Online Booking – some experiences
Online Booking of hotels and flights can be very comfortable and fast especially when you live on a little island lost in the sea. If you live in a bustling city with lots of travel agencies, the online booking can also be faster and much more relax.
Some of our friends always book with a travel agent. They say that the agent has more experience and the agent always finds the best deal. This might be possible, but the travel agencies on our island lack of experience when it comes to overseas travel and bonuses. I just have organized our Xmas – New Year trip. No I don’t tell you where we go but I thought, I write a bit about my own experiences with on-line booking.
Before you book
I always use a spreadsheet like Open Office or Microsoft Office. But you can do it as well with paper, pencil and eraser. The spreadsheet is faster 😆 In the first column I put the dates from 5 days before to 5 days after our planned journey. In the second column I put the weekday. This can be important, when you plan museum and other visits. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy is closed on Mondays.
The next columns are marked Where, Travel from, Travel to and Sleep. The final column is “What to do”! The result my look as this:
Everything that has to be booked is marked with red color. When the booking is done, it goes to orange until the confirmation arrives. Then it will be green 😉
I always book the flights first. A hotel I can always find, but flights have limited capacity and there may be no flights on some days. Cebu Pacific Air for example doesn’t fly from Camiguin to Cebu and vice versa on Tuesday and Thursday (read also here).
With the Asian low cost carriers (LCC) I found that travel portals cannot offer lower fares than the companies offer on their websites. I recommend to visit these websites rather often or to subscribe to their respective newsletters.
HINT: When you hesitate during your booking and swap between airlines, then you should delete your browser’s cookies and history. The server-side programs of these companies recognize when you come back and increase the fares. Their idea is to push you when you’re booking. Another possibility – even better – is to use different web browsers.
If you travel often, then it’s a good idea to join the different airline clubs. This makes booking much faster because your personal data is readily available. if you want to protect your personal data, don’t fly anymore. All your data is used whether you book with a travel agency or do it yourself on the web.
For our next journey I booked with Cebu Pacific Air and with Air Asia. Both airlines offer promo rates and display incredibly low fares. This fares are subject to multiple add-ons, fees and taxes. The booking with Air Asia is more customer friendly because add-on like seat selection, travel insurance and more are turned off by default. The server of Air Asia is also much faster than the slow Cebu Pacific website.
Online Booking a hotel online is a bit different. In the past years I often booked with Agoda, Booking.com, AsiaRooms and Venere. But I found that some hotels have even better rates when you are booking directly on their website. Such a surprise I had with “Motel One” last summer. I recommend to compare the room rates on different booking platforms AND the hotel’s website.
Off all these booking platforms I most like Agoda. They have the fastest website, they have good information and rates. Confirmation is immediately and you get the voucher within minutes by e-mail. I never had any problem with Agoda and in the background one earns bonus points. Agoda offers you to use these bonus points automatically, when their machine sees, that you have enough points for at least one night in the newly booked hotel. With Venere I had two times the problem that the selected room class had not been available. But both times the hotel offered a free upgrade. 😀
With Agoda one has the possibility to reserve now and pay much later, but before the room rental starts. The cancellation policy for each room is clearly stated. It can go from “no cancellation and no refund” up to “free cancellation until ‘date'”. Also refunds are managed without any problems. Yesterday I made a booking error of 1 day. I corrected online today and got an immediate refund confirmation:
With reference to your booking 5607…. at the XYZ Hotel from December 28, 2014 to January 3, 2015:
Cancellation Policy: Any cancellation received within 7 days prior to arrival date will incur the first night charge. Failure to arrive at your hotel will be treated as a No-Show and no refund will be given (Hotel policy).
Original Charge on October 1, 2014: USD 406.76
Final Charge: USD 342.39
Refund to Credit Card: USD 64.37
This is very professional business behavior.
The only thing Agoda should improve is the way they announce room rates. Unfortunately they play a similar game as the airlines do. The barred rates are the high season peak rates. You nearly pay these rates. But worse, They add local taxes and fees only at the moment of check-out. Below you can see that they added 25% (a quarter!) to the indicated room rate at the Cebu Mactan Waterfront Hotel.
Sorry Agoda, that’s not serious business practice! 🙁
That’s all for now. I am looking forward to our Xmas – New Year trip.