My secret recipe for booking a good hotel room, every time.

My secret to hotel booking.

Booking comfortable, affordable and centrally located lodging is possibly the biggest and most underestimated challenge related to travel planning.  While there are many ways of going about meeting this challenge, over the years I have perfected my own system that I am now happily sharing with you.  In the following step-by-step instructions I hope to save you not only time but also money on your next vacation.

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So, let’s imagine that you are booking your dream trip to Venice, Italy.  A popular and sometimes quite expensive travel destination, it can be very difficult to know where to begin in your search through hundreds of hotel options, many seemingly quite expensive.

Instead of even attempting to evaluate the scope of accommodation options available to me in Venice, I instead save myself perhaps hours of time by going to a trusted travel expert – Frommers.com.

Frommers.com provides reviews on many things, but their hotel reviews are invaluable as they are reliable, clear, and most importantly, they are written by travel professionals.  This is an important point, and is the major reason their reviews are so trustworthy.

1.  Find a trusted and professional reviewer’s hotel listings for the city you would like to visit.

For our trip to Venice, I went to Google.com and type “frommers, venice” in the search bar, because my favorite professional travel review resource is Frommer’s.  Fodor’s also works, as does Lonely Planet, etc.  Use whatever source you are comfortable/familiar with – the important thing is that they are professional reviews, and not just reviews from the general public that have stayed at the hotel.

When I type Frommer’s Venice into google, the page I was looking for was the first result, which I clicked on to arrive at the homepage for Frommer’s information about Venice.  I then clicked on the left-hand side of the screen where it says “Venice Hotels” and “List All.”

Below is a screenshot of what you will be seeing when you are looking at the Frommer’s hotel listings for Venice.  You can sort the list by stars, price, name, and neighborhood.  I normally sort by price and then choose the hotel with the most stars.  For the sake of this blog post, let’s pretend we will select Hotel Al Piave, as it has a three star Frommer’s recommendation and is in a lower price range, listed as only one dollar sign.

An important note: Frommer’s star system is not related to the normal hotel star system.  Instead, their star system refers to their recommendations for hotels and is not related to the amount of amenities the hotel offers.  A Frommer’s 3-star hotel is their most recommended hotel, while a Frommer’s listing without stars is still recommended but not as highly recommended as their other listings.

2.  Read the hotel reviews to find the one that suits your needs. 

Next, I clicked on the name of the hotel, Hotel Al Piave, in order to read Frommer’s review, and to make sure that it sounded like the type of hotel that I would enjoy staying at.  Normally if the hotel has any major inconveniences related to location, architecture, amenities, etc, Frommer’s will mention it in the review.

3. Do a general search for hotels at your destination and in your date range on Kayak.com.

Kayak.com is like a giant search engine for travel, allowing you to gain a perspective on the general price range of the type of travel you are booking in that area and timeframe.  Kayak is able to do this by searching prices listed from a huge number of discount travel websites like Expedia, and Hotels.com to help you find the best price available on the internet.  I also like Kayak because it includes even more information than pricing, like Tripadvisor reviews, and an interactive map with all the hotels in the area you are searching for to help you get a great idea of location.

Below, I have typed “Venice, Italy” and my dates under the hotel search section in Kayak.

4.  Price the hotel(s) you are most interested in and check availability on Kayak.com.

Once Kayak has performed a search for available hotels in Venice for my date range, I then narrow the results by searching specifically for the hotel or hotels I found in the Frommer’s reviews that I am most interested in.  In this case, we liked the Hotel Al Piave.  Kayak offers many options for narrowing your search on the left-hand side of the screen within the search results.  Toward the bottom of these options, you will find a search box that says “Hotel Name.”  Here I type “Piave.”  Kayak found two hotels with “Piave” in the name, but only one is in Venice.  I click on the hotel in Venice to confirm this is the hotel that I am searching for.

5.  Confirm the hotel information matches the information from the Frommer’s review, and check out current prices and more reviews at Kayak.com.

I arrived at Kayak’s detail page for the Al Piave Hotel, which you can see below.  Because the name is slightly different on the Kayak listing than the Frommer’s listing, I confirm this hotel is the same by comparing the contact information listed for the hotel here with the contact information listed with Frommer’s.

The information matches, so I know I have successfully found the hotel that Frommer’s was recommending.  Here on the Kayak detail page I can get tons of information, including more hotel reviews from other travel sites, as well as the pricing for the hotel on about 15 major travel discount websites, and  more information about the hotel’s location.

6.  Check pricing on the hotel’s website.

Before I book my hotel, I need to perform one more important step. Now that I have researched current pricing for the hotel, I need to compare this pricing with the pricing on the actual website of the hotel itself.

As surprising as this may sound, most of the time I book my lodging directly through the hotel itself, because most of the time the hotel offers pricing that is competitive with what the online discount sites are offering.

As you can see below, the Hotel Al Piave is no exception, with a room available that is even less expensive than on the discount sites.

Let’s say for the sake of this discussion that instead of being cheaper, the prices listed on the Hotel Al Piave’s website were more expensive than the prices listed on the discount travel websites.  Before I book with another website, I would give the hotel a chance to match the other website’s price by calling them and telling them about the rate I found, and if they could sell the room to me directly at that rate.  Most often they can, as they would much rather book directly with you than have to offer service fees to outside agencies selling their rooms.

7.  Book your room!

After completing all my necessary research on my stay in Venice in about twenty minutes, I am ready to book my room directly with the Hotel Al Piave.  Booking directly with the hotel has many advantages as opposed to booking with a discount site “middle-man,” including more control over your reservation, as well as – in many cases – a more understanding cancellation policy, etc.

Do remember to always book with your credit card when possible, as your credit card company serves an important role as your advocate if something goes wrong with your room or with the billing.

And most importantly, enjoy your trip!!!

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Another important note: It is important that you know this system is relevant for both North American and European travel, so once you learn it, it will serve you well on a large variety of vacations.  Kayak.com and Frommers.com are the two websites I use, and while both of these companies are American, I’ve found that being an American, my standards for lodging are high and I am not as willing to compromise my expectations for lodging as much as I am willing to adjust my expectations for food, transportation, and sight-seeing.  Therefore, the information and recommendations by these companies on both American and non-American lodging is quite relevant, as their frame of reference matches mine.

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