Along with the rest of London, I read the announcements of tube strikes a few weeks back with a sense of cold dread. Once again, getting to work would be a giant ball ache. And once again, both strikes were on the same days as major work events that I needed to be at. Ughh. Here come the surge-priced taxi rides.
Then, a map dropped into my inbox from Hotel Tonight – the last-minute hotel booking app – showing how far the cost of their cheaper hotels would get you in a taxi:
Now, I live in London, and not at all far out. But the idea of leaving the work event late at night (quite possibly inebriated) and walking round the corner to a freshly-made bed was actually pretty appealing. So I downloaded Hotel Tonight and started browsing for nearby hotels.
Since I was looking for the shortest walk possible, I was pretty pleased to see there’s a map function:
The nearest hotel was called QBic. I hadn’t heard of it, but Hotel Tonight’s info was pretty comprehensive:
Admittedly, this wasn’t exactly in the taxi fare price bracket. But I was booking 4 days in advance (Hotel Tonight recently added the ability to book up to a week ahead), and in a very central part of the city. If I’d waited ’til the actual day, it would have been considerably cheaper as the hotel tried to fill the empty room. But I like to plan ahead!
QBic looked pretty cool, so I pulled the trigger:
That all sounded good, and there was a payment breakdown explaining the cost of the room and fees (the fees are included in the price you see when you search, so it’s not a surprise. Mine was £70 for the room and £14 in taxes and fees, totalling the £84 it had shown me on the search page).
Once you book, you get a confirmation email with a map, all the check in and check out information, the payment breakdown, and extra information like how many guests the hotel allows. There’s a lot of hand-holding, which I really appreciate – when I’m making plans I want to know every detail.
Check me in
I rocked up to the hotel half an hour after check-ins opened, half-expecting some “we have no record of that booking” drama (I’ve been burned by third-party services before…), but there was none of that. The hotel had all my details, handed over my key and that was that.
The room was exactly as described on Hotel Tonight, even down to the bed and the artwork on the walls. I’d had a good idea of what to expect, and I wasn’t disappointed:
The work event was actually considerably more hardcore than I was expecting, and I finally got back to QBic at 4.30am. Yikes. But it was so good to have a room just round the corner, rather than messing about trying to get back to my house (there are no tubes at 4.30am, strike or no strike!). It’s a great option to have on your phone – like Uber for beds.
With 13 million downloads and around 2000 destinations worldwide, Hotel Tonight is pretty massive. We spoke to Tom Mendoza, UK Manager, to find out more.
How many hotels have you got on the books at the moment? What are some of your favourites?
We have over 15,000 hotels on board and the number is constantly growing. As our selections are hand-curated, our priority is to ensure that every single hotel we work with meets our requirements.
It’s very hard to pick a personal favourite but at the moment I’m trying to enjoy the last days of summer. So Ace Hotel, for example, is great as you can also treat yourself to a drink with the backdrop of London’s skyline.
How late can you book a hotel?
You can leave it very late, as it’s the nature of last minute bookings. In fact, you could even do it from outside the hotel – the system is very quick to process the booking. Life can be very unexpected and our app was designed to help in these situations.
Did you see a surge in use during the last tube strike? What other events cause a surge in use?
There’s a number of factors that can cause a spike in bookings. It can be anything, from poor weather at home to a spontaneous birthday surprise. It’s not always possible to quantify it as these factors can be personal – for instance, one could treat their partner to a last minute trip abroad to celebrate, say, a promotion. We do however find that occasions like a Bank holiday or, indeed, a tube strike can cause a spike in interest in last minute hotels.
We noticed you recently added 7-day booking – does it get cheaper the nearer you get to check-in time? Or would it cost the same to book a hotel on the day as 7 days before?
In a lot of instances, room prices will drop as it gets later in the day. From a hotel’s perspective, they are looking to fill empty rooms, which explains the decreasing room costs. This in turn benefits the consumers who would be getting a great deal on their last minute booking. That said, HotelTonight also offers great deals for those who are booking seven days in advance.
Are there cases where it’d be cheaper to get a hotel than to get an Uber home? What are the cheapest rooms on offer in London?
It’s really interesting, as people rarely consider a hotel stay to be a cheaper and more convenient alternative to getting a taxi. However, with London hotels on HotelTonight costing on average from as low as £60, it can actually be cheaper to book a comfortable hotel for the night than ride in a taxi. In the case of tube strikes, you would also benefit from an easy commute to work the next day.
What are your top 3 travel tips?
First and foremost, plan less and live more. This is HotelTonight’s philosophy but it rings true for me as well. Spontaneous travel can seem nerve-wracking but once you take the plunge, it’s liberating and exciting.
My second tip is to pack light. It follows on from my first point, but if you’re not going on a long trip packing light can save you a lot of time and stress. All you need is some essentials and a light carry-on bag, and you’ll breeze through airport security without having to queue for drop off and luggage collection.
And finally, I would suggest exploring like a local. Of course you want to tick off the key sightseeing spots, but once that’s done, why not simply wander around. This goes back to spontaneity in travel. It’s moments like this where you let life take you by surprise with unexpected experiences and unseen sights.
Main image: Hotel Tonight
Disclosure: Gadgette stayed at QBic as guests of Hotel Tonight.