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Booking.com - Would you opt for refundable or non-refundable reservations?

Booking.com - Would you opt for refundable or non-refundable reservations?

Old Sep 25th, 2014, 12:22 PM
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I've booked non-refundable hotels often. I've never had to lose the money. Now here's the thing...
1 -- I spend a lot of time making my plans. I don't change them last minute, I don't do this if I haven't finalized things like transportation. I mean you already have locked in plane flights, right? so you aren't going to decide not to go to Greece and stay in italy longer.

2 -- I don't have the kind of job where someone is going to say at the last minute "you can't go". That never happens.

3 -- In the past, I've been a healthy person. While there is always the possibility of some last minute illness or injury making the trip impossible, that has never happened to me. Now, my health is more questionable, I'm much less likely to book non-refundable hotels.

4 -- finally, and this is most important, don't do it if losing the money is really a big problem. You don't risk something you can't afford to lose. So that's really up to you. You have to weigh the risk vs the savings.

I've probably saved enough on non-refundable hotels over the past 5 years or so, that if I lost a couple days now I would still come out ahead.

The closest I've come to losing non refundable reservations was this past summer when I was going to Switzerland via Iceland. Icelandair was having a potential pilot strike and I was afraid I wouldn't actually get to Lucerne on schedule, where I had pretty expensive non-refundable hotel reservations for 3 nights. And yet, in the end, that didn't happen.

ribeirasacra, booking.com lists different rates all the time. They may be refundable/non-refundable, different room types, or different packages (including breakfast or half board or parking for example). Lots and lots of hotels show multiple rates. But you usually have to click on "book now" to see them. When you just do a search, you get a list of hotels and just the cheapest of the rates available.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 12:29 PM
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My listing is not such one and having used it as a guest I have never seen hotels change on a regular basis their booking conditions. It makes no sense for the hotels to do this.
Rooms rates I have seen but they do not on the booking conditions. In the end you say *** you get a list of hotels and just the cheapest of the rates available.*** Implying that the hotel sets the rate and does not have multiple booking conditions.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 12:46 PM
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It's still a good idea to check a hotel's own website. They may have a special deal not on Bookingdotcom. We got a 10% discount booking direct because of a Rick Steves code mentioned in thr RS book, not on the hotel's site), and in another case got a free restaurant dinner by paying cash at the hotel. These deals don't show up on the search websites.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 01:01 PM
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With booking.com we chose free cancellation, no charge, which usually costs more than pay for the first night when booking.

But I am watching the rates until a few weeks before the trip.

Last year for Spain, 9 stops, 7 with booking.com I found a cheaper rate just before the trip on 3 stops.

It was easy to cancel the booking at no charge, rebook for the cheaper rate and pay for the first night.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 01:40 PM
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When I am sure of certain places, usually in big cities, I always book non-refundable if I am saving money by doing so. On a road trip, I prefer to leave myself some leeway.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 03:15 PM
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Did you check directly w/hotel sites? Their rates are sometimes better than booking.com and no questions about refundable or not.>>

I think that this has already been answered but if not, it's always worth checking both, incase one or other is offering a better rate. if they are the same, I tend to use booking.com because the website is so easy to use. Other website designers please note.

I rarely book on a non-refundable basis unless I really have to or the price difference is very significant and I know that there's nowhere else I'm going to want to stay. If it's a short trip, then plans are unlikely to change much, and we have travel insurance to cover us if we HAVE to cancel due to illness etc. OTOH, on a long trip, lots of things can happen. for example, in NZ last year, despite the very good advice we'd had here, once we'd got there we soon realised that we had set ourselves an itinerary that was going to be impossible. we were able to cancel one leg of it for nothing which proved to be a god-send.

BTW, for work i now always try to use Best Western hotels as they allow you to cancel up to 4pm on the day of check-in. yes, that's right, 4pm on the day of check-in. if anyone knows of any other hotels that are that generous with their cancellation policy, please tell us.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 03:42 PM
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I usually book at refundable rates. Sometimes I tweak my plans at the last minute. Travel insurance wouldn't cover that. Once I had to cancel an entire trip, for family reasons that probably wouldn't have been covered by insurance.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 11:10 PM
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I usually book refundable rates with hotels. Booking as far out as we generally do, plans sometimes change and the small difference in booking rates is an insurance policy for me.
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Old Sep 25th, 2014, 11:20 PM
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I've booked many dozens of nonrefundable nights. I've only lost one night, because a relative changed her plans on me after specifically confirming then less than a day before. (Even so, if I had booked a cancellable rate, given the time she changed the plans, it would not have made a difference. Almost every cancellable rate says something like cancellable up to 4 PM the day before, or some other specific time.)

