Money-saving tips for hotel bookings
We’ve investigated the credibility of hotel deals on travel websites, examined the terms and conditions and found a reliable way to guard against potential losses.
Travel websites are aggressively pushing their hotel deals. They don’t even let you book a flight without asking twice if you’re sure you’ve taken care of accommodation. It’s as if they’re surprised to find out you’re not interested in the thousands of discounts they offer on hotel stay. Now if you’re even the least bit skeptical about online shopping, you’re probably wondering if these are real hot deals or simply a scam. We’ve spent a few hours examining them – MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Hotels.com and Expedia – and come up with money-saving tips you could use.
The discounts are real, but hotels will also give them to you
The deals available online are real. In numerous searches, we found that Cleartrip, MakeMyTrip, Hotels.com and Expedia were able to find rooms at a much cheaper rate than the hotels themselves. You could argue that the location or condition of the rooms the travel websites are offering are responsible for the difference, but when we called both hotels, they confirmed this wasn’t the case. However, it’s also easy to talk the hotel into a discount. If you find a better rate on a travel website, do mention that to the hotel and they are most likely to match that rate.
Cancellation policies aren’t consumer-friendly
If you’re booking a room, but feel like you may want to move if you don’t like the hotel or aren’t sure you’re going to go at all, book only on the hotel’s websites. Their cancellation terms are consumer-friendly, whereas the websites can be fairly unaccommodating. In fact, often, the cheapest rooms are absolutely non-refundable. If you’re unhappy with your stay at the hotel, you won’t even be able to fight with the hotel management for your money back. The websites themselves say that the hotel won’t be able to do anything about it. Cleartrip, for example, says, ‘The hotel’s agents can’t make changes to or process refunds for these specially-negotiated rates.’
For rooms with refundable rates, too, however, the websites have stricter terms than the hotels themselves. For example, if you book yourself into Sofitel (Mumbai), you’ll get a 100% refund till 6pm on the day of your arrival. At any Ibis in the country, you’ll get all your money back till 7pm on the day of arrival if you book a room that doesn’t have a special offer running on it. Travel websites won’t give all your money back even if you cancel as much as two days in advance, and may also charge you a service fee.
Pick the pay only when you check-in option
In case you’re not sure of your travel plans or of whether you’ll be happy with the hotel, stick to travel websites that allow payment facilities when you check-in. Some websites will allow you to confirm a room while only paying a nominal booking fee. The rest of the money can be paid when you arrive at the hotel. The service has no extra charge, so it’s a great way to guard yourself against any losses. However, this facility may not be available at all hotels.
Last-minute reservations are worth checking, but be careful
Never a good idea to wait until the last minute for a reservation, but do check out the discounted rates offered on vacant rooms for the same day. Expect a discount of up to 50%. Travel websites feature a host of last-minute deals. MakeMyTrip offers flat 30% off, Yatra 40% off and Cleartrip offers 30% off on last-minute bookings depending on hotel demand. But before you book a room at a cheap rate from these websites, check if you are getting a good room with all the amenities. One MakeMyTrip last-minute-booking deal, for example, at Hotel Unicontinental in Mumbai was claiming to offer a room for a big discount at just Rs1,000 per night. It turned out to be a dormitory with bunk beds!
Use hotel comparison websites
To get the best rate for hotels online, it’s good to use these websites that give you prices from different portals. You will avoid overspending and be able to find which portal is offering the cheapest rate for the hotel you are looking at. These websites also include official rates from hotels besides other online portals, helping you get the best deal.