag can see where we are staying and when. I carry this list, along with car reservation info, airline etickets, and any other pertinent travel info in an plastic envelop that I got at Target. Occasionally, I make bookings at Booking.com when I find that they are cheaper than booking with the hotel directly. And this has happened. Maybe the hotel would have matched the booking.com rate if I had contacted them but why bother. I have never had any problems whatsoever with a booking.com reservation.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

@Elle - I talked to a B & B owner about booking.com and asked him he pays a middleman to get traffic to his B & B. He told me it's worthwhile to him to get the visibility and ease of booking that the site provides - otherwise some folks wouldn't even know his B & B exists unless they happen to find the website by luck or hear about him from word of mouth. So it's a win-win for both hotel and the booking engine - otherwise hotels wouldn't use it to sell their empty rooms. Having said that, of course the cost gets passed down to the customer but you really don't know what that cost is - every hotel has a different contract with booking.com. It sounds like your hotel is just trying to communicate to you that, once you've stayed at his place, he'd naturally prefer not to pay booking.com for you to stay there again...so he'd pocket the profit instead by charging you a higher rate for the room. Honestly, his note doesn't mean anything unless you have reason to trust that he actually pays booking.com that amount for each booking as he said (who knows though? have you seen his contract?). The best way around this is to just compare booking.com rates vs the hotel website - and then pick the cheaper option.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4771 posts

I don't use Booking.com, but use www.hrs.com instead. People have their favorites. All you have to do is check the prices on the hotel consolidator and then at the hotel or B&B themselves to see which one is cheaper. I like the cancellation policy of HRS, which is a plus. I also asked a couple of hotels about pricing and they told me that because HRS fills up their rooms, they offer a better rate than the hotel itself. A B&B will be different of course, but the owner who relies on these websites, knows they will keep their rooms filled. The small fee the owner pays is worth it if you look at the big picture. He was right that people wouldn't find his property unless it was listed. That is the whole point. Owners of hotels and B&B's are going to write off those fees as advertising costs on their taxes anyway. Any business needs some kind of advertising, and doing it online gets the most response for their money.

Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
805 posts

I am not sure how this wound up in Trip Reports, instead of General Europe, where more people will see it, but since it is here: On another travel site, I have seen reports that hotels save their best rooms for those who book directly with them, and put their third-party bookings in the less desirable rooms, and even in annexes, which, in one case was a couple doors down over a garage.

Posted by Elaine
Columbia, SC
755 posts

Here's my HAPPY experience with booking.com. I reserved a room for 3 nights in a downtown Miami hotel 11 months in advance. It was a small, no-name place. Per booking.com, for this hotel, there was a 24 hour cancellation policy and no deposit required, but I was required to enter a CC# to confirm. OK, that's pretty standard. Perfect!! I had my room locked down for a weekend when downtown Miami was already sold out. Maybe a week later, I looked at my online banking to discover the hotel (now using a Brooklyn, NY business address!!! WTH!) had debited my account for the full stay. No answer at the Miami hotel number when I call. Panicked, I called booking.com. Some CSR told me they'd look into it. Within 24 hours they called back. The hotel had gone out of business, but they would work to get me a refund. I figured I's never see that $700 again and that it would be a very costly lesson. BUT, 48 hours later the funds were back in my account!!
I was very relieved and grateful to booking.com, and will have a very high level of comfort using them into the future.....altho...I do admit to usually still looking at Booking.com, then contacting the hotel directly to see if I can get a better rate. But I do feel that booking.com wants to protect its customers and it's business and reputation.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2702 posts

The advantage to using booking.com is if you stay mindful of the dates, up until the last 24 hrs prior to arrival, you can cancel without penalty. Fair enough. Plus there is no deposit. But calling the hotel directly has the possibility of getting a lower rate than that offerred by booking.com, which was my experience with a certain B&B in London.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

@Roy - booking.com tiers its room rates (you can pick budget or non budget option rooms) so there is no way they can uniformly assign the crappy rooms to booking customers, especially if they have slack in the system (in that case, it costs them nothing to upgrade someone and give them a better experience so they become repeat customers). Plus you would see it in the reviews if there was a discernible difference in people's expectations and what they actually received. Sure, the honeymoon suite may only go through the hotel's phone or website channel because it's a premium priced room and owner doesn't want to discount when they don't need to, but that does not automatically mean that third-party folks only get the awful rooms (I would argue they get a value in line with the price paid, and if they disagree, they'll rant on the website).

Posted by Roy
Auburn, AL
805 posts

Agnes, I have to disagree on this. When demand is slack, business owners love third parties that bring them business; at peak times they become an unnecessary expense. At any time, however, any competent business owner is going to favor customers who come to him directly, saving him at least 15 percent in expense. Rooms in the same category will often vary considerably as to condition and location. The undesirable rooms may be the ones most in need of renovation or they may be the smallest ones in the hotel or larger ones over a garage next door or in a fourth-floor annex w/o elevator across the street or next to a noisy elevator, over the pickup dock for morning deliveries, etc. I have seen plenty of these complaints on the web. Guess who gets first consideration for those rooms?

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4879 posts

I didn't use Booking.com, but I have used the Priceline Name Your Own Price option many times. I would assume hotels look at 3rd party bookings the same way. One time I booked a 3.5 star hotel in Boston for $65 a night. That got me a queen room at a very nice place in Back Bay. When we arrived we were upgraded to a king room on an upper floor, where the key had to be used in the elevators to take us that high. We had an awesome view. I'm sure the woman who checked us in knew we had booked on Priceline, and she initiated the upgrade. I checked what the normal price of the room was, and found it was $250 (in 2009). Score!!

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1360 posts

Susan, I used Booking.com on most of my trip for this Sept. Why? because it gave me "at a glace" what i wanted/needed to know. > hotels available > prices
> location did i book my ticket using booking.com? yes and no. I would also check the web site of the place i was staying and see if the same price was offered. If it was....guess what? If booking.com was cheaper, then i used them. I also looked at other places too, but use the tools at hand. If you dont want to spend the time/$$$ doing it, then you could pay more. Pay now or pay later, its all up to you. just a note. no one works for free and everyone wants a piece of the pie. some more than others. happy trails.

Posted by Don
Edmonds, WA, USA
8 posts

I also booked via booking.com, et al, and found on a couple of occasions that I ended up with "room only" which meant no free breakfast. That was stated up front on booking, but had I had the sense to go to the hotel's website and book direct, I wouldn't have had to pay for breakfast. OTOH, on one occasion I got the daily WIFI fee waived because the hotel advertised on booking.com that it was free. Had I booked direct, I would have had to pay for WIFI. Go figure!!!