I know I know, you have probably booked your stay on booking.com so many times already and what is there to learn about anyway? Just pick a hotel, dates, click click, insert your credit card details, arrive at the property, enjoy. And true, it can also be done this way, but if you give me a couple of minutes and read on, there is actually some new tips you might learn – tips, which might not only save you some money, but also land you in a much nicer hotel bedroom.
I have been actively using Booking.com for the last five years and by no means can say that I know all the tricks of this site. For example, I just learnt the one about very last minute booking very recently on our Christmas road trip from Lithuania to Hungary. And I am sure there are some more treasures to be discovered, so stay tuned and I will update this post as I learn new things.
1. Get a Genius Status
This is a loyalty status of the Booking.com website. It is much easier to become a genius on booking than in any other area of life, so use this chance. To achieve this status you only need to book your stay at five times within two years, which is rather easy if you are travelling a lot. Just be sure to log in with the same username every time you book. Let’s look closer at the perks being a genius can bring you. While we go through them, please note that this will not be relevant for all the hotels – some offer genius discounts and some don’t. The ones you want will look like this:
So, these are the good things you get:
- 10% discount on bookings
- 2 hours earlier check in
- 2 hours later check out
- airport shuttle
- special booking.com phone number for genius members.
Well, sometimes it can still take ages for them to pick up, but just a couple of centuries shorter than for the simple mortals without the genius status.
2. Book last minute
Well, of course, if you can. If you are planning a whole family trip with your aunts, uncles and granny two years in advance, then this is not relevant, scroll. If however you are young at heart and flexible, and the circumstances allow to wait with the booking until the very last moment, then do it! The hotels would usually offer discounts starting from 20% going all the way down to (and I have really seen this!) 70%. So you can save a lot of money and/or stay in a much nicer place than your budget would normally allow.
Let me describe you a typical situation when this might work:
My husband and I are on a road trip in Eastern Europe, in the area where there are rather many hotels. We have enough sandwiches and water in our car to survive an extra couple of hours. We are not afraid of driving in the darkness. And because it is a road trip, we want to keep our schedule as flexible as possible, so we never book our stays in advance. We just check the areas where we might stay. Then around 4-8 pm we stop for a late lunch and decide, how long further we want to drive that day. This can be one hour, three hours or so.
Then we check the booking.com app for the hotels on our way and usually most of them would be at least 20% off. So if our budget (in this case for Poland) was 50 euro, we instead get a 4-star hotel room with breakfast for 45 euro, which normally costs around 70 euro. And have we booked in advance, we would have paid the same price for a two star motel.
3. Complain if something is wrong or makes you uncomfortable
You got your special genius phone line for a reason! And this is one of the main factors, which makes me use booking again and again, instead of going through a hotel directly. Yes, when I travel I want to meet the locals and interact with them. But I do not want to depend on my very limited language skills and personal charm, when it comes to the comfort of my stay (especially now travelling with a toddler). If something goes wrong, I really want to be able to explain what I need. So, for if for some reason you are not able to agree on something with the hotel, you pick up your phone, call the line and discuss it with the Booking.com staff. If there is a need, they can later communicate with the hotel themselves.
Here is another example of a situation:
When we were looking for a place to stay around Lomza in Poland, I noticed that several properties had a note in their description, informing you that this place also hosts wedding and other parties and can be noisy at night. All right, well noted, so I made sure to check that we get a hotel without this note. We booked a hotel, arrived there and went to sleep like a boring old couple around 10 pm. The disco downstairs started at 11 pm, and the ABBA songs came through the walls so clearly that we could sing along. Luckily, our toddler slept through the night, and we only could fall asleep when the dancers got tired around 3 am. In the morning I asked the reception, if some form of reimbursement would be possible, as this was really not the way we planned to spend this night. I was offered a 3 euro (not joking!) discount – probably to buy an extra coffee to not fall asleep on the road.
I called Booking, described the situation to them and asked them at the very least to add the similar note about the noise to their description of this property.
4. Use your search filters smartly
Filters is one of the things I love about Booking.com almost the most. Sometimes I put so many of them that the results come back as
Ok, don’t use as many! But do use some, and use them smartly.
Location: Is the specific location really important for you? If not, and you just don’t want to end up in a dodgy place – use the location score from 7 or 8 upwards. This will give you a wider area and help in finding a good location which you maybe were not aware of.
Stars and accommodation types: I really couldn’t care less. I discussed star policies with some hotel owners, and it seems that the number really depends on certain facilities you need to have in order to achieve them. For example, a hotel needs to have a telephone in each room, if it wants to be a three, not two star hotel. Or it needs a minibar, if it wants to rise from three to four stars. The question is what do you need? Booking.com normally has filters for your specific wishes, like gym, breakfast or WiFi, so you can check your needs without narrowing your choice with stars.
Some of my other favourite filters to check are the following:
– Breakfast included (you can like or dislike hotel breakfasts)
– 24-hour reception (if I don’t know the exact time of my arrival and don’t want to worry about being late. Relevant during a road trip)
– Parking – essential for driving holidays and road trips
– Free wi-fi – is available almost in all of the hotels, but check just in case.
5. Booking.com overall rating is there for a reason.
The lowest I would go on the general booking.com score of the hotel will be 7. And this would be only for the location, where (or during the time when) the choices of accommodation are very limited. Normally I would strive for no less than 8. Believe me, you can find hotels for different budgets with those score, so it does not means unaffordable luxury.
Once I went for the one with the score 6 by accident. Here it is. Don’t repeat my mistake.
6. Check for other costs, like heating or air-con
If you are not careful, this can really change the price of your stay. As usual, let me illustrate this with an example:
We were once going to Northern Italy in November. November there is better than in Lithuania, but no beach holiday. The temperature can be around 5-10 C, and you would like to have your room warm. When I checked the accommodations around lake Garda, all the budget ones had heating NOT included in the price, but to be paid on the side. So if you wanted your room warm, it would be cheaper to stay in some 4 star hotel (where the heating is included in the price) than in a little dodgy B&B (where you would pay it separately). The same goes for the air conditioning in warm countries in summer.
So, check the fine prints and calculate your real accommodation cost in advance. Mind you, I see less and less of those recently, so hopefully at some point those fine prints will disappear.
Do you have any special tricks on booking with booking.com? Do you use this site often?