Getting the Best Deal When Making Hotel Reservations

I recently had to book a two night stay at a hotel in Tampa. The excursion was going to be work for me and an opportunity to relax for my wife and one of my sons. The hotel was an upper end brand – partly because I am a bit germphobic and always find that brand to be well cleaned and partly because I got a fairly good deal on the room, but more on that in a moment.

I usually do not like to stay in hotels. Although I enjoy travel, the moment I am back in my hotel room I always wish I were in the comforts of my own home. I like knowing that I can sleep in my own bed. More importantly, perhaps, I like knowing I can get a can of soda out of my refrigerator without having to pay $4 for it.

My hotel stay began with a great deal of on-line comparison shopping. I looked at several brands and explored the various rates that I could find. I checked on AAA rates. I checked on Florida resident rates. I checked on rates associated with my credit card and every other group rate that I could imagine. I cross referenced the rates on several specific hotel sites against the rates I found on Expedia and Travelocity. Let it not be doubted, that I knew the best advertised rates by the time I had completed my research.

Armed with more than enough knowledge of the hotel market in Tampa, I called the reservation number at the hotel. I did not book the room rate on-line because I wanted to make sure that the hotel did not have any preferential unadvertised rates. The reservationist was quite pleasant. He was happy to place my reservation. I asked him for the best rate currently offered. He was happy – even eager — to give it to me. I heard a few moments of clicking on the reservationist’s computer and then . . . .”Mr. Mitchell, the best rate we have for that night is $389 plus tax and room charges.”

I paused. I was stunned. I had found much lower rates on-line so I asked the reservationist to check again. Click, click, click, the reservationist tapped away at his keyboard, but no, the best rate he could “find” was still $389. I asked, what about the Florida resident rate. There was more clicking and then a breakthrough. “Yes, Mr. Mitchell, we do have that rate and it will be $309.

I had made progress but I was still not where I wanted to be so I asked, “what about the AAA rate?” Still more clicking and then a triumphant, “Yes, Mr. Mitchell, we have that rate and it is $259” I thanked the reservationist for all of his “effort” and booked my room – for a rate about one-third less than I was originally quoted. Before you book your room at a hotel, make sure that you arm yourself with knowledge beforehand by:

Know the Rates Advertised on the Hotel’s Website: Hotel’s often run web-only specials. Thoroughly research the rates that appear on the hotel’s website and take the time to read the conditions associated with each one.

Know the Rates Advertised on Third Party Sites.: Get to know Expedia, Travelocity and other travel sites. They sometimes offer better discounts than even a hotel’s own proprietary site.

Be a Member of Hotel Reward Programs: Take a few moments over the next few days to explore the reward programs offered by both the hotels that you use and the hotels that you might use. Sign up for the programs and for the e-mail messages that the programs want to send you. Sometimes I see outrageous deals in my in-box and I have taken advantage of them on more than one occasion.

Always Talk to a Live Human After You Do Your Research: After you decide on the hotel at which you want to stay, call the hotel and talk to a reservationist. Although my recent experience with a reservationist was less than productive, a good reservation specialist may be able to help you to find a great unadvertised rate.

How do you find the best hotel and travel rates? Are there any websites that you particularly favor for travel research?

This entry was posted in Holidays, Personal Finance, Saving Money, Travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Getting the Best Deal When Making Hotel Reservations

  1. disneysteve says:

    I agree with everything you posted, and have used the same techniques many times when booking travel (we do like staying in hotels).

    I would add one more piece of advice. Even after you have booked your stay, continue to check on rates periodically until your departure date. Rates change regularly. Those e-mails from the hotel reward program often list specials for the coming week only. I get a weekly list from Marriott, for example.

    I once booked a stay at a high-end hotel in midtown Manhattan for our anniversary. The best rate I could find after checking everywhere was about $350. I booked that, but every few days, did a quick search online anyway. Over the next few weeks, I was able to cancel and rebook 3 times, each time dropping my rate. I ended up paying just under $250 for the same room. Had I given up after my initial reservation, I would have considerably overpaid.

