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Booking hotels online

Steve Nowottny from Moneysavingexpert.com explains how and why you should book your beds online

Booking hotels online
Image: Davide Lovatti

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What are the advantages?
The internet can be a huge boon when it comes to booking hotels online. The same room can be sold by different places at hugely varying prices — for example, we found three nights in July at the same five-star Hong Kong hotel on sale for £315 and £898 on different comparison and brokers’ sites.

How can you ensure the booking is safe?
The usual rules about buying online apply — if in doubt, always call the booking site directly to confirm. Also, be wary of sites advertising rooms ‘on request’. This only means the room has been requested from the hotel, not that there’s one actually available; it could cost you a firm cheap deal elsewhere.

Many countries charge a £10-30-a-day room tax. If the booking site doesn’t state this clearly, you could find the price jumps on the final booking page — or worse, that you get a nasty shock when you arrive. Always check the small print: make sure you know if you’re going to be charged a deposit and what the cancellation policy is.

How else can you protect your booking?
If you’re booking accommodation as part of a holiday via an ATOL-licensed travel agent, then you’ll get financial protection via the ATOL scheme — which applies to some DIY breaks, too.If you book your hotel and flight from Expedia, Ebookers or Lastminute.com, and you book both within a day of each other, then you may still qualify for ATOL protection.

Where to start: Cheapest times to buy and fly
A new app promises to save travellers money by pinpointing the cheapest days of the year to take a flight. Available in the App Store, Hopper claims to analyse ‘billions’ of prices before identifying the cheapest time to travel on thousands of routes. Hopper believes it can save fliers an average of 40%. iOS. Free.

Published in the June 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)