Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Booking A Hotel Room-Getting The Best For Less

Some of my earliest memories are from family vacations spent in Miami or Daytona Beach. I still remember the excitement of pulling into the motel and knowing that we would have a week or two of fun in the sun. I don’t remember many details about our motels, but I do know they were on the beach, had a swimming pool and usually a room for kids to make craft projects or paint plaster figures. I also know that we always had a kitchen, and my mother would cook most of our meals.

Fast forward a few decades and I am still blissfully happy when staying in a nice hotel. Most people may comment that they “could live here” when they walk into a resort hotel, I mean it. My entire family knows that I would be perfectly happy living in a hotel 24/7. I am picky about where I stay, and I love to get a great deal. I find that as my travel habits change, what I look for in a hotel has changed also. While I still love to stay in a fabulous 4 or 5 star hotel (at a great price), I am often picking the less expensive hotel with free parking, internet and breakfast. I’m starting to resent the high prices and the hidden charges that some of the larger hotels are dishing out. Why should I pay a resort fee if I’m paying for a room at the resort? If my room is costing $200 a night, how dare they charge me another $25 a night to put my car in their parking lot. If I can use my laptop free at a Fairfield Inn…how dare you charge me $14 a day to use it at a Renaissance.

I love making travel arrangements. I do it for my family, and for friends. I love the research, the quest for the best hotel at the best price and the planning before the trip. I have some suggestions that have worked for me over the years.

1) Most hotel chains have reward programs. Go to the websites and join for any hotel chain you might ever use. It is free. A reward number will almost always get you something. You might get a better view, a treat in your room when you check in or possibly a room when the hotel is supposedly sold out. You will also earn points when you stay towards free future stays.

2) If possible, look up the hotel rate online and then CALL THE HOTEL DIRECTLY to ask about best available rates. If you just ask for a room, you won’t get the best deal. Even when they tell me price, I will ask for a special that includes breakfast or some other benefit. It is worth the price of the phone call, as sometimes the hotels know about specials that they don’t have through the 800 number. Looking it up online ahead of time gives you something to bargain with.

3) If you can play with your dates a little bit, you may save yourself quite a bit of money. This spring we planned a trip to Michigan. We actually wanted to go the 2nd week of June. The room was going to be $279 a night. We bumped our trip up to the last days of May and first 3 days of June, beating the summer “season”. We got our room for $99 a night. It was the same exact suite that would have cost us $180 more a night 10 days later. It made our trip possible because we were flexible with the dates.

4) If you remember nothing else from this post, remember the word UPGRADE. When you check into a hotel, always ask if you can be upgraded. Many times it is possible. I have stayed in $700 suites for the price of a regular hotel room. You just never know, and I find the nicer you are to the person at the front desk, the nicer they may be to you.

5) I never make reservations without checking 2 websites. My favorite site relating to travel is Tripadvisor.com. I read the reviews of any hotel I’m thinking of booking, before I make a reservation. If I see words such as dirty, bugs, old, poor service…I know that I need to look elsewhere. Another great website is Travelzoo.com. They offer some wonderful deals at nice hotels, if you happen to catch them at the right time. One word of advice, if you find a deal on Travelzoo, make sure to check the hotel on Tripadvisor. Sometimes, there is a reason the hotel is offering cheap rooms.

6) I have a friend who has had some success with Priceline.com. She has stayed at several expensive Marriott properties for around $50 a night. But, when you bid on Priceline, you don’t know what hotel you are getting until you are already locked in. You also have no way to cancel and get your money back if your trip falls through. I believe you can buy insurance to cover that problem for an extra fee. I like to know where I’m staying, so I don’t use this service. Remember, I said I was picky!

It really doesn’t matter if you are staying at a 5 star Ritz Carlton, or a 3 star Holiday Inn Express, there are deals to find. With a bit of prep work, you may save yourself quite a bit of money, get a few freebies thrown in and be able to really enjoy your trip.

13 comments:

Someone's Mom said...

Test comment.

FrugalMom said...

This is an awesome post Sue! Since we gets lots of visitors down here in South Florida, I always end up doing a lot of research for hotel rooms. We are in driving distance of both Key West and Orlando, which is where most of our guest wants to go.

When you talk about upgrade, do you just ask and then get it for free? I have never tried to ask for an upgrade, so it is a new concept to me.

Chrissy said...

Hey,good post,lots of good info.in it!! Thanks for coming by,glad you like Johs things....he is sooooo busy right now its crazy!! Talk soon,Chrissy

Someone's Mom said...

Frug-When you check into your room, you simply ask if they will give you an upgrade. If the hotel isn't sold out, they will often give you an ocean front, pool view or even a suite for the price that you reserved. We often get upgraded, and it never hurts to ask. It has always been free.

Someone's Mom said...

Chrissy, good to see you. I was excited when my husband made Adirondack chairs for our deck. I can't imagine how wonderful it would be to get such beautiful things.

Anonymous said...

Just a tip about priceline/expedia and sites like it. If you are planning on going someplace like Disney World or anyplace where you are getting more than just your room (example: tickets for something, transportation, food, anything like that) it is better to book straight from the location and not a 3rd party. If you arrive and things are not correct it is very hard to fix a 3rd party mistake. If you book through the site itself, it is much more likely you will get your problems fixed.

Someone's Mom said...

Anon-good advice. I honestly always book through the hotel directly, or through their websites. I've never used a booking website, but I know that many do.

Anonymous said...

I use priceline for small overnight trips, and have had great luck. I have had beautiful rooms in the city (downtown), for less than $100 everytime. My only problem I had was when we had a family emergency and needed to cancel, I was unable to get any refund. I should have paid the extra $ for insurance. Great blog!

Someone's Mom said...

Thanks for the input, Anon. Sounds as if insurance for Priceline is a good idea.

Madison said...

What a wonderful blog. I'm with you on the hotel living. I could live happy in a hotel for the rest of my life. Good travel tips too.

Someone's Mom said...

Madison, thank you for visiting. There's nothing quite like having someone change your sheets every day, is there?

Anonymous said...

I agree I always check expedia or travelocity but never book through either of them. I use the website or hotel directly. Much easier to deal with on changes.

Someone's Mom said...

Anon-that is certainly what I've found, and sometimes those changes are necessary. Thanks for visiting.