Q (9.4.23)  Your help would be appreciated. How do I know if my hotel pricing from Expedia is the best available? We are looking to book a two-week vacation in Poland and Hungary with a planned visit, if time permits, in Austria. But my husband has no interest in going so I will be traveling with our two teenage daughters. We are looking online but, quite frankly, we don’t know where to begin. Should we be looking under Poland tour operators or “tours to Eastern Europe”.  Obviously, there are budget concerns, but we are willing to go as high as $300 per night if necessary. The trip will be scheduled in September and, as you might imagine, the girls are primarily interested in Instagram moments while I want to do some serious sightseeing with good guides.  If we were sitting across the desk from you – what would you advise? My oldest daughter is quite good at internet research. 

A – There is a lot to unfurl here so please understand our need to be brief.  Do all the research you want on the internet and Expedia – but no travel consumer should ever book with a stranger at the other end of the phone who could be living anywhere and who is generally unreachable should there be any problem. When it comes to travel planning, you want to always avoid providing personal information and your credit card details to anyone you found on a search engine.

Never book any hotel room online because that is an automatic signal to the hotel that you are buying on price and you will never be a loyal, return customer. You will likely  get one of the worst rooms reserved for “online bookings”.

All hotel reservations should always be booked with an actual human who is working at the hotel “on-property”. This can be challenging because a large proportion of online hotel booking sites have been revealed to be “ghost sites” with no business relationship with the property. 

Your budget is unreasonable unless you are seriously looking at three-star hotels. Do you really want to put your daughters in that position? By the way, September has become the single most popular travel month in western Europe given the heat issues of the past decade. Prices are much higher than you might imagine.

Our suggestion is that you consider this a potential trip filled with moving parts and complexities. You should make an appointment with an experienced travel agent close to home, someone who will be available to you before and during your travels. Your agent will be able to give you a realistic cost estimate. 

It strikes us that you might want to inquire about a land tour that gives you most of what you want. Having a tour guide to attend to all details might actually enable you to enjoy this vacation with your girls. Try to understand that “Europe on $5 A Day” is now closer to “Europe on $1500 A Day”. And you are a “Triple”!

Finally, we would strongly urge you to consider a river cruise along the Danube. Sightseeing would be included as would all meals and accommodations. Much less to worry about.