When I plan my trips, I don’t simply go online, find the first or cheapest accommodation or tour, and hit “buy now.” I take my time, I read about them, study them, and then make my choice based on the overall picture of my trip.
Here are a few things I take into consideration before hitting the “buy now” button every time I’m booking my trips.
Social proof is one of the strongest indicators out there. This is reviews are so important for all kinds of businesses. They let you know how they perform, their customer service history, and what you get out of them and for what you pay. But the best thing is that the business is not the one telling you all this, it is former customers. For example, every time I’m going to book a tour or a hostel, I dig into its reviews to see how it is rated on the main factors like service, wifi quality, location, cleanliness, amenities, and more. This is sort of like “community led tourist information,” something Travelshift seems to be good at.
2. Price Comparison
Different sites offer different prices, even for the same hotel or tour. Sometimes the price difference might be due to their site’s overhead, a booking commission, or in some cases, sites get exclusive deals with companies or offer you exclusive discounts based on your loyalty status. For example, Booking.com is probably my favorite site to book all my accommodations. Right now, I’m a “Booking Genius,” which means I’m a loyal customer, so sometimes I get exclusive deals from them and even 10% off or more of the regular booking price. Still, even though Booking.com is my favorite, I still scout around a few other hotel/hostel booking sites to make sure I always get the lowest price possible.
Also, if you don’t know the average price of things in the destination you’re interested in visiting, a good site to use for approximates is budgetyourtrip.com.
3. Location and Accessibility
I think the location is one of the most important things for me when booking accommodation. Sometimes, I rather pay a few extra dollars to be in the center than pay for the cheapest hostel a few miles away from the city center. When you get to compare and add up, that cheaper hostel might end up costing more since you might need to pay for public transportation to go to the city center to sightsee, or take extra time of your itinerary just for transportation or walking to the city center.
Alternatively, I’m willing to bend the location rule a bit if it is easily accessible by public transportation and I know I’ll be using the public transport network within my general sightseeing activities. Additionally, I look at things like, are there places to eat nearby? Cafes? Sights? For example, in New York, I’m a sucker for Shake Shack, so if I’m close to one, I’m down!
4. Activities and Extras Included
Like with accommodation, I compare tour prices, but in this case, different tour companies might offer different routes, more or fewer activities, and more or fewer extras or amenities. When browsing around, it is important to check not only the price but to read also what is included and what’s not included in the price. Note it down side by side and see if the price difference correlates to what they offer. This is like value engineering, which I also do for other travel planning aspects. Lastly, should the reputation really play on the price? Not long ago I was considering taking a National Geographic photography tour in Ethiopia versus a regular tour. Both offered similar itineraries, yet the price difference was substantial. I’m sure NatGeo will provide excellent quality, plus it is a photography tour, from NatGeo! The other company was a bit more obscure to me, but their reviews were really good, so it made it a tough call for me. In the end, I couldn’t decide and went solo. It actually paid off well.
5. Timing Logistics
Once I got enough pieces of my itinerary available, I start playing with the timing logistics. This is important, and many travelers fail to do this well. You might want to visit two museums and botanical garden in one day. Is it possible? Maybe. Some sites might recommend an X amount of hours you should spend at each place, or maybe you know your travel style to know you’re a faster sightseer than most people, or maybe you’re slower. Take that into account. Then take into account how long will it take you to get from one museum to the other – either on foot, car, public transport, etc. Give yourself some time for lunch, dinner, a snack, and some breathing room to sightsee something random along the way – something you were not expecting to see. Slowly you’ll see how something that looked as simple as three sights in a day is actually a more complicated itinerary.
What else you pay attention to when booking stuff for your trips?