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How do I make a reservation?

Through Booking.com. You’ll find most of the castle and palace hotels on this site represented by this booking service. It’s quick; it’s easy, and you can book the type of room you want and in whatever language you wish. If you later change your mind, cancellations are easy. You pay directly with the hotel at the end of your stay.

Directly with the hotel. Any links you’ll find on this site will take you to the hotel’s official website or its recommended agent. The best method of contacting a hotel is through e-mail, and many European hoteliers prefer it.

In the pre-Internet days, fax was the chosen means, but imagine the expense of returning 40 faxes a day just to say “sorry, fully booked.” If you don’t receive a fax back, you can assume the hotel is booked. And in the pre-fax days, some of you might remember yelling through the phone in the middle of the night, hoping to God someone spoke English on the other end. Usually we just wrote out a request, licked a stamp, and waited two weeks for a reply.

If you’re in the right time zone or possess a nocturnal nature, and are good at understanding accents, go ahead and call up the hotel. Unlike years ago, you’ll almost always find someone who speaks English on the other end, and at least you’ll get an immediate answer. I would still follow up with an e-mail since it’s always a good policy to have something in writing with no misunderstanding.

Be very specific about your needs. Do you need two beds instead of a double? Ask for it. If you have difficulty with stairs or unusual bathroom configurations, ask about that, too. Don’t forget, castles were defensive structures first. Sometimes those narrow winding tower stairways, however romantic, can be treacherous for those unable to climb. En suite bathrooms are sometimes installed into whatever the architecture allows. There’s some pretty imaginative designs out there. So, be safe and ask if you have special needs.

Always ask about what is included. For starters, you can count on taxes. Many hotels include a service charge, but ask to make sure. Also ask if breakfast and parking, if needed, is included as well. Parking fees are a good money maker for hotels. These items can inflate your final bill and wreak havoc with your budget. Using the room telephone or mini-bar is for the insanely extravagant.

A couple of things to know about booking hotels in general:

Do not call a toll-free reservation number to book a room. Why? Almost always, you’ll be connected to a central reservation office and a person who will recite the rack rates. Suppose you want to stay for more than three days and wonder if there’s a better price or a discount for paying cash? The person on the other end of the phone has no authority to negotiate with you.

Always reconfirm with the hotel directly and once again shortly before arrival. You can show up all hot and sweaty from the airport after a long-haul flight and in the midst of the arrival of a large wedding party, and quelle horreur, there’s no record of your reservation.

Is it possible to negotiate the price of my room? There’s certainly no harm in asking. Don’t expect any deals in high season though. The popularity of castle hotels means high occupancy and less room to bargain.