With so many different types of accommodation available to choose from and so many different booking sites out there, it would seem like knowing how to book each type would be extremely complicated, but it’s actually very simple.
On this page, I will show you how to find and book the cheapest and best hotels, aparthotels, guesthouses, vacation homes, and resorts for your trip.
If you’re looking for an Airbnb, Vrbo, hostel, or couchsurfing host, then you will have to check their respective pages as the process is a little different for each one. Otherwise, continue on to step #1!
So without further ado, here’s the 6-step guide to booking your accommodation:
1. Start using Booking.com
When it comes to finding and booking your hotel, aparthotel, guesthouse, vacation home, or resort, there is really only one website you should be using and that’s Booking.com. Booking.com is the largest accommodation search engine with the cheapest prices.
In addition, they have a rewards program called Genius which can get you 10% off some properties if you’re Level 1 and up to 15% off as well as free breakfast and room upgrades if you’re Level 2 ! To reach Level 1, you need to have made 2 bookings in the past 2 years and for Level 2, it’s 5 bookings (there are only 2 levels at the moment).
Many other sites may have similar prices, but Booking has almost always had the best prices in my travels, sometimes offering prices that were even lower than what the property itself was selling the rooms for. They also have the largest selection of properties available meaning there really is no need to use any other websites for your search.
Go to Booking.com to start looking for your accommodation!
2. Find the property you want to book
Enter your destination, dates, number of people, and number of rooms needed, then click search. You will get shown hotels as well as aparthotels, guesthouses, hostels, vacation homes, resorts, and others.
Use the filters on the left of your search results page to narrow down your options to the ones that match your preferences. If you’re only looking for hotels, filter out the other property types.
One filter that I highly recommend you use is the “very good: 8+” review score filter. This will remove any properties that have a total review score less than 8, leaving you with the ones that the majority of people have liked. Anything less than 8 and you risk having an unpleasant experience.
And if there are any other filters you want to include, select them before looking at your search results.
When it comes to location, the best thing you can do is research the best areas to stay in the city (as well as the neighbourhoods to avoid). However, there are filters that let you pick certain neighbourhoods or distances from the city center.
Keep in mind though that the city center on Booking isn’t always accurate and sometimes you can also find a cheaper option that might be a little further out, but right next to public transport, meaning you can still get everywhere easily so it’s worth considering that option as well. There is also a map view that lets you see where all your accommodation options are located.
Once you’ve selected all the relevant filters, take a look at your results. The default order the results are shown in is Booking.com’s “top picks”, but you can also sort the results by price, among other things. I typically sort them by price and I pick a hotel in a good location that has the best value for price.
Make sure to read the reviews before you book anything to see what other people have said about it. Take note of what’s included with your booking and if you’re happy with it, click reserve to book it!
But wait, before you do that…
3. Contact the property directly
A good strategy for saving some money is to do a google search for the place that you find on Booking.com and see if they have a website that lets you make online bookings. Check the price for the same dates and see if it’s cheaper.
If they don’t have a website, try emailing or calling them. Mention how you saw their property on Booking.com and that you were wondering if they offer discounts for booking directly. Many of them will say yes!
If you’re wondering why it would be cheaper to book directly via the property instead of using Booking.com, it’s because properties that you see on Booking.com have to pay a 15% commission for every completed booking that gets made.
This means that they lose out on 15% of the profits they would otherwise get. Some places may try to minimize that loss by offering their rooms for a lower price if booked directly through them so rather than pay Booking.com that 15%, they will give you a 5% or 10% discount on your stay.
Keep in mind though that some properties may ask you to pre-pay or pay a deposit to confirm your stay if you book with them directly and they might not have the same cancellation policy as you’d get on Booking.com so make sure that you are certain of your intentions to stay at that property if you choose to do this.
If you aren’t able to get a hold of them and you end up making your booking on Booking.com, another thing that might happen when you arrive to check in is that some smaller places may ask you to cancel the reservation on Booking.com if it still has free cancellation and then offer you the exact same room at a lower price for doing so. Go ahead and do it as it’s a win-win for everyone!
4. Book early
Most of the time, hotels tend to operate on a pricing scheme not too different from airlines. The earlier you book, the better the deal you will get, with last-minute bookings being the most expensive.
This is because there are a lot of business travelers that stay in hotels and their trips are usually last-minute. Hotels know this and raise their prices on any available rooms they have a few days before in an attempt to make that extra buck from those businesspeople.
The best advice I can give is to book as early as you can. Not only will it ensure that you get a cheaper price, but it will also ensure that you have the most options when it comes to rooms. The longer you wait to book, the fewer options you will see when searching for accomodation and the room that you might have been interested in before might get booked by someone else if you don’t book it.
If you have to book last-minute, try checking Hotel Tonight in addition to Booking as you can sometimes find hotels that drop their prices significantly 24 hours before check-in in an effort to sell the room! Use the referral code SEBACI to get $30 off your first booking!
5. Track your room price
That being said, sometimes hotel prices can actually go down as well. The stats say that 40% of hotel prices go down after already getting booked! There is a tool you can use that will notify you when the price of a hotel goes down called Pruvo.
When you book your hotel with free cancellation, forward your reservation confirmation that you got in your email inbox to email@example.com and they will scan every booking site out there and let you know every time they find the same hotel booking for a lower price up until check-in.
When you get a notification telling you they did, you can rebook the same room with them at that new price (as long as your original booking had free cancellation)! They also have a Google Chrome extension which you can download here.
6. Take advantage of membership programs
Many larger-chain hotels have membership programs that reward you for repeated business. Sign up to become a member of their rewards programs and you can earn points for every stay which you can use towards discounts on future stays with them. Being a member can also get you perks like free upgrades, wifi, late check-out, and even breakfast!
In addition to hotel rewards programs, there are also independent associations out there that can give you discounts on hotels around the world if you’re a member. Most of the time you use your membership code when making your booking to get the discount, but sometimes you can also get the discount by showing off your membership card at check-in.
Some of the biggest associations like this include:
- CAA/AAA – provides discounts for most chain hotels and also provides discounts on car rentals
- International Student Identity Card (ISIC) – provides discounts for many hotels and you don’t even need to be a student, you can be a member as long as you’re under 30
- Hostelling International (HI) – provides discounts for many hostels around the world
Finally, you can also save money on your accommodation bookings by using your credit card rewards. There are many credit cards out there that let you use the points you’ve gained from them to book your hotel stays. Check out my Guides to the Best Travel Debit Cards & Best Travel Credit Cards to find the perfect one for you.
And that’s all there is to it!
Follow this simple 6-step guide to find and book your next hotel, aparthotel, guesthouse, vacation home, or resort and you can rest assured that you’ll be getting the best deal every time. If you’re looking for an Airbnb/Vrbo, Hostel, or Couchsurfing host, check out their respective guides to learn how to find them.
If this guide helped you, let me know in the comments below. And once you have your accommodation booked, you’ll need to look into getting travel insurance for your trip. Check out my Guide to Travel Insurance to learn everything you need to know about it!