Not yet ready for prime time
Not all hotel
descriptions (eg central downtown location) should be
Last night I spent two and a
half hours of frustration while booking, online, two hotels in
Maybe, for simple 'web special' roundtrip airfares,
the internet is valuable, but two and a half hours - on a high
speed DSL line - to book two hotels is neither convenient nor
Note - although this article
was written in 2002, many of the issues and problems remain,
even now (2009).
A simple task that took two
Amongst other delights in my
attempt to book two hotels in Switzerland was a web site that
confused Bern, Switzerland, with other place names around the
world that included 'Bern' as part of their name. I very nearly
ended up booking a hotel room in France rather than Switzerland,
and only realized my mistake when noticing that the postal code
was very different.
Other websites offered
hotels, but only 40 miles out of the city when I tried to book a
central city hotel room - at least it was in the same country,
but how many people, when trying to book a downtown hotel room
expect to be offered a hotel 40 miles away, up in the mountains!
Another website confirmed
availability at a hotel, but when I gave a credit card number to
guarantee the booking, it then told me that the hotel had no
available rooms! This was probably correct, because no other
website had availability at that hotel as well, but why did the
website initially confirm availability and ask for my credit
And then there was the hotel
that most sites described as 'conveniently located on the right
bank of Lake Geneva'. Only after considerable research did I
find a site that actually showed where the hotel was located on
a map. Several blocks back from the lake - forget about any lake
views from that hotel, no matter what the other websites
Let's not forget about the
several hotels where the websites would quote a rate, eg, 'From
$125' only to find out that the lowest actual available rate was
more than twice the quoted price.
Whether it be poor website
design, deliberately misleading information, or whatever,
booking hotels online is not easy. I should add that I have no
idea what hotels I actually have booked - I'll add a postscript
to this article in November after I have visited and let you
know if I was fortunate or not in my eventual choices!
Booking Hotels Online Should be
If you don't already know
exactly the hotel you want, and particularly if you don't really
understand the layout of the city you'll be visiting, or what
the going rates for hotel rooms should be, then you'll find a
journey through the world of internet hotel booking services
fraught with confusion, incomplete information, and frustration.
But it should be simple and
easy. There is no special magic required. The typical traveler
needs to know some very basic things, including :
A helpful location map
(including a distance scale) that shows where the hotel is
compared to the city centre, airports, freeways, rail
Photos of the hotel exterior
Quality rating (eg so many
stars or category description)
Exterior and bedroom images
Convenient complete lists of
hotels per city with helpful summary information per hotel,
all on one (big) web page to make comparisons easy
Convenient lists of all
hotels that have availability for a selected time period
complete with applicable rates
Rates that clearly indicate
what currency is being quoted, whether the rate is per
person or per room, and what is and what is not included in
the rate, and, if taxes are not included, how much they will
Ability to quickly get rate
and availability information without having to provide any
personal information or credit card number
Instant availability and
confirmations of bookings
No prepayment for hotel
Okay, so none of this is
rocket science, is it! But, no website consistently offers all
these features. Yes, some are better than others, but none is
A Booking Checklist
If you insist on doing your
own hotel booking, here is a quick checklist for you to use when
booking hotel rooms. If you follow this checklist, you're less
likely to have nasty surprises in store for you :
Have you seen on a map, and
do you understand, exactly where the hotel is located?
Do you know what the rate is,
which currency it is quoted in, whether this rate is per
person or per room, per night or per complete stay?
Do you understand the
standard/quality of the hotel?
Does the rate include
everything or are taxes, surcharges, gratuities, service
fees, etc, extra? How much are such extra costs if they
exist? Are there any other mandatory costs that you might
have to pay?
Are there any extra
inclusions such as breakfast, and, if so, is it a cooked or
Do you understand what room
type and bedding configuration you will be getting?
Is your reservation
guaranteed? Will it be held for late arrival?
What is the change,
cancellation and refund policy if you need to change or
cancel your booking?
Did the credit card number
you gave to the internet booking service merely guarantee
your room, or did they charge a deposit (or even the full
stay) at the time you made your booking to the credit card?
If you have any special needs
or requirements or expectations, you should double check
with the hotel directly that these special service requests
have been received by them and are understood and will be
Some people suggest
contacting the hotel directly, perhaps 24 hours after you've
made the online booking, to confirm that the booking has
appeared in their local computer system. You should also then
check with them that the booking, as they see it, is the same as
the one you think you made in terms of room type, room rate,
Most importantly, if you
prepaid any amounts to the internet website, confirm that you
won't be billed again by the hotel directly. Remember that most
internet websites are completely independent of the hotels they
service, and could be located anywhere in the world; once they
get your money, there is no guarantee that they will pass it on
to the hotel in time for your stay.
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4 Oct 2002, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.