So I'm fine with the risk, as I've come out way ahead.
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 12:35 AM
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Booking.com usually produces free-cancellation hotels as the norm. It only sometimes produces a lower non-refundable rate as well. Then you have the choice.

Many hotels' own websites also offer a cheaper non-refundable option, again offering a choice.

Like flights, hotel booking agencies usually (often) have better rates than the hotel themselves, as the hotel knows they'll be pitted against other hotels price-wise online on a comparison site.

If you want to compare the various hotel booking systems at expedia.com, booking.com, hotels.com, asiarooms.com, otels.com and so on to find who is offering the best rate, use a hotel price comparison site such as www.hotelscombined.com or www.trivago.com

I always feel safer with the free-cancellation option, UNLESS there's a huge difference. Travel insurance doesn't cover every eventuality, and often I book hotels before booking for trains opens so before I have my travel tickets.

I may do more research as the trip gets closer, sometimes I find a better hotel (in my case, that usually means a more historic hotel with some sort of story behind it) then I can switch if necessary at no cost. Or I find another way of travelling, involving (say) a sleeper train instead of hotel then day train, so can cancel the hotel and book the sleeper. I'm free to vary the route and itinerary.

All partly because I enjoy the planning and optioneering for a trip as much as the execution, I suppose!
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 01:39 AM
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ribeirasacra and others, booking.com allows to hotels to offer multiple different packages and deals and conditions. Of course it makes sense for a hotel to do this, there are tons of reasons, I work in hospitality industry my self and I know very much what I am talking about.
A certain hotel might add different deals and conditions for identical or different type of rooms for the very same or for different time period , including different rates and/or refundable or not refundable options and so on... Many different combinations and options.
Booking.com allows this, it is standard buisiness practice.

Back to the original question, I believe that due to the very structured itinerary, I would take the risk of booking non-refundable. It is something I do not often do as a traveler but I have a much more flexible traveling style.
In case something goes wrong within the trip, remember that cancellable reservations have their limitations too. Read carefully cancelation policy of each hotel. If you miss a flight and you were supposed to check in within a few hours for example, quite likely you will be charged the full ammount anyway. If you cancel 7 days in advance usually you pay 50% of the total cost of reservation or the first night or whatever depanding on each hotel's/country's policies.

But after all, it is your call, everyone here have their different "strategies" ....
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 02:01 AM
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I've done both, but picked nonrefundable only when the price difference was significant AND I was sure that I would be there (barring some extreme incident). In some cases where I've booked the nonrefundable rate, my credit card wasn't charged immediately even though booking.com says it might be. For example, I stayed at the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia with a non-refundable rate that was described as being immediately charged, but I didn't get charged until I actually stayed there several weeks later.

One of the reasons I prefer to book the free cancellation rate is that sometime I find booking.com's rates (or those of other online umbrella hotel sites) no different from the hotel's own online rates. In which case I cancel the booking.com reservation and rebook through the hotel, so I can get the points on the hotel's loyalty program.
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 02:04 AM
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About booking sites vs booking directly with hotel...

Most booking sites, say expedia, booking.com etc require hotels to provide the lowest rate possible. For example if a hotel puts a slightly lower rate on booking.com for same room type on same date that on expedia, in a few hours hotel will receive a nice e-mail from expedia about breaching their contact and could they amend this ASAP before further action is taken?
So usually you find similar rates on most booking sites. Now, contacting the hotel directly, no one bar you and hotel knows what rates you talk about. This is about hotels that do not necessarily have on-line booking system or set rates appearing on their website. It works better with hotels that simply provide an e-mail adress.
Do you always land a better deal? Yes and no. Booking sites cut a really heafty commision, depending on specifics sometimes even 20% (!)and hotels are very happy to have direct bookings. This does not mean all of them will offer a better rate. Usually larger hotels or chain hotels have a specific pricing policy and are not very flexible. On my experience contacting smaller establishments or even better small family owned hotels you can usually land some better deals. Often smaller establishments have a very limited profit margine and every penny counts. It is sometimes up to the person who you happen to contact to decide what s/he'll reply, without having to go through supervisors and strict company guidelines. Maybe it is even the owner of the hotel hisself who checks the e-mails. 10% of a 100 euro bill might be more important to him than 10% of a 400 euro bill to a large intrnational conmpany. He might make this 95 for you, in reality gaining 5 euros by subtructing 5 euros from your original rate. I think it never hurts to try contacting hotels directly even if outcome is the same. I know that sometimes I have land some great deals and even when not, personally I feel bettter knowing money goes directly to the hotel that to a third part.
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 02:24 AM
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I book refundable and non refundable rates on different booking sites ( often on booking.com now, used to use venere mostly but rarely these day ) and directly with hotels.

