02.Hotel booking sites
Hotel booking sites have been around for a while, and there are lots to choose from. We looked at accommodation options around the world, and found that while in some cases different sites had the same hotel rooms listed for very similar prices, at times it’s possible to substantially save by shopping around.
When CHOICE searched for hotel deals earlier this year, prices for the swanky Montague on the Gardens in London varied widely. Using hotels.com for 2 November 2013, the only available room was the junior suite for $733, without breakfast. On otel.com, however, the cheapest room available (also without breakfast) was the double classic, for $353.11. The junior suite was more than $50 a night cheaper than on hotels.com, at $678.23. On the hotel’s own website, the room-only junior suite, which included a discount for early bookings, was cheaper still at about $649.60 for the night. The cheapest room available for the night was the deluxe king, at $524. So travellers could save hundreds of dollars by shopping around, rather than going with the first price they get.
In July, when CHOICE looked at hotel rooms in The Langham Sydney’s hotel for the same date, the results were also intriguing. While the best rate available on hotelsclick.com for a room for two was $376.50, booking.com and the hotel’s own website were offering rates from $555, almost $200 a night dearer than the competition. That was despite a “best price guarantee” from both.
And as illustrated by the British example above, the cheapest rate doesn’t always come from a third party – it can pay to check with the hotel itself for better rates. Some hotels offer price-match (or price-beat) services, so if you prefer to book direct, make sure to still check other sites for better rates. And for those who want to take some of the effort out of shopping around, it’s possible to compare rates of different booking sites by using an aggregator such as the one available via Tripadvisor.
Haven’t got the dosh for a hotel, or prefer a more personal experience when on the road? Couch surfing may be the answer. The movement has been around for a while, but it’s no longer confined to the kindness of friends or relatives. Couchsurfing.org is a free online portal that connects couch surfers to hosts around the world. With verified profiles and reviews of hosts and surfers, some of the risk associated with staying with strangers can be mitigated, though of course not entirely erased – some listings do offer only “shared sleeping surfaces”, so be careful when choosing your host. Other alternatives include tripping.com, which also offers rentals.
And there’s always the good old house swap. From intervac-homeexchange.com, which claims to be the original house exchange facilitator, to homeexchange.com and houseswapholidays.com.au, among others, there are plenty of sites out there to help set up the switcheroo.