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I’m often asked how our family saves so much money on travel, and Booking.com is definitely one of the tools that we use to make it happen.
Because it’s tough to describe everything that makes it so great in an email or conversation, I decided to create a full review of Booking.com as a resource for you, my readers.
From now on, anytime someone asks me about Booking.com, I’ll point them to this article.
If you’re not familiar with Booking.com, it’s an incredibly popular travel fare aggregator, and is my is my go-to website to find the best prices on travel.
In this review, I’ll explain what makes them so great, and share some tips on how to get the most bang for your buck with Booking.com.
And while you can tell that I’m a big fan, I’ll make you aware of a couple of drawbacks, and tell you who the site may not be for.
So, if you love to travel, and you also love to save money, you’ll definitely want to keep reading.
What is a travel fare aggregator anyway?
A travel fare aggregator is a website that searches for travel deals on multiple sites, and pulls the information together for you in one place. Upon making your selection, they then facilitate your travel booking with the actual provider i.e, hotel, or airline.
Booking Hotel Accommodations
While Booking.com is known as a top destination to get great prices on flights, their hotel accommodation platform is next level.
In fact, when it comes to finding places to stay, they provide a user experience unlike anything I’ve seen with other travel sites.
Booking.com delivers great prices, and they make the process, dare I say, enjoyable, with a website platform that is incredibly easy to use.
In my mind, there are several features that make Booking.com stand out:
- An intuitive, easy to use website.
- access to a wide variety of properties ie. vacation homes, resorts & hostels.
- They offer a seemingly endless number of search filter options.
- No upfront payment required / free cancellation (in most cases).
- Customizable travel guides to help you plan your trip.
- A comprehensive mobile app with all of the search filters found on the website.
- Newsletter sends “Secret Deals” to subscribers, with up to 50% off selected properties.
- Exclusive discounts for their frequent travellers, aka Genius Members.
- The ability to list your private vacation home or resort with Booking.com.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these features:
Intuitive And Easy To Use Website
For travel accommodations, the Booking.com website is intuitive and easy to use.
When you search for a property, you are provided with a wealth of information at-a-glance, making it easy to narrow your search.
Once you’ve found a place to stay, you can confirm your booking with the click of a few buttons. And to make things even easier, in most cases, you aren’t required to make any payment up front, and you can cancel your reservation for FREE, up to 24 hours before you arrive.
I’ll explain a bit later how this can allow for some pretty sweet travel hacking.
Access to a wide variety of properties
With Booking.com, you aren’t limited to hotel accommodations. You can also reserve vacation homes, resorts, hostels etc. While there are other travel websites that include a variety of property options, few have the selection of Booking.com.
Depending on the type of experience you’re looking for, this can be a great option.
Search Filters Galore
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could search for a hotel by ‘theme’, or by proximity to a specific landmark?
Well, with Booking.com, you can.
They place a seemingly endless number of search filters at your disposal, making it easy to find the perfect accommodation.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you are looking for a place to stay in New York City.
Booking.com will give you the option of searching for a hotel that’s close to Times Square, and offers bicycle rental (for an additional charge).
That’s right, ‘bicycle rental’ is included as a search filter for properties in New York City. Pretty cool.
I chose both, and found a 4-star Wyndham in Times Square that fit the bill, for $250/night.
Not bad, for New York City.
When I removed the ‘bicycle rental’ filter, I found another 4-star hotel in Times Square for $162/night! It included a secret deal, which I’m eligible for, which discounted the rate by 50%!
Here are just some of the many categories by which you can filter your search:
- Top Picks
- Type of vacation (ie. culture, relaxation, adventure)
- Proximity to transit, or city centre
- Hotels by star ratings
- By budget
- Fun things to do i.e. hot tub, golf, or horseback riding.
- Current Deals and Discounts
- 24/hour reception
- Free Cancellation / No Prepayment
- Meals (breakfast, including hot)
- Property Type (ie. hotel, apartment, resort)
- Proximity to local landmarks
- Bed Preference
- User review score
- Hotel Facilities (ie. fitness centre, swimming pool, free parking)
- In-Room Facilities (ie. private bath, or coffee machine)
- By Neighbourhood
- Facilities for disabled guests
- By hotel chain
I should note, the filters are well laid out, easy to use, and the search results load very quickly.
Up-Front Payment / Free Cancellation
In most cases, you can book hotels without any payment up front, and you can cancel your reservation free of charge up to 24 hours from arrival at the property.
Booking.com will offer even lower prices on certain properties if you are willing to book a non-refundable room, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The slightly better price is not worth the risk in case your travel plans change unexpectedly.
Not only that, but booking a non-refundable room could prevent you from taking advantage of a great travel hack.
Allow me to explain….
Travel Hacking With Booking.com
With no upfront payment AND free cancellation, you can book a hotel room in advance of your trip, and then cancel and rebook whenever you receive an alert offering a lower price at the same hotel, or a different property altogether.
I used this to my advantage last year, when I took my son to Phoenix to watch spring training baseball, and it saved me over $200.
A few months before our trip, I found a great deal on a hotel in Mesa, and made the reservation. (Booking #1)
A few weeks later, I received an email alert that the same type of room in the same hotel was $100 cheaper!
Within a few minutes, I booked the lower priced room (Booking #2), and then cancelled (Booking #1).
