Browsed by
Category: Planning

The vagaries of hotel booking sites

The vagaries of hotel booking sites

I am off on my travels soon and was looking to book some hotels.

In one place I am going I cannot find any well known hotel chain so instead of booking direct to get loyalty points with the hotel I thought I would look at these hotel agency sites particularly those that give some benefits such as airline points etc.

Interestingly I ended up on one site and looked at pricing for the same hotel and dates using my pc and my ipad. To my surprise the prices were different.This seemed odd as I was looking at the quotes simultaneously

 

Is this dynamic pricing?

I found this irritating. Is this what is known as dynamic pricing?

The only thing different was the IP address. but it was 2 computers. I suppose I was logged in on both so the system could see it was the same “logee” looking on 2 computers. The prices were only a few pounds apart but why any difference at all?

 

Conclusion

I suppose it shows the vagaries of the system and that pricing is so variable; whether you use a hotel website, a web trawling or price comparison site. Many sites will all take commission and it seems this is complex and so prices are very likely to vary from computer to computer as well as minute to minute.

Again I feel frustrated as a user but that I simply have to accept this. Do my research and press “buy” accepting that had I searched a few minutes later or even on a different computer I might have got a different price.

 

Planning what to do in a new city – Thorough Research or Ad Lib

Planning what to do in a new city – Thorough Research or Ad Lib

I am off to Kuala Lumpur soon. should I plan what I will  do or not?

Usually when I go somewhere I do some research and plan what I want to visit. Typically this is not too structured or deep. Generally a few notes from the Lonely Planet guides and a skim of the internet.

When I arrive with guide book in hand I start to wonder around and every so often follow a recommended route in the guide book.

Various blogs seem to advise thorough and expansive research whilst others suggest none. As in many aspects of travel what suits one is terrible for another person. I usually like some idea of a plan. I hate to think I might have missed some spectacular sight.

 

My plans for Kuala Lumpur

https://moodyncheeky.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/kuala-lumpur-skyline.jpg?resize=640%2C376

So far they have been a zero.

I have been pretty busy recently and have had little time to delve into the guides or internet. I did buy a guide book, but have yet to open it.

 

I am only there for a few days so I think I will play it by ear.

I will ask around at the hotel, take their advice and go with the flow.

 

And the reality will be….

I make it sound so so laid back. But I am sure I will have a sneaky peek at the guide book on the way so at least I have the bare bones of an idea of where to go.

 

Watch out KL. Here I come.

 

Second Guessing Airline Offers

Second Guessing Airline Offers

When I flew to Australia last month I had booked my flight in September. I felt I had got a good deal as I booked with Thai Airways during a sale offer. I was pleased with the price I got.

Since I booked I noticed that other companies had a number of sales so it is possible I could have got a cheaper deal.

 

So when do you book?

How long is a piece of string?!

Many blogs I have read suggest booking almost as soon as the flight is released – is about 11 months before flying. I am not sure if this is for rewards flights – paid with airline points or for paid with cash  flights. However, I am really not convinced that this is the best strategy for paid with cash flights unless you are reserving a space with a ticket that can be cancelled. It seems to me that you need to take a punt and book in a sale. But which one and when?

 

Booking a sale price – and changing your mind

The problem with sale prices is that they have lock in clauses. Usually you are billed immediately on booking and cannot change the flight without cost. So in essence you are committed and cannot change your mind.

The exact timing of a sale and which airlines offer sales is variable. It seems they offer sale prices around the same time but never at exactly the same time so you cannot really compare, and book, one airline’s sale prices to another’s.

 

What about upgrade offers?

Once you have booked your tickets what then? I recently received a reduced points upgrade offer. It is on the airline’s website and is a shortlived offer for a few days only. I have no idea of the award availability so decided to snap up an upgrade to Emirates first simply because I had the points and like the offer. I should, perhaps, have looked at the costs and decided if spending my points had value. Interestingly because I had booked and paid for the original flights through a travel agent, again at a time of an offer, I was unable to upgrade the flight with cash on the airline’s website. It seemed OK, however, to upgrade with points with this offer. I thus had no way to compare upgrade costs. I went for it and am looking forward to Emirates First and a shower in the sky!

But again, the whole thing seems predicable and is pot luck.

Conclusion

As I commented about hotel booking,  a good airline deal is a lottery and a mug’s game. I suppose there are some predictable times when airlines have sales but it by no means certain and I can see no way of predicting if and when they are going to offer points upgrade deals.

So look out for a sale. Decide if the offer looks attractive on an airline you want to fly and book. Accept it and grimace when you see a better offer with another airline a few days/weeks later. Hey that’s the way of it.

But grab an upgrade (especially to first) if offered and you have the points.

