In 2019, global tourism hit record levels. While 2020 presented a stark contrast to that reality, we feel strongly that the likelihood of a bounce-back in the years ahead is strong and that you need to be ready to pounce as soon as things boot back up.
When it comes to booking sites, you’ve got a lot of options. Below, eight key factors that will help you filter those options to decide which site to do business with.
The number one factor when it comes to finding the best online booking sites for hotels is reputability. This is what most people use as their primary (and sometimes only) gauge.
When you work with a reputable partner, you work with an organization that’s going to correctly represent potential accommodations, will offer you fair prices, and will take care of your banking information.
As far as how to deduce reputability goes, do some exploring online to see what people have to say about particular booking sites they’ve done business with. Sounds obvious, but if you’re seeing droves of happy customers, you’re on the right track.
While not the be all and end all of gauging booking sites, low prices are obviously something you’ll want to keep an eye on when you’re picking a booking site.
Online booking sites charge hotels a fee for every room they sell on their platform. Depending on that fee, hotels will have to raise or lower the price they offer for their rooms on any given platform. That creates market variances for how expensive a room is depending on where you shop.
As a rule of thumb, work with the most affordable booking site you also consider to be reputable. but window shop among the top, most established sites. And of course prior experience you may have had is a good guide.
Solid Loyalty Programs
A trend we’re seeing pick up steam in the online booking space is loyalty programs, offering customers special perks depending on how often they book. For example, free nights for x number of nights you book.
If you book hotels often, hooking up with a site with a great loyalty program may offset that platform’s slightly higher costs. Do the math, be honest about how often you’re likely to travel, and see what makes sense.
We’re all aware of big-box booking websites that offer accommodations all over the world. Many times though, these sites don’t have their ear to the ground in niche territories. That could mean they won’t offer smaller accommodations that are celebrated by locals or that they won’t have a beat on specials going on at quaint hotels.
In these cases, niche hotel booking sites can be helpful.
If you’re traveling to Jordan, for example, see if any booking sites based in Jordan could give you less advertised accommodation options. You may find savings through these providers, and enjoy a more authentic stay.
Travel plans change, particularly in today’s world of COVID-19.
You want to do business with a booking partner that appreciates that reality and is willing to offer you the flexibility you need to book your hotel rooms with confidence.
The vast majority of online hotel booking sites are being COVID-conscious and have offered their customers liberal refund and/or trip change leverage. Some haven’t though. You’ll want to stay away from those until global travel becomes more stable.
Accepted Payment Methods
This tip for finding the best online booking sites for hotels applies mostly to niche booking websites. Some more quaint operations may ask for antiquated, insecure payment means like personal checks or your bank routing numbers.
Don’t give out that information online unless you’re 100% sure who you’re doing business with is secure.
Always aim to use a credit card to book online travel since credit cards offer simple dispute processes, and a buffer between vendors and your personal bank accounts.
If a booking website charges your payment method in their native currency, you may be subjected to a currency exchange fee. This happens often in international travel so, if possible, use a payment method that doesn’t have foreign exchange fees or go with a booking site that makes charges in your currency. Exchange fees tend to range anywhere from 1% to 3%.
More Than Just Hotels
Booking hotels is great. But what about planes, cars, and experiences? Are you going to need any of those things booked for your travels? If you are, explore sites that offer more than just hotels. It may be that they can extend to your special package pricing for purchasing multiple travel elements.
Finding the best online booking sites for hotels is worth your time. Yes, that takes work. Given that effort, do business with the booking brand you become most familiar and comfortable with? By taking the time to explore your online booking options, you will find great deals that could save you hundreds of dollars on your trip.