A couple more weeks went by, and I received yet another alert for an even lower price at a different hotel. I made a reservation at the new hotel (booking #3), and promptly cancelled my previous booking (Booking #2).
The entire time, I had the peace of mind of a confirmed booking, but was able to re-book at lower prices as the date of our trip approached.
Booking.com Mobile App
Booking.com has a comprehensive mobile app that includes all of the search filters found on their website, so that you can look for travel deals on the go. The mobile app also stores your current bookings, so that you can pull them up with ease.
Booking Flights On Booking.Com
Booking.com is considered a go-to site for finding deals on flights. Because they are owned by Priceline, you’ll see some similarities between the two sites, although the search results can differ.
Admittedly, I’ve only booked flights through Booking.com a couple of times, but the experience has been perfectly fine on those occasions.
Because Booking.com is not an actual travel agent, they will direct you to the airline website to complete your reservation once you’ve selected a flight.
Booking.com does include a couple of helpful tools on their flight portal that I haven’t seen on other sites, and I really like.
Flight Price Trending Tool
The first is their price trending tool, which is located in the top left corner of the search results page. It provides an indication as to whether prices are expected to trend upwards or downwards, based on analyst research.
It’s definitely not an exact science (a fact Booking.com discloses), but an indicator that might come in handy if you’re trying to secure the lowest price possible.
Unique Search Filters
As with their accommodation portal, Booking.com adds some powerful search filters to help you find your ideal flight.
For example, you can narrow your search by flight quality, which allows you to filter things like red eye flights or flights of a longer duration.
You can also choose which stop over airports you wish to avoid.
Customizable Travel Guides
Booking.com will provide you will travel guides for the places you’re planning to visit. You can customize the travel guide by selecting your favourite attractions, which is then separated into a section called, “My Saved Spaces”. All other attractions will be listed directly below.
The travel guide includes a description of each attraction, be it a park, a historical site, or even a popular neighbourhood. It also comes with a map, a list of dates and times that the site is open, and a link to an external website, if applicable.
List Your Property With Booking.com
Did you know? If you own a private vacation home, resort or hostel, you can list it with Booking.com, and gain access to their enormous customer base!
For the purpose of this review, I won’t get into the property listing side of Booking.com in detail, but know that it is an option you can explore further if this interests you.
I will point out that property owners can apply for Genius membership. By doing so, you will gain more access to Booking.coms top customers, in that your property will be more visible to them in the search results, and you’ll have the ability to offer discounts and other benefits that are likely to appeal to them.
Booking.com Genius Membership
I…am a genius.
Well, far from it actually, but in the Booking.com world, that’s what they call me. ; )
Genius membership is Booking.com’s customer loyalty program, and it’s one of the things that separates them from other online travel sites.
It’s their special sauce, so to speak.
For starters, qualifying for Genius membership is incredibly easy.
As soon as you book 5 trips with Booking.com, you are given ‘Genius’ status.
Let’s take a look at the perks that you get from being a genius member. Keep in mind that none of this costs you a penny.
What Are The Benefits Of A Booking.com Genius Membership?
1. You become eligible for an additional 10% off of selected properties. Hotels that list with Booking.com can register to become a Genius property, giving them better access to Booking.com’s most valuable customers, otherwise known as you, when you become a Genius member.
To become a Genius property however, the hotel MUST agree to offer a 10% discount to all Genius members, over and above their lowest advertised price. It’s a Booking.com requirement, the price for access to the frequent travellers at Booking.com.
Booking.com also enables owners of listed properties the option of providing additional discounts, over and above 10%, which makes it possible for you to find some incredible deals as a Genius member.
2. Early check-in and late check-out. Some hotels will provide early check-in and late
check-out times for Genius members. This is something that may come in handy
depending upon your trip itinerary.
3. Welcome drinks. Some hotels have been known to offer treats, such as a
complimentary beverage or chocolates, to Genius members, upon arrival.
4. Dedicated, 24/7 customer support line. Just as it sounds, Booking.com Genius
Members are given access to a dedicated phone line, for 24/7 customer support.
Look for The Genius Icon
To find out which Genius perks are being offered on a specific hotel, just hover your mouse over the Genius icon, and it will list what’s available. Most often, it’s limited to the 10% discounted price on the selected room, but if you look hard enough, you may discover additional perks.
Booking.com – Drawbacks
Like most thing, Booking.com isn’t for everyone. As such, I think it’s important to point out a couple shortcomings.
Fewer Options for Car Rentals
While Booking.com is considered a top choice for booking flights and hotels, it doesn’t offer as much in the way of car rentals.
Booking.com uses Car Rentals.com to power their car rental reservation platform. I don’t rent cars that often, but when I have, I’ve ended up going through other providers, who have seemed to have more selection and lower prices.
The last time I rented a car, I did it through Costco, and got a great deal.
Cruise Bookings Aren’t Available
To the best of my knowledge, you cannot book cruises through Booking.com. My search only led me to cruise related articles, and a link to an external Priceline cruise site. (Booking.com is owned by Priceline).
Again, I don’t rent cars that often, and I’ve never been on a cruise, so these are not big sticking points for me. They may be for someone else however. If cruises are your things, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
I created this review as a resource for you, my readers. If you’re looking for great deals on flights and hotels, while benefitting from a user experience that’s second to none, Booking.com might just be the spot to begin planning your next vacation. Check it out today!
Questions: If you do have any questions about using Booking.com, fire away in the comment section below, and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!