That will be my policy anyway!

All packed and everywhere to go

All packed and everywhere to go

My Australia holiday starts in a few days

I  have got out all the stuff I want to take and am packing it in my case.

It is probably too much. How many shorts do you really need for a week’s holiday?!

I find myself planning my day wear and evening wear, and then some spares, I could get some stuff washed whilst I am there but have yet to routinely use hotel laundry, or even room, services. As I become more settled in my travels I will. But sometimes it feels so expensive.

So I now find myself pretty much packed but I am not due to leave for a few more days. Do I just leave the case in the corner or unpack and repack trying to weed out stuff and really am unlikely to use? I accept not the greatest dilemma of my life but something to ponder.

And another question:

 

Cabin or checked?

I admire those people who seem to be able to pack for all eventualities and fit it all into cabin bags. Clearly their sense of colour and style matching is better than mine and they are also able to exist on a couple of pairs of shoes. (I find these take up a lot of space). I am already taking 3 pairs. A relatively smart set to travel in. Some trainers to walk the streets and flip flops for less strenuous walking or beach roaming. However I do note that some of those who say they only take cabin luggage do seem to take a lot of it; a cabin suitcase, a tote bag and a handbag. My shoulders are not broad enough or strong enough to carry this.

 

Checked for me!

So I will check a suitcase and then have a small cabin bag that I can drag around the airport and fit a bit of duty free in along with my computer and a few other bits and pieces.

Yes I will wait longer to collect my bag from the luggage carousel and wait on tenterhooks until it arrives.

But I will certainly be less anxious that what I have brought doesn’t match well and I will have a few choices of clothes to wear rather than a multi use outfit.

So I am  looking forward to being chilled with my first cocktail on arrival

Cheers

Should I book 5 star hotels?

Should I book 5 star hotels?

I soemtime struggle to decide on what class of hotel I should book.

Of course it is really attractive to stay in luxurious accommodation. Many will comment that this is part of the holiday and it is fantastic to stay in a place with spectacular furnishings way above what you have at home. I agree, and it is wonderful. However, I do sometime baulk at the thought of paying over £200 per night to sleep.

 

On the other hand people argue that as the room is there to sleep in and you are unlikely to spend very much time there because you will be out sightseeing.  So why pay so much? A 3 star room will be comfortable and functional. OK, it will not have the high end toiletries and as fluffy towels as the 5 star room but so what, you will still sleep well and save a packet!

So what do I choose?

I will sit on the fence.

It really does depend on what I am doing and often how “rich” I am feeling when I am booking.

If it is a really special holiday then I will splash out. This is definitely the case if I am holidaying alone as I am less likely to be out partying in the evening and so will make more use of the room.

If I am staying somewhere for business or am spending most of the time out and about worth friends then I will probably book a cheaper room.

I wonder what I will book next!

When is the Best Time to Book a Hotel Room?

When is the Best Time to Book a Hotel Room?

When is the best time to book an hotel room and on what rate?

Looking at a number of travel blogs I often see articles on when the best time to book a flight is. It does seem to vary from the USA to the UK and even then I get the distinct impression that there is little science behind it.

Do you book on a Tuesday or only a Wednesday when it falls on the full moon?!!

Hotel Booking

I have seen fewer articles about the timing of booking hotels. Again, this seems to be a rather hit and miss affair.

Since I booked my Australia holiday I have been considering which hotel to book and whether to book directly with the hotel or with an agent or other provider such as American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts.

Over the last few weeks I have booked, cancelled and rebooked several rooms. Initially I booked directly with the hotel and then I discovered a better deal with American Express Fine Hotels  for the same room. Then I found and even better deal in a different hotel. Finally I decided to book, only for a little more, a club room.

Price Variation

Whilst I have been altering the booking I have checked at other times and the prices do vary. They seemed to have been higher a few weeks ago. Now lower and I am wondering if they will increase, as other sites suggest, closer to arrival. I will continue to monitor.

Price Deals

Having booked with fully cancellable rates I think I might plump for a cheaper internet non-refundable deal closer to my arrival. I think this will allow me to get a cheaper rate for the same room although I doubt I will get any perks such as a room upgrade or gifts even with hotel status.

Watch this space…

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017

Welcome to 2017.

Another year ahead.  A year older and a year closer to retirement but I am not there yet. So I will still need to fit my holidays into the few weeks leave I get per year.

So how will I make the best use of the time? Do I go long haul for a couple of weeks or shorter haul for a week?

Well….

I have already decided on one trip in January. Long haul for a short time!

AUSTRALIA

Yes, I have been before and had such an enjoyable time I am going again.

Thankfully my holidays start at the airport so I consider even such a long haul fun. I hope I will still feel this when I arrive.

