I was introduced to Booking.com by Google, just like most of us here were. It came up as a suggestion on Google search results while I was making plans for a vacation. At the time, it gave me exactly what I was looking for.
I was going to go for the Chadar Trek which meant that I was travelling to Leh during off-season months. This meant that conventional methods showed me hotels I didn’t like or couldn’t afford, at the time.
When I put in my travel dates into Booking.com, I got the right suggestions, and the place I ended up staying at became a cherished memory. From then, I became a frequent user of the service. I was using it to plan my bike rides, treks, and even vacations in another country. The more I used it, the more I realised that there were two things I loved the most about it.
Why is Booking.com good?
There is no denying that it has an absolutely fantastic collection of options from hostels and homestays to more upscale hotels. But that is an obvious advantage and what I like about it is not so obvious.
Once you have entered your destination and the dates, you are presented with a list of places you could stay at. You’ll use the images and prices to make a decision, but, there is another way.
If you look at the top right-hand side corner of the list, you’ll see something called “View Map”. Clicking on this shows you the location of the property on a geographical map. Why this helps is because you can now see exactly where the property is.
How I use it is to find a place that is closer to a feature that I’d like to stay near. So, if you want, you can see if your hotel is close to the beach or the forest or the centre of the city, etc. And the utility of this option doesn’t end there. You can see all the other resorts on the map along with with their location and cost for your dates/duration of the stay.
If you find something interesting on the map, you can always click on its pin, and you will be taken to that hotel’s page where you can go on to booking it.
The map option is what led me to discover Kotagiri. I wanted to go to Ooty but didn’t want to stay in a built-up area. As I kept moving up the map, I stumbled across a property that I did like. It was away from the city, was near a forest, and looked good.
Travelling costs money, so it only makes sense that we look for every opportunity to reduce this cost as much as possible. On Booking.com, they have a loyalty programme called “.genius”. The idea behind it is that the more you use the service, the more you get in return.
How this works is that you keep using the site to book stays at different places. Once you book a certain number of stays in a specific period, you get to Level 1. When you book more, you are promoted to Level 2 and so on.
The advantage is that each level affords you access to special discounts. For Level 1 you may have 10% off, but at Level 2 you can see 10% to upwards of 15% also at times. You also get additional perks like complimentary breakfasts or complimentary room upgrades.
The catch to these privileges is that you really need to use the site to graduate through the levels. You also need to remember that these discounts and privileges are available only at participating properties and not at all the places listed.
How Booking.com helps me travel smart
As a result of using these two tools, in addition to all the other usual methods, I manage to find places that I end up liking. Most of the places that I have stayed at, the ones I booked through them, have ended up on the ‘must go back to’ list. The discounts I get don’t hurt at all either. Sometimes I get bigger-than-expected discounts too. A good example is one of the images above that shows that I am getting a discount of 21% at that property.
In short, it saves me money and helps me find places that I really want (and can afford) to stay at!
Keep in mind though…
While these two options are extremely useful and helpful, you should not get so hung up on them that you forget to use other services or filters. Ideally, you should couple these features with things like photos, ratings and reviews of the place in question before you make any bookings.
Using these two options along with other methods can help you travel smart too, so if you aren’t already using them, you SHOULD BE!
P.S. This is not a promotional post for Booking.com. Nor am I getting paid in any way or form to write this (though, Booking.com, if you’re reading this, I wouldn’t mind some ‘appreciation’ 😛 ).