By John Skinner
In this series of articles about Internet Shopping I will be mentioning certain websites. As is always the case with these articles, the websites are mentioned because they are what I use and which I find useful. The website may not be so useful to you, but it hopefully will give you an idea of what you may want to look for, in order for you to find suitable websites for yourself. I urge you to research to find the websites that are best suited for you. I also strongly urge you to read all the small print in connection with your research.
A case in point about reading the small print concerned a hotel booking I made in London some years ago. On our arrival it was obvious that this budget hotel was one that also charged for rooms by the hour. In addition the rooms we were allocated were very sub-standard compared to the rooms pictured on the hotels website.
We immediately cancelled and went elsewhere. Later on checking the hotel’s website I noticed a small caption which indicated that the rooms pictured related to a sister hotel!!!
This incident was the only time my normal way of choosing a hotel let me down and in reality it was my own fault for missing the caption regarding the pictures.
My normal practise is to find a hotel that I am familiar with in the area and then compare what I experienced, with the hotels description and also other peoples reviews.
In the UK I usually check out which Premier Inns (www.Premierinn.com) are in the area. These budget hotels are usually hotel blocks immediately beside a pub with a good sized restaurant and a (often free) car parking area. The food menu for each location is available from the website. This hotel chain was also the first that I was aware of to put GPS files (TomTom and Garmin) of their locations on their website.
So there I am with an idea of the Premier Inn in the area I am to visit and its likely total cost of staying (price per room per day plus breakfast plus dinner and parking charge, if any). Then I use The Automobile Association’s (www.theaa.com) Hotel and Bed and Breakfast web pages to review other accommodation in the area. My final choice of hotel is made in conjunction with links to the hotels own website and also users reviews on Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com).
Being of a certain age and a fixed income has made making the most suitable choice much more important. For instance my late wife started having difficulty stepping into the hotel baths to have a shower, so we asked for and were given disability rooms which allowed her to shower with a minimised risk of falling. Disability rooms are usually the same price as regular rooms.
Another consideration is does the hotel have an elevator to rooms above ground level? How easy is it to walk from the room to the restaurant and other hotel amenities? Are there many stairs to use or passageways open to the elements? How far away is the car park and is there a charge for parking?
One central London hotel where I stayed in an emergency offered discounted parking at a car park five minutes walk away. That parking still cost me the equivalent of US$100 per night.
A most important question is what are the cancellation and date/room change policies and what are the related charges?
Cancelling that unsuitable hotel I mentioned earlier cost me one night’s accommodation because I cancelled after 6pm. Other hotels may only permit cancellation without charge over 48 hours before arrival. Some hotel rates are non-refundable from the time of booking because of the discounted price.
The internet has made choosing the right hotel, with the best price, amenities and location for your purposes much easier. You are no longer tied to the preferences of a travel agent, whose choices may often be driven by how much commission they can earn from the sale.
Once you have made all your decisions about where you will be staying you should be able to pay on line using your credit card. Read the small print first and ensure it is a secure website to help protect your personal information. Also ensure that you obtain a Confirmation Number for the booking and print it off to take with you to the hotel.
A benefit of using a credit card is that some cards give you consumer protection so for example if the hotel goes bankrupt or otherwise does not honour your booking you MAY be able to obtain a refund from the credit card company.
With the globalisation of the hotel sector, if you a familiar with a hotel in a particular chain, you should be able to use that hotel as a benchmark for similar rated hotels in the same chain anywhere in the world. Using the internet may not enable you to find a fabulous hotel to meet all your needs but it should be able to help you avoid those hotels likely to give you a disappointing experience.
Enjoy and stay safe.
By John Skinner