I am flying Thai Airways; London to Bangkok and then with about a 2 hour break in the airport I take the connecting flight to Sydney so I lose 2 days on the outward journey.

Accommodation

I’m not sure where I am going to stay. I’ve booked a cancelled one hotel as I was able to get a better price for the same place a few weeks later. I am looking at other hotels and I am not sure whether it is best to book directly with the hotel or through my American Express Travel Service. I can get better deals if I book a non-refundable tariff but I do not want to do that and commit.

I think I will do this closer to the time unless prices have skyrocketed.

What to do

The last time I visited I used the ferries and visited all around the harbour

I am keen to go back to some places like Manly and explore a bit more. It has also been suggested that I should visit the Blue Mountains. I came across a newspaper article recently recommending them as well but I am not sure whether I should make a day trip or stay overnight. This might affect whether I book a full week’s accommodation in Sydney or not.

So much planning, but so little time!!

2017 here I come.

Open Jaw and Airline websites

Open Jaw and Airline websites

So today I was thinking about where I wanted to go. Would I play safe or go somewhere new. I sat on the fence with a great thought. I would spend a few days in a new place, Kuala Lumpur, then relocate to an old one, Singapore.

Singapore panaroma

I then contemplated how I would get to each place. Searching ITA Matrix it all seemed a bit complicated and expensive. I then had the thought that I should try and book London to Kuala Lumpur and then Singapore to London and worry about the relocation flight at a different time. This brought up a much better schedule and costings.

Two airlines looked good. I went to their websites. On one I was able to put the open jaw schedule and get almost the same price as the “Matrix” quoted. The other airlines site let me search multi-city but would only quote for economy and I really wanted business. There was no way I could replicate the “Matrix quote.

It is fascinating to me the huge differences in the functionality of various airline websites. Surely this could lead to some airlines losing custom. I am most likely to book with the airline that I can organise the flights I want on the website unless my travel agent can match the prices. If one airline site can do it why can’t the others? Surely they track the functionality of each other’s sites. Perhaps even my small attempt at something different to the straight out and return of most flights is too unusual for some airlines to bother about.

So I await my travel agent but doubt they will be able to match the price. I suspect I know which airline has won my custom this time!

The skill of booking a flight

The skill of booking a flight

I saw an airline flight sale and the deal to Sydney looked great.

I contacted a travel agent I have used in the past and their best price was £100 above the web price. This was surprising as the agent said she understood they had price parity with the airline site.

Anyway, I decided to book online. I worked through the system and got to my credit card details. Before hitting the “buy” button I had a little cold feet and so thought I would just verify the flight details and connections by re-searching the flights. This forced a refresh and return to the beginning of my application. It also repriced the flight at £300 more. I was really frustrated. I tried a different browser and even a different computer as I had read that the systems remembered the quotes but to no avail. the price remained higher. When I was booking, only 2 seats at the sale price remained. Clearly I and the agent had “held” seats and forced the system to reprice.

I gave up and called my travel agent and she efficiently booked my flights at £100 more than the original web price. I was happy….

Then I checked the cost again, it had dropped. I presume that as I “gave up” my online reservation and a seat became available so the price fell back to the original quote.

 

Moral of the story;

  1. Don’t book when there are only a couple of seats available – get in early. Timing is everything
  2. Check and check and check again and then progress through the booking. Never press the back button.
  3. If unsure trust the experts and accept a slightly higher price – It is still a great deal.
  4. Make a decision, accept it and don’t ruminate on it. Enjoy the thought of the upcoming flight.

This is all new-ish to me. I will get better and more confident.

Repeat visits

Repeat visits

I tend to travel alone and to organise my own flight and accommodation. I have, in the past, gone on some fantastic holidays that were organised by a company. I have been to Everest this way for example and had a great time.

Sunrise over Everest
Sunrise over Everest

For some reason , over the last few years I have become an independant traveler. The issue that arises for me now is where to go. I traveled to Thailand, and then went again and again and again…..

OK, I went to different places, Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, but in each case I find myself returning.

Wat Phra Singh Vihara Laai Kham

Sometimes it is because there is more to see but sometimes it feels that I am doing it for safety. It is a place I know and so I know how to get around, and what to do.

I have had excellent times and met some interesting people. But as I plan another holiday I find myself considering Thailand again. Do I go to Chiang Rai,

20-DSC05233

Krabi or do I just go back to Bangkok

Why do I keep going back? Well I love the atmosphere and the people so sitting and people watching is always fun. Exploring another Chiang Mai temple is interesting and enlightening but I am not sure.

So I sit here pondering my next holiday. I have some Thai Airways  points to use so I will pass through Thailand but do I go further? More thought needed.