Note: All of the prices in this post have been rounded to the nearest pound or dollar. I assumed you didn’t need to know the extra cents (BrE – pence), and it was easier to calculate. Calculations were done at the rate of $1.52 per British pound.
I know my posts are long, and this one is probably longer than usual. Reading it might give you some insight into searching for lodging online, but if that kind of thing bores you, skip to the next post.
When I looked for hotels and B&B’s online, I tried to track several things: whether they had parking available (and whether parking was free or not), where the rooms were located in relation to trains and bus stations, whether we would have our own bathroom in the room (BrE – ensuite) or would be sharing a bath down the hall (BrE – standard), and whether the hotel or B&B served a free breakfast or not. These were all items which would increase or decrease the cost of the stay, or increase or decrease the convenience.
I also ran into some issues searching for rooms. Some of the rooms listed their rates per person, and some listed rates per room. If a room was advertised at a really low price (like £35 per night, $53), it was almost certain that would be a per-person price (which sometimes – but not always – meant £70 pounds for double occupancy, or $106), but I was fooled several times by rooms advertised at £50 to £65 per night. They turned out to be single occupancy rooms (in other words, £100 to £130 or $152 to $198) if Minay was along for the ride. We weren’t going to spend that amount of money for six to eight hours sleep. Most of the rooms were listed at the double occupancy price, often with a notation that the same room could be had for one person for a smaller price than the charge for two people. Reading the fine print (often at the bottom of the web page) helped.
Many of the B&Bs and hotels had separate “twin” rooms and “double” rooms (a twin meaning it would have two smaller beds, and a double meaning it had only one bed which was larger than a single twin bed, but much smaller than a queen). Sometimes the online ad wouldn’t specify whether the rooms were twin or double, which added another level of complication to the search. This was important, because at home Minay and I sleep in a US queen-sized bed (British bed sizes are smaller than US beds). Minay is a little over five feet tall, and I am six feet. Minay assures me that I toss and turn a great deal during the night, although I’ve never personally witnessed that phenomena. We decided early on that one double bed for the two of us just wouldn’t work. It would have to be twins or king or queen-sized beds, or Minay would end up with bruises from me bumping her and wouldn’t sleep at all.
We were planning, for now, to just book rooms for the beginning of our stay (Bath) and the very end (London). At first, I just bookmarked all of the websites for rooms in London and Bath that looked promising, thinking I would gather them together and winnow them down to our best choices. But flipping back and forth between websites full of similar information was overwhelming, so I created another spreadsheet so I could sort the information by various criteria (price, parking, type of beds, breakfast, wifi, etc.). This became quite a task (especially after I became obsessed later and did the same thing for rooms in every region we thought we might travel through), but it did start teaching me what to look for.
I looked through my list of rooms in Bath. I had found eight places that were in or just outside of Bath, and about eighteen more that were several miles outside the city, but the two closest to the abbey (where the Stonehenge tour would start) were Annabelle’s Guest House and a Best Western, so I compared them. According to their websites, they both had free wi-fi and double and twin rooms available. Annabelle’s prices for twins were between £70 and £80 ($107 and $122), with the higher prices being on the weekend. The Best Western’s lowest price was £110, their highest was £158 (or $167 to $240). This was a no-brainer. Even at the lowest rate it was a difference of £40 per night. A savings of £160 ($243) over the four days. I e-mailed Annabelle’s to ask about parking at the guest house, and received a quick response from Natacha, Annabelle’s manager, telling me that they didn’t have their own parking, but there was a parking lot across the street, next to the police station (which sounded like a safe place to be), and the rates were £12 per day, and £8.50 on Sundays. The Best Western used the same parking lot. I had one more step to take. I went to tripadvisor.com, another online tool I had been using, and entered Bath, UK in their search box, and found reviews left by other travelers who had stayed at Annabelle’s. They only had a few reviews, but most were very favorable. In the meantime, Natacha e-mailed me again, saying she would discount the rate for the room to the lowest rate of £70 per night even though three of the days were on the weekend, so I agreed and booked the room, letting her charge a deposit of $132 to my credit card. We were even more committed now.
We weren’t through with room reservations yet, though. Next up, more of the same for London.
On your trips, have you pre-reserved all or most of your accommodations, or winged it completely, or a combination?