Book your hotel rooms for less
Whether you're on the hunt for a summer holiday by the sea or a cultural city break, the chances are you'll be conducting your search online. But comparison websites that scour the market for you may not get you the cheapest room. Find out how to always get the best room rate with our guide.
How to get the best deals
Plenty of hotels subscribe to discount sites, as the last thing they want is an empty room. If you type ‘discount hotel rooms' or ‘cheap hotel rooms' into a web browser you'll find hundreds of thousands of links to websites offering deals - although, as with anything, it's best to shop around. For example, say you're passing through Berlin and need somewhere to spend the night. You could book a double room at the Ravenna for £31 through Trivago.co.uk, saving you £91 on what you'd have paid if you booked via HotelPronto.co.uk.
Discount sites sound great, and they often are - but not always. It's invariably worth using a discount site such as Trivago.co.uk or Laterooms.com to find a location, then checking with your chosen hotel direct. You could get a cheaper deal by contacting the hotel or guesthouse yourself.
For example, a double room at the three-star Hotel Cervantes in Paris was offered on Trivago.co.uk for £79, down from £123 - sounds a bargain, right? But Hotel Cervantes' own website was offering doubles for €68 a night - that's £56 to you and me.
The key here is to always check with the hotel direct, by phone or email. It's possible they will have special deals available that some price comparison sites have missed, or they just have a vacancy they are keen to fill without paying commission to a third-party website.
Points mean prizes
There are other options available to travellers looking for a good deal, including using reward scheme points to help fund your trip. For instance, you can get money off hotel rooms, flights and package holidays if you have a Nectar card and find a deal through Expedia, or use a Tesco Clubcard to get cash off a stay at various nationwide and international hotel chains. However, it's worth shopping around to ensure your hard-earned points are not wasted on a more expensive deal.
You don't need to rely on Nectar points or other loyalty schemes to make savings. Discount voucher websites are all over the internet, and a fair few offer money off hotel rooms. Sites such as HotUKDeals.com and Onthebeach.co.uk provide discount codes that can save you money on bookings - although you often have to be quick to get them as they tend to expire within a few days. Alternatively you may be able to get some money back if you access a hotel booking website such as Laterooms.com or Lastmimute.com via a cashback website like Quidco.
When using travel comparison sites such as SecretEscapes.com or Lastminute.com, it can be tempting to snatch a low-price room for a night or two. However, it's worth checking what other tourists think before you finalise the booking. Review sites such as TripAdvisor.co.uk are a useful resource, as the messages are posted by previous visitors to the various locations.
You have to take some with a pinch of salt but where there are dozens or even hundreds of reviews, the overall trend can be a good indicator of whether the hotel is up to scratch.
Your rights if something goes wrong
Going on holiday should be fun but sadly this isn't always the case. Unlike buying a DVD or even a car, you never quite know what you'll get until you turn up. Hopefully, the sun will shine and the vista will be as gorgeous as portrayed in the brochure but this isn't always the case. While you can't blame the hotel for the weather, you can do something if the hotel is not remotely like its description when booking.
If this is the case, you can claim your money back. If you spend more than £100 on a holiday and pay by credit card you can lodge a claim in the event of something going awry under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
If you pay less than £100 - such as for a series of budget airline tickets rather than a return – on your debit or credit card, you can challenge your card provider under the Visa or MasterCard Chargeback scheme. This approach isn't enshrined in law like Section 75 but the principle is the same – you should get your cash back if there is a serious problem, providing you have some proof, such as photos, to back up your claim.
Lastly, if you book flights and accommodation, flights and car hire or all three elements of a holiday with a UK travel company, you have protection if the firm goes bust, leaving you stranded abroad. This is a right you have under the Air Travel Organiser's Licence (Atol) scheme - that's providing you book through a firm that is Atol registered, so check for the Atol logo.
Also known as discount codes, promotional vouchers or promotional codes, online coupons or discount vouchers, are codes that can be entered at the checkout of many online UK retailers that gives you a discount against the item/s you are purchasing. The codes are generated by retailers and sent to certain members of the public to encourage sales.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.