By MALIK MERCHANT
Many of my Ismaili friends have already made arrangements to travel to Lisbon in July. They have done so independently or through their travel agents. Great! Hundreds of others are playing the waiting game for registration to commence, while many who want to book are wrongly informed there are no flights and rooms available during the period July 2–13, 2018!
Only a few days ago, I responded to a desperate call from a Miami Ismaili reader who is planning to travel to Lisbon. “All plane tickets and hotels are sold out,” she told me in frustration. She got that information from Jamati friends, and I wasn’t impressed!
I instructed her to navigate with me to check out air tickets and accommodation. She was amazed that there were still plenty of seats available on direct return flights from Miami (5th July, departure) to Lisbon (12th July, return) on the Portuguese airline TAP. Then, we went to a hotel booking web site — as an example, we navigated to Booking.com. We found out there were hundreds of properties at different price levels and of different kinds available from a low of CAD $285.00 to a high of CAD $9,330.00 for the entire seven day stay! We also found dozens of properties listed between CAD $1,000.00 to CAD $2,500.00 for all 7 nights! She then proudly told me a day later that she booked her flight and hotel, through a travel agent, for close to US $2,700.00. She was satisfied with the flight arrangement and the property she had been booked at.
So don’t believe everything you are told, please! Do your homework independently; it is fun and exciting! Or contact a travel agent to assist you. And don’t give up if the travel agent tells you nothing is available. Yes, probably the agency has sold out the packages for the airline or tour operators it regularly deals with! But carry on working independently or seeking the advice of another travel agent. We have a listing of Ismaili travel professionals. We invite other Ismaili professionals to join the list — it is FREE!
For the last 12 years, the hotel booking websites I have listed below — they also offer flights, car rentals etc — have been my travelling companions. And they have saved me enormous amounts of money, and are very reliable. Where a hotel did not meet the star level or service that I had expected, their customer service representatives willingly fixed the problem by giving credits for future stays.
I have also stayed at many Airbnb accommodations over the past 2 years. I prefer to select properties that are positively reviewed, and I haven’t encountered one bad situation. Airbnb will require you to become verified through its own verification process that includes proofs such as you driver’s license or passport — you are then set!
With the oncoming summer holiday season, many new Airbnb properties will get listed and they may not have any reviews. If they look good in photos and description, and the host you communicate with is responsive, you may take a chance and book it. Although I have never been disappointed with Airbnb hosts, there have been issues with some travellers complaining that the host was a NO SHOW or cancelled at the last minute. Just a word of caution! So best to read guest reviews before committing yourself to a host.
The following is a list of sites I have used to make my hotel booking. Note that many properties may offer cancellations! Remember, when you call a hotel directly or visit their website, they may tell you the hotel is completely booked for your dates. Yes, that may be the case because many reservation websites, such as the ones listed below, block multiple rooms. So while the hotel may say it is fully booked, that may not actually be the reality. So you should try to book through the websites below and many others like them.
Tip: Use filters (eg. price range, dates of stay, star rating, location from city centre or major attractions etc) to narrow down search. But keep one thing in mind – Lisbon is not a huge city! Personally, for travels within Canada, 70% of my hotel bookings have been through priceline.com and hotwire.com. The catch is that once your hotel is booked at the lowest prices they have offered, they are non-refundable. For overseas trips, I have mainly used Booking.com and Hotels.com.
- http://www.booking.com (an excellent site with good pricing; also many properties offer cancellations or pay at property option. Since the name of the hotel is not a secret when you book, prices tend to be higher than Priceline and Hotwire; may be worth paying the higher price but you should check cancellation deadline).
- http://www.priceline.com (timing all important and it offers excellent deals and you can even name your own price that may be accepted – be reasonable though when submitting your price! Priceline also offers Express Deals that are upto 60% off. For their lower end prices, there are no refunds once booked. Again the name of hotel is hidden until you book. So you are left guessing about the property until your reservation is confirmed after a minute or two. Exciting! In my experience, hidden Priceline hotels have met or exceeded my expectations).
- http://www.hotwire.com (like Priceline, offers very competitive rates that once booked are not refundable; again you are left guessing about the property you will be booked at but my experience of hidden hotels has been positive).
- http://www.hotels.com (again, like booking, an excellent website)
- http://www.trivago.ca (scans partner hotel booking sites for best rates, and lists the top few.)
- http://www.tripadvisor.com (an amazing site that provides reliable reviews of everything travel related — things to do, hotels, restaurants etc.)
- http://www.expedia.com (excellent and offers special discounts for registered users)
- http://www.airbnb.com (hosts who offer private or shared rooms/apartments/houses from very short term to long term stays)
I have not booked flights through any of the websites listed above. I prefer to book on the airline websites directly. I have often booked flights via http://www.flighnetwork.com. Alternatively, get in touch with your personal travel agent that has served you well over the years. Please also see our listing of Ismailis offering professional travelling services.
Good luck with your bookings and your trip to Lisbon!
Date posted: Wednesday, April 25, 2018.
Last updated: Thursday, April 26, 2018.
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