TIPS: Finding Accommodation
Links for FINDING ACCOMMODATION
Nevermind American Express – I won’t leave home without Trip Advisor. I don’t think I’ve travelled anywhere in the last 5 years without consulting this site. You should too.
TIP #1: I like to go through the ‘bad’ reviews of hotels, because it’s easy to see who the chronic complainers and whiners are, versus the postings that reflect a real problem. Another good sign is if the management of the property (however large or small) responds to the negative posts. If they sound grumpy and resentful, I’d say steer clear!
TIP #2: Search for reviews from likeminded travellers. After all, what a 22 year-old backpacker considers ‘awesome accommodations’ or an ‘easy hike’ may not be what you’re looking for.
BOOK-AHEAD OR LAST MINUTE
(Click on logo to go to site)
This site has everything from treehouses to 5-star hotel chains, and everything in between. The rankings are all based on user reviews (no hotels are permitted to contribute here), and the really interesting thing is that they also have a search filter that drills down into user experiences and rankings for everything from hotels with great beer to proximity to monuments. I’ve used it for same night, late night bookings at motels and B&Bs and I love the stay-now-pay-later policy. Plus I hear they have great customer service, although I never had to find out – which is a good thing!
TIP: It’s often cheaper to book online vs walking into a hotel to book at the desk, as we were advised by one hotel in Moncton, who directed us to booking.com for a better rate. The reservation took about 45 minutes to process through to their front desk, but it was well worth the wait.
PRIVATELY-OWNED HOMES & APARTMENTS
I’ve used this for booking studio apartments in Amsterdam and Italy and although it requires a lot of eyeballing online, (and knowing your way around the city will certainly help narrow the options), I’ve had a lot of success with this.
Probably the most popular site for this sort of thing, with thousands of properties pretty much everywhere.
TIP: Be aware that these are individuals offering up their properties, not companies, and you use this site at your own risk. If you’re not comfortable with the terms that the owners want for payment, for example, move on. There are lots of other places out there.
If you love Italy, this is a site that caters only to rental properties in Italy. We’ve used them for finding apartments in Rome, and love the search filters by price and neighbourhood.
This is owned by Trip Advisor (so you know there’s some credibility here) starting with a staff member who verifies the owners and the reviews.
Part of Booking.com (so again, some reassurance here), this site has more than just villas. Already there are more that 240,000 listings, and this site is only 6 months old. No booking fee, either.
AGGREGATE SITES (search multi-sites at once)
Compare regular and private home rental sites all in one place.
I haven’t used this site yet, but I’m dying to! If you are like me and like quirky and interesting places to stay, this might just be the site for you. At the very least, it’s fun to look.
UNIQUE AND BOUTIQUE (but not terribly cheap!)
This site won’t even post places that are multi-property chains. It’s all about the one-offs, the unique and truly boutique. But while there are some relative ‘bargains’ to be found here, this is not one for the frugalistas.
CHEAP ONLINE BOOKING
This looked a little suspect to me when I used it in 2012, because the company is based overseas in Turkey, but I have to say that when I used otel to book the Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix, they got it right – a great hotel, a fantastic price and no issues with the booking or the credit card charge. Now three years later, I think otel.com has established its credentials and there’s nothing to worry about.
TIP: If you see a price that looks too good to be true, before whipping out your credit card, do a bit of investigating online to see if there are any issues with the company. (I start by googling ‘reviews on XXX company”.) You could also consider keeping a credit card on hand that has a low credit limit, for use in booking anything online that makes you a bit nervous. You still won’t be on the hook for fraudulent charges, and it certainly limits the scammer’s fun!
If you are a control freak like I am, this may not be the perfect site for you, since it’s a blind auction and you won’t know exactly where you’re staying or what the accommodations are really like until you’ve paid. And if you don’t like it, it’s too late to change your mind. That being said, I’ve had some pretty successful experiences when I’ve used this to book into NYC and Boston on several occasions.
TIP: Booking weekend stays in the financial districts of these cities seemed to be a good plan and netted us Hiltons for a fraction of the cost. I guess the bankers all decamp when the weekend arrives!
GET A BETTER DEAL AFTER BOOKING
This is a really cool way to save money AFTER you’ve booked a regular hotel room (not using bidding sites, discount last-minutes, etc). Register your existing reservation, and competing hotels near your already-booked location can offer you cheaper rates if they have empty rooms. If you like the new rate, you just cancel your previous hotel room booking, and take the cheaper alternative. Read all about Backbid on their site!
TIP: Just make sure you don’t incur any cancellation charges at the first hotel if you cancel your reservation, (often there are specific deadlines before which you can cancel for free.)
FOR WHEN YOU NEED A ROOM TONIGHT
When there’s no time to waste, and you need to lay your head down NOW, try this app. But you’ll probably get the best deals on higher-end hotels, and these prices are usually for a single night. But in a pinch, this gives you real-time solutions when you are too tired to waste a lot of time.
REWARD PROGRAMS AND MORE
Book Review: Travel Hacking for Canadians by Steven Zussino
This guidebook will give you everything available to help stretch your dollar, including lists of websites for booking cheap flights, strategies for bidding on ‘blind auction’ accommodation sites, and even comparison shopping for a travel rewards credit card. Written for Canadians especially, this guide can save you loads of time (and money!). Here’s where you can find it: Click here to view Travel Hacking for Canadians
If you’d like to read more articles on Travel Tips and Trip Planning, click here.