I recently used the website Booking.com to reserve a couple of hotels. This was a new site for me, and I ran into a few issues. This is my Booking.com review.
Normally, when I am traveling to a cheap destination, I book a hostel or a bed and breakfast for the first and last nights’ stays, and find other lodging as I travel. This is because I tend to end up in destinations for longer periods – often three or more weeks – and I don’t want to impose too rigid a schedule, in case I love a place and want to stay longer, or, conversely, hate it and want to leave. I have also been known to stay at all-inclusives for shorter stays, and, in that case, the lodging is out of my hands (I usually shop by price for a given star rating, and book as a package to save money). When I am traveling in Canada, I frequently stay with friends, or I am on some sort of conference where the lodgings are dictated by the conference location.
With my trip to Quebec City in May, none of my usual conditions existed, and I had to actually research and book hotels for my stay…well in advance. This destination is too popular and too expensive for me to fly by the seat of my pants, and while I am attending a conference there, rooms at the conference location were pricier than I was willing to pay; at the same time, there are lots of hotels and bed and breakfast options clustered within a short distance, so it made sense to book someplace more affordable.
I used Booking.com to book both a budget hotel (near the conference location for the duration of the conference) and a B&B (further away, but a better value, for the period following the conference) for my stay in Quebec City in May, 2018. This site had a ton of super-cute boutique hotels and bed and breakfast options, which is cool, because I like those sorts of places. However, their hard sell is annoying – showing a bunch properties that “just sold out” and places with “only a few rooms” highlighted really turned me off. To be fair, other sites, like Hotels.com also do this; it annoys me wherever I see it, and detracts from the experience of using the site.
The Booking.com site is fairly easy to navigate, although the search filters didn’t cover quite what I needed (distance from downtown + price). The free cancellation up until 3 days before the stay is convenient, but clearly designed to lure you into booking with them, rather than shopping around. With all the “LAST ROOM AT THIS PRICE” flashing warnings, I was more than a little tempted to book several places, then do the research on the locations later; however, I chose not to do this in the end. I booked the hotels, and figured I was done.
Later that same evening, however, I found the the budget hotel advertised on for $10 cheaper per night on a couple of other sites – Hotels.com and Expedia.ca. I took a screen shot of the Expedia price and submitted a claim to Booking.com. The thing is a bit weasel-y – they want you to confirm it is the exact same circumstance (and that’s fair enough) – same number of people, same room options, etc – but then they highlight their price without taxes (in this case, $395), not the total booking price (in this case, $470), where this particular competitor provides the all-in price ($410) rather than the base price without taxes ($345). This made it more difficult to comparison shop and evaluate the offers, as well as making it more difficult to recognize that the room was actually cheaper elsewhere.
As well, I noted that the Booking.com price match is only valid if the Booking.com agent can see the exact price, live…when they get around to it. This is buried in the fine print, of course, and not clearly stated in the actual price match or cancellation screens. Given that there were supposedly only a couple of rooms left at this price when I booked, I felt there was some chance that Booking.com would drag their heels until that price was no longer available, then deny me. Thinking of that, I went ahead and booked a second room through Expedia.ca.
With all of this, I went looking for the other place I had already booked, the Bed and Breakfast, on TripAdvisor, to comparison shop the price a little more carefully. In that case, Booking.com’s price was $20 cheaper than the next option.
Thirty-six hours after I submitted my ‘lower price’ claim, the same room on Booking.com was thirty dollars cheaper than the rate I had booked at, but I had not yet received a response from the company on my claim. Interestingly, within a few hours of booking the second room through Expedia, the hotel itself had noticed that I had double-booked, and emailed to request that I confirm I wanted two rooms, or to cancel one.
At forty-eight hours, there was still nothing – no contact at all from Booking.com.
It is also worth noting that both the booking and the price-match claim occurred on a Sunday night, so all of the intervening time has been on business days (through the full business hours of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, both in the US and in the UK); this is not a case of things not being dealt with because it was a weekend.
About seventy-two hours after my initial ‘lower price’ claim, I decided to cancel the reservation through them, as the hotel was quite concerned with the double booking, and likely wanted to be able to sell the room to somebody else, especially with a conference happening that weekend. In Booking.com’s favor, the cancellation process was extremely simple, and amounted to just logging in, finding the reservation, and hitting a ‘cancel’ button. I got an email notification of the cancellation about fifteen seconds later. I was actually surprised that they didn’t make it more difficult, which is a major note in their favor.
Moral of the story? Run any potential hotels or B&B’s through a TripAdvisor search before going ahead and booking – it may save you a bit of hassle in the long run.