Everything you need to know about using Google Hotels
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If you’re a savvy flyer, you’ve probably come across Google Flights. It’s a really great way to search across multiple airlines, airports, dates and classes to help you maximise your travel. Well, Google also offers a similarly powerful search tool for booking hotel accommodation.
Here’s how it works.
Google Hotels search engine can be found at this link. The homepage looks like a simple version of other aggregator accommodation websites like Hotels.com and Booking.com.
Related: How to avoid booking a bad hotel
Let’s have a look at a weekend rate in summer in the always popular New York City.
The initial search page isn’t overly user-friendly, with only a couple of “best match” options showing before you need to scroll for more, despite me not actually providing any more information than the dates and city.
Let’s add some filters and see if this provides an easier comparison. Google Hotels allows you to customise your results by choosing to only show the following:
- Price range, where you can set both the minimum and maximum per night;
- Whether you want just hotels or holiday rentals through sites like Vrbo and TripAdvisor;
- Minimum guest rating for the property (out of a maximum of five stars) — this is different from the official star rating of a hotel;
- Amenities like Wi-Fi, free parking, a pool and air conditioning;
- Hotel brands like Hilton or Marriott, which is a great choice if you have status with a certain hotel programme and would prefer to stay in one of their properties to enjoy status benefits (though note you’ll need to book directly through the hotel);
- Hotel class — the official rating, not the guest rating referred to above; and
- Whether you want to see “only the deals” or all prices. This seems like a confusing choice to make for a comparison website. All things considered, if two very similar properties are both £200 per night, if the first listing has a standard price and the second is listed as a “deal” at 30% off, does that mean the second property is better because it’s normally more expensive? Or does it mean its usually overpriced?
Let’s say I want to only stay in or around Midtown and don’t want to pay more than £200 per night.
Here are the options with those filters selected:
Annoyingly, the first search result is an ad that doesn’t even match my filters. Once you’ve scrolled through that, there is the traditional list of options that fit your search and filter criteria.
Given how powerful Google Flights is, let’s see if there are some smart tools on its hotels page to help you maximise your travel. First of all, there’s a cool neighbourhood guide under the “Where to stay” tab. If you’ve never been to the Big Apple before, that’s a great tool if you’re tossing up similarly priced hotels in different areas. Harlem will be very different from Hell’s Kitchen, both in the feel of the area and the proximity to tourist attractions.
Next to that tab is a guide to when to visit the destination. Accommodation costs in a city like New York vary hugely across different months of the year. You’re likely to score a bargain in the snowy, dark depths of January or February when there are very few tourists, while you can expect to pay top dollar during summer when hotels will be packed.
This tab also provides weather guides for each month, which will help you pack.
Perhaps the smartest tab is the “What you’ll pay” tab, which gives you insights as to standard prices across different star hotels for the month you’re searching for. If the prices you’re seeing are way higher than usual, you may have selected dates that coincide with a major event at your destination like a sporting tournament or large conference, driving prices up because of the much higher-than-usual demand.
You may wish to choose other dates for your trip where possible to ensure you aren’t paying higher-than-normal prices. This is a really handy feature you won’t find on other accommodation websites.
Once you’ve selected a property from the list, it will take you to a price comparison page to allow you to choose which platform you wish to actually book through. (Google Hotels does not process bookings directly.)
Frustratingly, the prices are not listed in price order for the exact same room. The first option that appears is not always the cheapest — in fact, it could be the highest.
Don’t forget to view the entire list to ensure you get the best price, and don’t just follow the options Google suggests for you. Note, however, that each option may not be an exact like-for-like — the cancellation policies, for example, may be different. One site may provide free breakfast, while another may not. One may provide a room with two beds, another site may have one large bed instead.
Google Hotels has some really cool features, which are a great asset to travellers, especially where they are unfamiliar with the destination they are travelling to. Google has the data and the technology to provide the sort of insights that other online hotel booking sites cannot.
At the same time, you need to be really careful when searching that you are looking at all of the options and are not tricked by Google Hotels’ attempts to push you towards its preferred choices. Ultimately, you want to be sure you are picking the best option for you.
Featured courtesy of the Grand Barrail Chateau Hotel