Over the last few weeks I have had a number of people asking me various doubts on planning an independent international holiday & particularly about booking hotels abroad. So, till such time as HolidayIQ launches a comprehensive international section (don’t worry, that is coming soon & I promise, it will be a great planning tool), here is a quick primer on how to book hotels & resorts abroad.
I am an online guy, so my first preference is always to book hotels online. With both Travelocity and Expedia launching India sites, the widest international hotel inventory is available to be booked from India and paid in Rupees. So, it sure beats your neighbourhood travel agent hollow. And since both sites have an Indian call centre, one can also talk to a real person in India to double check your bookings, which is often a real comfort.
I stress-tested booking a family room (4 people, 2 adults and 2 kids) at Orlando – in or around Disneyworld – on both the sites. Both Expedia & Travelocity did a good job and threw up a number of options (although Travelocity gave funny error messages & repeatedly failed in my Firefox browser which was a disappointment). However, Expedia’s search methodology was a shade more user-friendly since it allows you to find hotels by naming the Attraction you want to go to and throws up hotels around the attraction. Of course, both Travelocity & Expedia also allow you to narrow the list of hotels in the search results by distance or ease of access to the attraction.
Both excelled in prices. Hotel room prices around Disneyworld started in Expedia at Rs 1386 per night and in Travelocity at Rs 1583 per night. Remember, this is for one room which can comfortably accommodate 2 adults & 2 kids (7 & 11 years). I think this is absolutely awesome and is the reason why Indians are soon going to take international holidays even over long weekends.
I have not reviewed the Indian online travel agencies here; I would give them one more year to get their act together for international bookings. But I think there are certainly getting there for domestic hotel bookings.
And now about offline travel agents. I would not suggest you use them for hotel bookings, although they can be really good in airtickets, visas etc.
However, if you are looking for complicated holiday itineraries that involve many stops and many destinations, be prepared to spend a lot of your own time on research & planning. Or else, use a good travel agent.
As I said earlier, we are working on this at HolidayIQ and will come up with a good solution, but till then hope this helps.
All this was about independent travel. Of course, if you are the sort that does not mind tagging along in a group for your holiday, pre-packaged tours offered by all the major tour operators are an obvious option.