In my previous post, I discussed making arrangements for travel to the UK and pointed out several reasons why I prefer to make my own reservations rather than booking through a travel agent or with a pre-planned group excursion. In this post, I will share my thoughts on how to make those reservations and list a few things to watch out for.
First of all, let me remind you that I am not a travel agent nor travel writer. Nor do I get paid to expound on the virtues of any particular booking company, airline or other entity. I am simply someone who loves to travel, and especially when that travel is to the United Kingdom and Ireland. For those of you who aren’t certain what is meant by Great Britain vs United Kingdom vs British Isles, or just how Ireland fits in, here is a great little Venn diagram to explain it.
Venn Diagram Map created by Anna Debenham (https://brilliantmaps.com/eng-gb-uk/)
Now that you understand where I like to travel, let’s talk about how I make my plans.
I have found Booking.com to be invaluable, because…
- I get what I consider to be very good rates
- there are hundreds (even thousands, depending on your destination) of listings
- the site gives accurate user
reviews of listed properties based on several criteria:
- and (for most properties) you can reserve now and pay later, in case your plans change.
Additionally, the Booking.com site lists property-specific information about facilities, distance to public transportation and airports, distance to major attractions, local restaurants/pubs/shopping, parking options, languages spoken by staff and direct contact information including phone numbers, which can be invaluable if you are in-country and face a delay.
When choosing a property, items c, e and f above (cleanliness, value and location) are my first priorities, and I know in advance what level of cleanliness I am willing to give up for value and location, and vice versa. Depending on where we are going, location may be more important than value, or less important than cost or cleanliness. Regardless, I always have my lower limit on cleanliness, and no amount of value and location can entice me to go below that point.
Also very important to me are the comments of other people who have stayed at the property. I take most of those very seriously, though I sort of take over-the-top and bottom-of-the-barrel comments with a grain of salt. The general opinion matters much more than one ecstatic patron with no standards or one disgruntled patron who had a single hair in the tub (ok-maybe that is pretty icky). But I think you get my point.
Keep in mind—Booking.com does not own any of the properties, and some properties have their own rules. Always be certain to read all of the specifics for each listing, as there are a few deviations from the norm, and Booking.com is very upfront about them. These specifics are typically found at the top of the listing under tabs labeled “House Rules” and “Fine Print.” You will want to read these details before you book.
Having said that cautionary bit, I have used Booking.com to book lodgings in England, Ireland, Scotland, Rome, Paris and the United States – virtually every place I’ve stayed over the past 5 years — and I continue to use them. That says something about my past experience with this particular company.
I have already pointed out that I do not get paid to promote Booking.com. That said, we can BOTH get a $25 reward if, in fact, you open an account (they are free) and use this link (https://www.booking.com/s/34_6/fce769fd) to book a stay!
Here are links to some of the places we’ve stayed after booking through Booking.com in case you’d like to have a look! Our requirements were a good record of cleanliness, good location (determined by various requirements) and not a national or international chain hotel. Only once did we have to settle for a chain hotel, and it was a unique experience, but that’s another story.
The Swan Inn (now Swan Inn and Backpackers Annex) was the first property I ever booked overseas and I used Booking.com. (https://www.booking.com/hotel/gb/the-backpackers-annex-at-the-swan-pub.html). We stayed in what is now probably called the annex – a room above what was once the stable, and which might have once been the coachmens’ lodgings.
The Inglewood Boutique B&B in Chorley, England, is still one of our family favorites from all of our travels. Chorley is a charming little hamlet just off the M61 about midway between London and Glasgow. We used it as an overnight stopping point on our journey north from Oxford to Scotland, and were disappointed to have only one night there. The staff was amazing, the breakfast was first rate, and the accommodations were very clean and super comfy. (https://www.booking.com/hotel/gb/inglewood-boutique-b-b-with-self-catering.html)