6 European hotel booking tips

Vincent_van_Gogh_-_Van_Gogh's_Bedroom_in_Arles_-_Google_Art_Project
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These days the internet makes it really easy to book a hotel anywhere in the world. Except when it doesn’t.

For travelers used to booking reservations in the United States, there are a few things they should know before booking a hotel room in Europe; or, for that matter, most places overseas.

1. Don’t expect the standard U.S. room with a king or two double beds. In Europe the standards are a double room with one double bed, or a twin room, with two TWIN beds. The normal double room in Europe is not suitable for a family of four or even three. Some hotels have family rooms, which are specified as such, but don’t assume.

Even American chains generally follow the European mold, although I have found that Marriott (perhaps because the company was founded by Mormons) has more rooms with two double beds than most chains, and sometimes Holiday Inn also has “double doubles.” But, don’t expect them everywhere.

While plenty of people book rooms as a single to save money, in Europe a single is often a small room specifically designed for one person that may only have a twin bed.

2. Don’t assume nonsmoking. These days in the U.S. most hotels are nonsmoking. This isn’t true worldwide. If it makes a difference, ask up front.

3. If travelers care about having either a tub or a shower, request your preference. Some hotels may not even have the option, but better to find out in advance. (Years ago we ended up with a baby in a small Florence hotel that only had showers — not exactly practical.)

4. When booking direct, make sure to use the hotel’s website. Double-check it. Sometimes a third-party site might have specials, but a third-party site also may have different rules and regulations. In addition, in my experience many booking sites don’t give as much money to the hotel as a hotel gets with a direct booking, so the hotel may be less likely to honor special requests.

5. Check dates carefully. Be extra careful. One, because it may be harder to fix a problem in a foreign country; two, because the website may list dates with the day first then the month. Which means travelers could end up booking February 12 instead of December 2.

6. Verify the currency and taxes for prices. Usually, but not always, prices are in local currency. However, some hotel sites geared to U.S. market may show prices in dollars. Plus, when booking in local currency, be aware the price could fluctuate significantly with the dollar. Also, in some countries, taxes are significant — 20 percent in England, for example. Know what the total price is before arrival.

In general, be careful and double check. Even when booking through a travel agent, specify exactly what kind of space is needed. (I had a recent booking almost become a disaster because the client neglected to tell me he was bringing his family to London; fortunately, I found out just before he left, and the general manager at Dukes was able to give my client a discount on a room that would hold all three of them.)

Unwelcome surprises at a hotel are no fun. But they are worse a long way from home where travelers may or may not speak the language and a phone call to try to fix the situation isn’t easy.

Painting: Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles from Wikipedia

  • JoeInAtlanta

    Regarding #5: Like most people who use the Internet as a matter of daily convenience, I usually save time by tabbing between fields on forms and typing my text rather than selecting it from drop-down menus. But when booking travel, I always force myself to use the calendar that typically accompanies date selections, to avoid the risk of typing an American-style date on a non-American site.

  • Stuart Watson

    And some calendars may start the week with Monday not Sunday.

  • Vector

    Remember – en suite.

    A lot of older hotels do not have bathroom/shower in the
    room unless you specify en suite.
    All they have is a sink in the corner.

  • dcta

    And the most important tip is missing: use a travel agent!

  • Ton

    1 thing that you need to be careful with in the uk is that while the hotel price is usually ex tax, and that is 20% so you need to add that to the price, however if you have a room with breakfast incl, the price for the room will be incl tax for everything.

    the non smoking issue is becoming less of an issue, most hotels are getting there.

    there are still some hotels with shared facilities but not that much and they are mostly in the youth sector, most 3 or more stars won’t be an issue

    what you do need to do is your homework, prices can vary wildly by location, cities like london finding the right location can be the difference between a very expensive and just expensive, check public transport, find a hotel that is both close to the line that connects you to your airport and has links to the city center, but don’t stay in the center as that will cost you 100 200% more

  • justmeeeee

    And when you look at a hotel calendar, it might not begin with Sunday and end with Saturday on a row–sometimes they put the weekend at the end of the week, so a row begins with Monday.