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Darren Cronian is the editor of Travel Rants, an award-winning consumer travel blog. He started writing in April 2005 after a frustrating experience booking a holiday with a high-street travel agency and has since been blogging his socks off about pretty much every conceivable aspect of travel. We asked him to write a few words about the things that most annoy him when searching for a hotel…

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As a kid I vividly remember my parents queuing up at the tourist information office, who would telephone a few hotels to check availability, and then we’d drive around trying to find the hotel in the nicest location for a weekend break at the seaside.

How times have changed.

The internet has really transformed how we search for and book hotels, but let’s be honest: while it doubtlessly has many advantages, there are some really annoying things about searching for hotels online and I wanted to share these annoyances with you today.

Frustrating search forms

I noticed on a number of hotel sites that the search isn’t intuitive – if I enter an arrival date, and I want to stay for 3 nights, I shouldn’t then have to enter a check-out date. Like many travellers I am flexible with the dates of travel, so I’d like to see the site check availability for a few days prior and after if there’s no availability for my chosen search dates.

Out-of-date availability calendars

There’s nothing more annoying than finding the perfect hotel, paying online, then receiving a phone call to inform you that the hotel is booked up. I have lost count how many times this has happened to me in the last couple of years, and it seems to happen with one or two hotel chains in particular, both of which I refuse to use now.

Hotel listings without photos or poor quality

One of my main annoyances are hotel listings with poor quality photos, or worse still no photos at all. How am I going to trust a hotel that has not made the effort to provide photographs? I need inspiring and photos are one of the biggest factors in my decision to book.

Poorly written hotel descriptions

One-line or poorly written hotel descriptions are not going to catch my imagination – I want to read what services the hotel provides (e.g. is there WiFi? does the room have a television? is there a gym or bar on site? It’s amazing how many hotel descriptions don’t cover this or are simply badly written.

Local currencies only

When booking hotels abroad, I don’t want to have to visit a currency converter website to view the rates in pounds – I will just go elsewhere. I’ve found this happen more on individual hotel websites, rather than hotel search engines.

Hard-to-read maps

Nowadays there’s no need to have a badly designed map when the likes of Yahoo and Google offer maps which you can embed into your hotel’s website. You’d be surprised how many hotel sites I have visited that provide a map that’s so hard to read I end up going to another mapping site to find the hotel’s location.

Confusing hotel ratings

I’ve ranted about this issue before, and I’d like to see a more uniform hotel classification system in the EU. On a recent search of hotels in London I found hotels classified with both diamonds and stars, which completely confused me, and I am sure it confuses many a tourist.

Poor customer communication channels

It’s 2008, the age of the internet, so why should I have to dial a premium telephone number to speak to someone? I’m amazed at the number of hotel sites that do not provide an email form, or even a page of frequently asked questions that I can refer to.

If there’s anything I haven’t mentioned that riles you, please add it in the comments. Hopefully we can help improve the experience.

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  • Magdalen

    Clearer language. Honesty. If there is a construction site nearby, I want to read that and not the the hotel “is in an up and coming area”. If the hotel is in an area that’s “busy and bustling with nightlife” I’d prefer to read it’s noisy and doesn’t quiet down until five in the morning.
    There are people out there who don’t mind things like this, and I want to have a real choice without having to decode the hotel text first.
    That is something that really put me off going to travel agencies BTW, they often don’t have a clue offline or online.
    I agree about the rating system (stars, diamonds, what-have-you). It differs greatly in every country, three stars occasionally means things like “has aircondition and TV”, there should be some international standard.

  • I’d like to throw in my two cents here too, Darren. Hotel-wise, the biggest blight on the internet has to be poncey, unnecessary, pretentious flash animations on hotel websites. I go to a hotel site to get information, not to admire the online CV of some wannabe young flash designer. Have photos, yes, have 360º tours, yes, but for the love of all that’s good in the world, don’t have an agonisingly tedious intro animation featuring close-ups of seashells and a light sax soundtrack. Purlease.

  • Darren Cronian

    @ Magdalen

    Yes, I think hotels near to be clear where construction work is concerned. I’ve received complaints where the agency has said that the hotel targets families – when the party have arrived it’s an 18-30 hotel, with partying til’ dawn.

    @ Anthony

    I have no idea why people feel the need of adding flash, it’s hideous. I won’t mention the Greek hotel that had Greek music on entering it’s site.

    It nearly blew up my speakers and me a heart attack.

  • Great article! I know what you mean about the pointless flash animations and music forced in to your browsing experience, it’s just wrong.

    On the point about finding key facts about what is and isn’t offered by the hotel, I find that comparison sites which simply list these facilities in a uniform manner, actually do a better job of it, than the hotels themselves!

  • I’ve been to his site many times and he points out many great things that we as travellers should take note of. Great post, I do feel the same way!

  • I’ve got one – one of my biggest hotel hates is unnecessarily long and complicated check-in procedures. Especially in the sort of hotels where you know you’re not going to be offered a seat/cocktail/foot rub while you fill in some tedious immigration form that asks everything from your point of departure to your blood type and five-year plan!