Booking Rooms Online vs Winging it. Which is Better?

Booking backpacking longterm

As we sit in the threadbare room that we booked online, smelling a certain eau de toilet emitting from the tiny bathroom, we are debating the merits of booking a hotel online vs finding a hotel upon arrival.

Is it better to search through hotel booking sites, read reviews, and book ahead or wing it and find a hotel without a reservation? We’ve done a lot of both and it really depends on the circumstances. Why don’t you follow along with our thoughts here and see what we mean.


So this booking rooms online thing ain’t so bad…


An obvious advantage to booking a room or dorm online is convenience. We usually prefer to book online if we are arriving at night, or only staying for a day or two and don’t want to waste time looking for a hotel. One can simply use the map feature from a third party service to narrow down a list of hotels/hostels in the area they prefer.

After that, check reviews against a personalized list of important criteria and hit reserve. Done! The trick is to know what’s most important to you and take all information with a grain of salt.

For example, if a reviewer complains of a rat on the same street as the hotel, or that the staff didn’t speak english we are probably not going to care, but if the wifi was crappy or there are obvious security issues then we’re out.

Often, these third party online booking sites are able to reserve rooms for a cheaper price than the hotel will offer. It can be possible to negotiate the online price in person at some hotels, but most will save money by using these sites.


But when pre-booking doesn’t work out…


Some people really like the security of knowing where they are going to stay for the entire time that they are away. For us, this is actually cause for anxiety.

What if we want to move on sooner than we had anticipated? What if we found out about a better place that was priced lower? Or in the case that prompted us to write this post, what if we don’t like the hotel as it wasn’t as advertised?”

It could be that we’re commitment-phobes but securing a room for multiple days is difficult for us. Honestly, we would have left our current hotel instantly if we hadn’t locked in by pre-booking.


Winging it ain’t so bad either…


No reviewer can beat using your own eyes and instincts, but more importantly, they can’t predict the connection you make with the owner/staff when you arrive to view a room in person. There is another level of customer service when booking in person that can really make or break a place for us. That’s not something you’ll know until you arrive. Usually, we are able to book a room for one night and extend our stay if we like it at a lower rate for a week or so.


But when winging it goes sideways…


The same instinct to be free and untethered to a hotel has also kicked us in the ass. Until recently, we didn’t have much of a problem perusing hotel reviews, making a short list, looking at each room and booking day by day upon arrival.

As of late, we’ve had a few trips where we struggled to find a vacant room or to extend our stay. If you are on a short trip this could really put a damper on your vacation as you waste valuable time looking for accommodations.

As we get older (damn it all!)  it is also harder to hit the pavement donning backpacks, sweating our way from hotel to hotel.

As you can see, circumstances can play a major role in how one may want to go about this. Not only that, but everyone is different and what works for some people may not work for others.


So what do we do now?


We made a choice to pre-book because of our timeline and it didn’t pan out but talk about first world problems. It’s completely up to us whether or not we make the best of it. Attitude is everything. We have had a great time with the hotel staff and found some yummy places to eat nearby. We are just happy that we get to do this at all and that’s what matters.  

Do you prefer to pre-book your accommodation or figure it out when you get there? Any great tips? Please let us know in the comments section below and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to receive new posts as they get published. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter if that’s your thing too. Ciao for now!

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8 Responses

  1. Ruey says:

    Yay!!! So glad you are still adventuting and now blogging about it! You two know how to live!

  2. Ruey says:

    Adventuring not adventuting, LOL!

  3. Eric says:

    Look forward to more blog’s

    • Danomi says:

      Hey Eric, thanks for checking out our blog! Really appreciate it. We should be posting another one later today on Ho Chi Minh City. Stay tuned!

  4. Paty and Bob says:

    Hay Kids!
    What is a third party map or how to access this when lookin at hostel/hotel?
    Also do you frequent any particular site(s) for this?
    How do you search for rooms when moving from one area to another?
    Love You Both!

    • Danomi says:

      Most booking sites have a map where you can search in a particular neighborhood or area for hotels. In fact Google maps will also list hotels in an area & if you click on it, you will get a list of booking site rates for that hotel.
      Some sites are better in some countries than others. We have used, Agoda & airbnb is hugely popular but we usually use sites with free cancellation & no prepayment required.
      The problem with pre-booking is you need to know your dates if moving around. Doesn’t allow much freedom. We tend to pre-book the first night arriving to a new city. Then play it by ear.
      Hope that helps. Good luck!❤

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