Now I'm looking at a rate of a hotel in Venice on the hotel's site and also on Venere's. €91.00 on the hotel's and on Venere €65 ( says reduced from € 91.00, the hotel's site ). So contacting the hotel direct is not always the best way as far as the rates are concerned. Some people write to ask the hotel if they can match the booking sites' rates. I don't do that. And both rates ( on venere and the hotel ) are no- refundable rates so no advantage there neither. I'd especially book directly with hotels when I have specific requirements ( a specific room and others requests ). There rates may not be the best but I can accept that. With small hotels and B & B, it's often nice to have a direct contact. I usually call the hotels to re-confirm ( + ask questions ).
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 03:36 AM
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I prefer to book directly with hotels that have loyalty programs. For example. we checked booking.com's rate for a room at the Grand Hyatt in Berlin. Their lowest refundable rate was exactly the same as the lowest refundable rate on the hotel's site. Ditto for the non-refundable rates (which we haven't opted for on our next trip). No difference in price but a big different in loyalty points -- in my experience, many hotel chains will not give you loyalty points if you book with an "outside" booking site like booking.com. We found the same thing with the hotel for our upcoming trip to Vienna. Also, if you book with the hotel directly, you have a slightly to much better chance of getting a free upgrade.

If the hotel will provide loyalty points even when you book through umbrella sites like booking.com, then the difference is minimized (the Radisson Blu in Phila, for example, gave me points even though I'd booked through booking.com). I was a little annoyed a year ago when I spent eight nights at the Sofitel in New York City (not a budget hotel!) and because I'd reserved the room through booking.com, Accor wouldn't give me a single loyalty point.

So there are variables beyond price and you simply have to decide which of these variables matter to you (if any).
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 04:02 AM
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Dukey said, "I will not ever make a hotel reservation in any place that charges more for a refundable reservation. This is not the same as a pre-paid reservation; the two are entirely different."

In fact, the nonrefundable rates are usually prepaid, while the refundable ones are not. If you refuse to stay in places that have two prices, refundable and nonrefundable, you may run out of hotels in the near future, because more and more are doing this.

Man_in_Seat_61 said that the default on booking.com is refundable, without paying extra. This may still be true, but if so, it's getting close to the time when it's no longer true.

When there are not two prices, you should check the conditions carefully, because there may still be a penalty for changes, especially with small hotels. Even if you've paid extra for a refundable rate, you should still check the conditions. They may require that you cancel at least a day before, for example, in order to get the refund.
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 08:18 AM
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I second everything that Man_in_seat_61 wrote. It gives you a lot more flexibility and if something does come up, you don't have to mess around with the travel insurance (been there, done that).
Sometimes I book two hotels in a city and then do my research at leisure. There are cities where you just have to book early to get the hotel (or type of hotel) you want and then your plans change.
It also gives you the chance to change hotels (let's say you're going to be there several days) if it turns out that the hotel isn't to your liking.
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Old Sep 26th, 2014, 10:33 AM
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If the savings are sizable (after you have included the cost of travel insurance) then it may be worthwhile to go non-refundable. But there is no way I would do it without full insurance coverage (for any reason - not just death of self or spouse).
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Old Sep 27th, 2014, 01:57 PM
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<But you have to be willing to lose that money if for some reason you don't go.>

Bingo, that's the bottomline for any reservations, travel insurance (yea or nay) etc. Can you afford to lose that amount of money if for whatever reason you changed your mind, don't take the trip?

For example I never bother with insurance on a beachy vacation like a week or two to Hawaii or Mexico when it's a couple thousand dollars total we're talking about. A longer, more extensive, more complicated trip to Europe or Asia I would think differently.
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Old Sep 27th, 2014, 04:09 PM
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I don't think any insurance will cover trip cancellation for "any reason whatsoever". They have to be able to estimate the risk in order to insure something. They wouldn't insure "I had a fight with my husband and don't want to spend two weeks traveling with him", or, "I rebalanced my checkbook and see that I can't afford this trip".
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