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 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, 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 agoda.com or booking.com. 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, 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?