After booking your flights, the second most important thing to do is ensure you have a place to stay. We found that the best prices were from hotels.com and agoda.com. Both had a wide selection of hotels to choose from and provided helpful reviews and discounts. When you’re booking accommodations, you should do it as soon as you book your flights because you can often get a discount for booking a room a certain number of days in advance.
One thing to note is that different websites offer different benefits at the hotel such as breakfast and free wi-fi. Often you’ll see two identical rooms but the prices are different. Click on the “amenities” link if there is one next to the room and read the description. For our trip, if the room price was not too different between the breakfast and no-breakfast package, we spent the extra few dollars and got breakfast. Many hotels just had the breakfast included as part of the room price. For the hotels we didn’t book breakfast for (Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand, it wasn’t too hard to walk down the street and find something to eat for breakfast, so don’t feel obligated to get a room package with breakfast. We did find it more convenient when there was breakfast, but it wasn’t essential.
The way we selected rooms was by using Trip Advisor to check ratings and reviews, and then we took the hotel name and booked it on Agoda or Hotels.com because the pricing was better. When choosing hotels, we looked at the photos (be weary of hotels that have a lot of photos of the grounds but none of the inside of the rooms. Especially the bathrooms and the bed areas…), the rating of stars, the reviews, and the price. When it comes to reviews, the best thing is to disregard the reviews that have a “5” and the reviews with a rating of “1”. These people tend to be extremists in my opinion, they either loved all of it or hated all of it and everything was the absolute worst. What we did was read the reviews of “3” and “4” because I find that those individual tend to be more honest with their reviews. The 3’s are essentially saying “so-so” and they’re more likely to give you concrete reasons for being torn in their decision. They’ll typically give a good balance of the good and bad of the hotel unlike those who rate a “5” or a “1”. The reviewers who leave a “4” are also valuable because they liked most things, but there was something that made them hold back from giving it a 5, and they will likely be honest about it. It may be something that bothers you as well and may make you want to avoid that hotel, so be sure to read up.
Another thing with reviews is to read the most recent ones. Check the dates as some people write their reviews over a year after they travel and in that time the hotel could have gone through major upgrades and renovations (e.g., someone “travelled in” Feb 2013, but the review was “posted in” July 2014. Over a year has passed and some of what was said may have been resolved in that time, so just use caution. Lastly, take all reviews with a grain of salt. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I think sometimes hotel staff go in and write reviews…
One last tip, if you see a hotel where the management has replied to the recent reviews, that is also a good sign. I like to see that the management has taken an interest and is listening. It also helped me to avoid a few hotels because the managers were quite rude and condescending in their response to visitor comments/reviews. If they’re willing to be a jerk online, then how do you think they’ll act in person when/if you have an issue during your stay?
Lastly, remember to print the confirmation of every hotel you book because often you will be asked for it when you arrive at the hotel. They will also ask for your passport and the passport of all others staying in your room as well as the credit card of the person who made the booking (for incidentals) at check in. This was surprising to me at first, but I got used to it after the second hotel. Printing the confirmation will also allow you to have the address of the hotel on hand, and will help the taxi/tuk-tuk driver out when you use their services from the airport.
By: Wayne Thomas