I’m a big fan of comparison websites. They allow you to compare all your options and prices on one screen without having to spend hours researching prices on different websites. In some cases, like car rental, comparison sites can work out really well, with no booking fees, cancellation fees and no payment up front. But when it comes to hotels and accommodation, do comparison websites really get you the best deal? Before you book your next vacation, read this guide to make sure you don’t get ripped off!

Family at the hotel check in

Tips to get the Best Hotel Deal

  • Comparison sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com are good for doing initial research and comparing your options.
  • Once you narrow down your choices to the hotel (or few hotels) that you would like to stay at, head to the hotel’s own website to see if their price is the same. Often they will have extra room types or prices that they don’t supply to comparison websites.
  • Look on the hotel’s website to see if they have any special deals or coupons.
  • Watch out for booking fees and credit card fees. This is not exclusive to the comparison sites; some hotels also charge for this.
  • Check cancellation and amendments policies before you book. This applies to both comparison websites and the hotel’s own website. Check to see if they charge you a fee for amending or canceling bookings. Your travel insurance may cover this, but it’s easier to get your money back straight from the hotel.
  • Check what’s included in your room rate. Some places will include things like Wi-Fi internet and local calls. Ironically, it’s usually the expensive five-star hotels that charge for these things like a wounded bull!
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Try calling the hotel and see if they can offer a better price, room upgrade, or throw in some extras. This can work well if it’s close to the date and they still have plenty of rooms vacant.
  • Some people swear by bidding sites like Priceline, and others hate them. If you want to give it a shot, Gadling has an excellent guide on how to game Priceline to get the best deal.

Resort Pool

Let’s Look at a Real Life Example

The following example is searching for the same hotel on various websites. In each case I’ll choose the cheapest available rate and highlight any extra costs for the booking. The hotel I’m looking at is in Australia (my home country), but I’ve tried it for several different countries around the world and got similar results.

Two nights (weekend) at the Mantra on Queen in Brisbane, Australia.

Hotels.com
Room: $298.00
No credit card or booking fees
Free cancellation until two weeks before the arrival date
Total: $298.00

Wotif.com
Room: $298.00
Credit card fee: $5.50
$25 cancellation charge up to two weeks before the arrival date
Total: $303.50

Mantra.com.au
Room: $248.00
2% credit card surcharge: $4.84
$25 cancellation charge up to two weeks before the arrival date
Total: $246.84

As you can see, even with the credit card surcharge, the hotel’s own website worked out cheaper in this case, as they had rooms that were not advertised on the comparison websites. I should point out that Mantra is quite a large chain of hotels in Australia, so they have some strict terms around cancellation and other fees. I’ve found that if you’re booking at much smaller independent hotels or B&Bs that you can often negotiate much better rates by going direct.

Do you have a great tip for booking accommodation? Leave your best tactics in the comments below! And before you plan your vacation, don’t forget to check out my guides on getting the best deals on car rental, and how to take great travel photos!

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Featured photo credit: Relaxing bedroom via Shutterstock,Holidayextras via Flickr

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