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Do you ever feel overwhelmed with trying to figure out where to stay when you are planning your travels, especially a road trip that has a lot of stops?
I hear you.
Outside booking plane tickets (ugh) the part of travel planning that gives me the most anxiety is trying to figure out where to stay.
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There are so many things to consider:
- What’s the best area of town to stay in?
- Or for a road trip, what are the best cities and towns to stop?
- How are you going to find a good deal?
- Can I really be sure that I’m making a good decision when I book my accommodations?
Sometimes the choice of accommodations can make or break your trip. After a long day of sightseeing, you want to know that you’re going to be able to sleep comfortably before you’re up and at ‘em again the next day.
That’s why—when it comes to choosing accommodations—I start all my travel planning at Booking.com.
Using Booking.com for hotel stays
Booking.com is a popular travel booking platform for stays, flights, rental cars, attractions and airport taxis.
Where they really excel is with booking accommodations.
The company was started in The Netherlands in 1996. They claim to have more than 28 million (!) listings around the world, nearly a quarter of which are homes, apartments and other places to stay that aren’t traditional hotels.
You can find a HUGE number and variety of places to stay through Booking.com all over the world, and it’s available in 43 languages.
At first, I found using Booking.com rather overwhelming (there are so many properties to choose from), but after I dove in and familiarized myself with how the site works, I now always start planning for my hotel reservations on Booking.com.
I don’t always choose to make my reservation through Booking.com, but I always start there.
Benefits of using Booking.com
- You can find a wide variety of accommodations from tiny “mom & pop” B&B’s to large hotel chains and even vacation rentals and homestays.
- It’s a great way to book with very small, local business who don’t have a way to make reservations on their own website. Often these businesses list themselves with Booking.com to find their perfect guest…you!
- If you have questions about a particular property that hasn’t already been answered, you can send a message to them through Booking.com’s “Ask a Question” feature.
- It’s quite easy to search for accommodations in a particular area with the map view.
- You can score mobile-only discounts if you book with the easy-to-use app.
- You can keep all your reservations together in one place (even if booking only independently owned B&B’s), which is perfect for complicated road trips with a lot of stops.
I love using Booking.com’s map view feature.
With the Map View you can easily find the perfect accommodation at the perfect location.
You can filter your search on the left, zoom in and out of the map with the “+” and “-” on the lower right and hover over the pins to get a snapshot of the property.
A pin filled with red indicates the property is not available for the dates of your trip.
Challenges with using Booking.com
- Depending on your destination there may be an overwhelming number of properties to filter through.
- There can be a lot of information to sift through to find what you need within each property listing. For example, you may need to scroll WAY down the page to find out if a particular hotel charges for parking.
- You need to take your time to make sure you are booking what you really want, particularly the property’s cancellation policy for the room and rate you are booking. (Although to be fair, I’d tell you that no matter where or how you book a stay.)
- When you first search for a property, options will be arranged in a scannable list but not necessarily in such a way that benefits the traveler. But you can get around this by filtering and sorting according to your needs.
- Booking.com is not designed for booking major chain hotels where you might want to use your elite status or earn loyalty rewards points.
When searching for properties on Booking.com, I prefer NOT to view the results by the default “Top Picks.” These properties are arranged in the way Booking.com wants me to see them.
Instead, I choose “Review Score & Price” or I click on the three dots on the right and choose “Top Reviewed.”
This way I’m seeing results listed in such a way that features the best properties as chosen by those who have stayed there and supplied reviews after their stay.
I believe that where Booking.com excels is with providing a platform to book unique accommodations, and I use it almost exclusively for this.
We have elite status and a lot of points with Marriott, so when we want to stay there, we book directly through the Marriott website.
What about other hotel booking sites?
Other sites such as Agoda, Hotels.com, and Expedia.com also offer similar services. None of them claim to offer nearly as many properties worldwide as Booking.com.
For example, Agoda’s homepage claims they have access to over 2 million properties. That’s about 10% of what you can find through Booking.com.
Hotels.com claims to list “hundreds of thousands of properties.”
While I could book stays with confidence with any of the other above companies, for sheer numbers of options alone I always go to Booking.com first when planning a trip.
Is it safe to book through Booking.com?
Absolutely. Booking.com is a reservations platform only. You will deal directly with the accommodations if you have questions and you can send messages to them through the platform.
What if I need to cancel?
You can cancel your reservation. But please pay very close attention to the cancellation terms before you book anything. They will vary based on where you book and also what kind of room you book.
After travel shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to cancel several reservations I had booked with a flexible rate (free cancellation) but had also pre-payed for. I received a full refund for each and every one in a timely manner. No problems at all.
I’ve seen bad reviews about Booking.com on the internet. Should I be concerned about using them?
I’d read the review in full and any responses to that review.
Sometimes travelers forget that their reservation is not with Booking.com but the actual property they booked and don’t communicate with the property when they have an issue. Or sometimes they don’t realize that they booked a non-refundable rate.
If you have any concerns when you need to cancel your reservation, you should always communicate with the property to handle any issues.
My own experience with booking many accommodations and then needing to cancel in the midst of COVID-19 travel lockdowns was nothing but stellar. That’s why when I rescheduled my trip and wanted to rebook my accommodations, I went right back to Booking.com.
Do you pay immediately on Booking.com?
It depends. Your search results listing will indicate which properties offer free cancellation.
And when selecting your accommodations, make sure you look at the notes in the “Your Choices” column when you click into the property. It will tell you whether your selection offers free cancellation, no prepayment needed; free cancellation; or if it’s non-refundable.
You can also filter your search results to only show those property that offer free cancellation.
Can I earn rewards points through my preferred hotel brand loyalty program?
You should check with your preferred hotel brand’s loyalty rewards program.
Many, if not most, exclude third-party bookings from earning points for hotel stays.
Is it worth it to use Booking.com? The bottom line.
If you are looking for unique accommodations, I would absolutely use Booking.com.
If you prefer to stay with major hotel brands where you can earn loyalty reward points, then I would recommend booking directly with the hotel.
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