Booking a hotel can seem like a long and testing process (it is) however knowing where to look and refining your search before you begin looking will save you time and patience. It may also seem tempting to search 'hotels in Rome' for example and choose the first one that is within your budget, never do this. Where you stay abroad can make or break your holiday, I'll never forget the 700 steps up to my apartments in the Lanzarote wind and neither will you so do your research! The website I always use to book accommodation abroad is Booking.com, below I'll walk you through how to find the perfect hotel. Note: Personally, my boyfriend and I prefer not to stay in hostels as there is always an affordable hotel/apartment if you know how to find it; so I won't have any advice on them as I have never experienced one!
Finding the perfect hotel room is easy when you know how, if I have decided on where I am staying and when then I would just put in the destination, dates and the amount of people/rooms needed (as above). If I haven't decided on a destination then I will put in all the potential places I would go, one at a time, and then compare prices (once I have filtered the results of course, I'll explain how below).
Filters are the make or break function when you are sourcing your perfect place to stay, one of the reasons why Booking.com is amazing is due to how specific their filters are. You will find the filter section going down the left-hand side of the page, after you have clicked 'search'. My go-to selection of filters is:
'Your budget' - this of course is personal preference but you can always find a decent hotel in your budget as long as it is reasonable, my average budget for per-night is £100 or £50 per person if there is two per room.
'Popular filters - I always select Hotels, Apartments and City Centre (if it is a city break and the option is available), breakfast is usually an option but often you can find breakfast for cheaper away from your hotel so unless it is included, it isn't usually worth it. Also, if you are staying in a city there is nothing worse then getting to your hotel and realising you have to get transport everyday into the centre, if it is not in walking distance don't do it!
'Star rating' - this is can be quite divisive but I swear by 3*+ hotels, obviously if the budget is huge we would all stay in 5* hotels everywhere we go however if it isn't then don't worry at all. In general your accommodation is just where you sleep and leave your belongings so as long as it is clean, has a safe and is close to the main attractions it will be all you need. Of course read the reviews to any hotel but think about how much more likely you are to write a bad review than a good one, not only this but I would always rather have more money to explore the destination than an insane hotel room I'm only going to see when I get in and out of bed!
'Distance from centre of...' - This is definitely the most important filter of them all, as I've said above 'if it's not in walking distance don't do it' and this should be your motto too. Without a doubt I will always select the 'Less than 1 mile' option as transport will not be necessary and you have the option to pop back to your accommodation whenever you need to. If there is nothing within your budget you can go up to 'Less than 2 miles', which is not make or break for your holiday, but staying too far away results in more money and time being spent to reach the experiences you want.
'Stay type' and 'Property type'- This is personal preference but using this filter will narrow down your search drastically, 'hotels & private rooms' and 'homes & apartments' is my recommendation due to the quality of the accommodation compared to 'hostels & shared rooms'.
'Room accessibility' - This option is essential if you require specific adaptions to your room, for example 'Upper floors accessible by elevator', ensure you use this filter if needed so you don't have to scour thought the details of every listing.
If you are still struggling to find a suitable place to stay, scroll
back up to the top of the page and check to see if this alert
has popped up (see right). Adjusting your dates will enable
you to have more of a chance of finding the perfect
accommodation without compromising on your filters!
A slightly different approach in the way of viewing all of the options (and the way I always use) is on the map (see below); as location is such an important part of deciding where to stay this option
enables you to choose the best placed without manually checking the
map of every listed accommodation you come across! Therefore saving
time and avoiding an ill-placed airport hotel which claims it is in the city or
by the beach!
Hint: Ensure you check the full details of each hotel/apartment for when
the cost is to be paid and whether it included hotel/city tax. If pre-payment
is asked of then make sure you have sufficient funds in you bank at all
times because often the money can be taken at any time between booking
and your stay.
Once you have completed your booking you will receive a confirmation
email which you should put into a separate folder full of your other holiday
documents; make sure these are safe and accessible as you may need them when you check-in. The other amazing trait Booking.com holds is the Genius Levels, this is a scheme where you are rewarded by discounts and freebies on selected properties if you have completed two or more stays booked through the website/app. (See below on the left-hand side) If you successfully reach Genius Level 1 or 2 you can click on the 'Genius' tab (see below on the right-hand side) to only view accomodation where you can make use your rewards!