From hours to minutes: How I book the right hotel quickly

I remember the time I was planning a trip to Spain in 2011. Booking air tickets and drawing up a rough itinerary were the easy parts. Then I had to book my hotel rooms.

I agonized over dozens of hotels in Barcelona, Sevilla and Madrid. I looked at so many options across so many websites, so many blogs and so many travel portals that it took me days to decide the hotels. If I had spent as much time in preparing for my college exams, I would have aced them all.

Anyways, when I finally selected the hotels, I promised myself I would never spend so much time on figuring out hotels for my trip. Of course, hotels are a very important part of my visit to a new place. I want comfort, I want easy access to public transport and I want to be safe.

But spending days, or even hours on hunting hotels? Sheer waste of valuable time.

Wora Bura Resort Spa Hua Hin

(Wora Bura Resort & Spa in Hua Hin, Thailand)

For my next trip, I tried to be a bit more systematic. I cut down from several days to just a single day on hotel research. But that was still too long.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And when planning my holiday to Italy in December 2013, I was also planning my wedding (!) and so, I had very little time to ponder over hotels.

That’s when I hit upon my formula.

I’ve been following this method since almost four years now and it’s saved me a lot of time, stress and the end result has never been bad (touchwood).

Try it and tell me what you think.

Here’s how I do it.

Step 1: I decide on a budget

I break down the trip’s budget into all sorts of costs—from sightseeing to food. All are estimates, of course, but that works. After calculating all these costs, I arrive at a cost for my hotel stays.

Or sometimes, I just decide the amount of money I am willing to spend on a hotel room per night on that trip, such as $80 per night.

Time taken: 10-20 minutes.

Hotel Kempinski Nay Pyi Taw

(Hotel Kempinski, Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar)

Step 2: I pick hotels for that given budget.

I enter the city and travel dates into a hotel booking website. The booking website is usually one I find reliable and trustworthy. My preferences are usually or Once I get the search results, I filter by my budget, and now, I have a (long) shortlist. This doesn’t take long and the list could be anywhere from five to 15 hotels.

Time taken: 10 minutes

Step 3: I look up shortlisted hotels.

If there are too many (long) listed hotels could be dime a dozen, so I also filter out the hotels by the number of stars or ratings. The top ones stay on the list, the bottom ones are eliminated. From this shorter shortlist, I am now ready to research hotels. I look up traveller review sites like Tripadvisor for each hotel, and I especially pay attention to the bad reviews to get a balanced view. I then cut down to three hotels.

Time taken: 15-20 minutes

Step 4: I now have a final list.

With just three hotels on my list, I visit each hotel’s website and look up important details. For example, do they have a swimming pool and an elevator? Is it near the places I want to visit? Will I have access to public transport? How near or far is it from the airport?

Time taken: 10-15 minutes

Art hotel Chiang Mai

(Art Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand)

Step 5: And now, I have a winner.

I go back to my booking site and book. Or, if the hotel offers a “lowest tariff guarantee” I write to them informing them of my travel dates and the best offers I’m getting online. Most hotels respond within a day and they often give me a better rate (this is especially true of boutique and single/ standalone hotels).

I get the hotel I want, they get a paying customer. Win-win all around.

Time taken: 5 minutes (to email), 5 minutes (to pay)

How do you choose hotels for your holiday?


Wora Bura Resort: Quaint Thai haven in Hua Hin

When I first visited Hua Hin a few years ago, I never thought I’d be going back again. But in a strange of twist of fate (if such a thing exists), here I was on the bus with S, on my way to this beachside town in Thailand.

Hua Hin is a four-hour bus or car ride away from Bangkok. Since it’s not as popular as Pattaya and Phuket, there are fewer tourists, which means no jostling crowds, no overcrowded beaches and less chances of bumping into people you know. 🙂

We stayed at the Wora Bura Hua Hin Resort & Spa, a tiny David compared to the Goliath that is Sheraton Hua Hin at the outskirts of the town (fabulous hotel). But while it’s not as big as the Sheraton, it’s got what you need in any beach resort, but with lots of old-world charm and personal attention.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

We were welcomed at the Wora Bura reception with warm smiles and a lemongrass cooler. Traditional square tiling, whitewashed pillars and greenery subtly highlighted the hotel’s Thai provenance.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

With only 70-odd rooms in Wora Bura identified by Thai cities and towns instead of room numbers, the Wora Bura has that homely feel you don’t get in a chain hotel. The beach is just a short walk away (from any room), as is the swimming pool, the spa, the breakfast room and the beach-facing restaurant. A gazillion extra brownie points for this, because we didn’t need to walk around the hotel forever or call for a buggy.

Wora Bura Resort: Quaint Thai haven in Hua Hin

Our stay began with a late lunch at the restaurant by the beach, where Mr S tucked into Thai seafood fare. The restaurant may have just half a dozen tables, but with their attentive service, gentle sea breeze and the beach view, we relished our extended lunch hour.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

We strolled back to our room through the manicured garden, across tiny bridges and the swimming pool as kids played Marco Polo. We briefly stopped to admire a gorgeous villa room named Phuket, with fancy drapes and a cute porch.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

Our room had a Thai décor theme, true to the spirit of the resort. It was not just earthy accents, but rustic-looking doors and padlock, a wooden key (no plastic key cards!) and the old-style tiles that made us feel like we were in Thailand. A refreshing change from standard-décor hotel chain-rooms that often lack a local touch.

The hotel steps lead to the main beach of the town, which is quite clean and not really crowded. You can lounge on the hotel deck chairs, chill on the beach, frolick in the water, scream at the tiny crabs, collect shells…. We did all of this!

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

The highlight of our stay at Wora Bura was our spa experience. Our hour-long couples’ massage was in an airy room (with private bathroom) cooled to the right temperature, and expert masseuses who spoke some English. The massages we’d selected were the “light” ones, but they were still rigorous enough to rejuvenate us. By the end of the massage, I was ready for the (tiring) bus ride to Bangkok airport. I slept through most of the bus journey back to Bangkok (something I can never do), that’s how relaxed I was.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

When we checked out, we knew that our stay at Wora Bura had been way too short. We were there only one night, but managed to pack in the 18 hours we were there. We’d have loved more time to relax in the hotel and explore the town. The hotel had a free shuttle service that dropped us to town and night market.

A third trip to Hua Hin? Who knows?! If yes, my chosen place of stay will be Wora Bura Resort. 🙂