  2. Tom says:

    Yes yes yes. I was in St. Pete last weekend for a concert, and so I too had to book a hotel room. I checked all online rates at Expedia, Orbitz, etc. Then I checked the hotel’s site for a lower or comparable rate. The hotel’s online rates were slightly higher than Expedia’s. So I called the front desk to see if they were offering a lower rate to direct callers. In the end the best rate came via Expedia. The only site that’s given me lower rates than Expedia is Priceline, but they (Priceline, that is) don’t always tell you what you’re getting until after you’ve booked. This applies more to flights than hotels: Priceline does give you a guaranteed price, but no departure or arrival options or even the name of the airline until after you’ve booked at the non-refundable rate. Once you book, you’re stuck. Again, that’s fine if you have a lot of flexibility, but for more options I always go Expedia.

    Oh, and here’s something I discovered when driving from Florida to Vermont last summer: If you’re a state or federal employee, hotels offer big discounts. (At least the Holiday Inn in South Carolina does.) My rate went from $95 to $77–a much bigger discount than AAA.

  3. Ann says:

    Excellent advice! I’m actually planning a short trip in the next couple of months and this will come in handy…. if I can figure how how long of a drive my knees will tolerate in a day before I’m ready to go!

  4. Anne says:

    I was surprised that the hotel does not mention the possibility of Priceline or Hotwire. I recently got a 4* hotel (Intercontinental) in downtown New Orleans for $64/night for a week in July (work/play trip as well). Although Priceline isn’t for everyone and it does have its downsides, in a compact downtown area, it pays to consider bidding…but stopping short of the the best hotel rates you’ve found.

  5. David says:

    The author did EVERYTHING I too suggest people do to find the best rates offered by hotels. My book in fact tells readers to check various sources, including 3rd party sites and do research..

    But I also WORK in a hotel (albeit in California) and some of the observations made are off base.

    Firstly, a hotel will ALWAYS try to get the highest rate it can when you call. Many people would assume $309 was a great deal and book it – which is fine with the hotel. But you cannot expect a hotel person to tell you to try a Priceline or Hotwire. Most hotels do not even offer rooms on Hotwire and Priceline anyway but no employee is going to suggest you try a discount site like that.

    Plus, hotels have internet rates which are lower so that people WON”T call a hotel and use up a clerk’s time. If you don’t wish to book it yourself online, you should expect to pay a higher rate. That does not mean you can’t get it at the lower rate, you should just realize internet rates are just that – for internet bookings, which saves hotels money.

    That said, almost every hotel I know will always match the lowest price you find. And it won’t be on Expedia either. Hotels tell 3rd parties how much they can charge and have to offer the public a free night if they find a lower rate than they offer, so there is no way a hotel will NOT match a 3rd party rate. Sometimes they know the 3rd parties are ‘closed off’ and do not have the room anyway, so they may tell you a higher rate knowing you can’t get it cheaper anyway.

    The best advice is what Steve and David did – research first, find the lowest rate and call the hotel direct and then periodically CHECK the rate to see if it has been lowered. We adjust our rates weekly according to bookings and while that is not the norm, many hotels follow suit. If you see an internet rate lower on a hotel’s website and then call the hotel, tell them what rate you saw. Don’t play games by asking about ‘in state’ or govt. rates – just say you saw it at $279 and ask if they will match it. If they won’t, then book it online and be done with it (unless you check the rate every so often).

    Remember, the hotels are trying to get the HIGHEST rates they can to offset the huge discounts given up to the 3rd party sites just like you are trying to get the lowest rate offered. It’s a game-learn to play the game and you will save money on every booking.

  6. Anne says:

    I guess I can’t edit my comments here- I meant to write “article” not “hotel” in post #4. Obviously, the hotel would not recommend it…

  7. Snowy Heron says:

    My recommendation would be to never use I made reservations through them and had a change that was completely out of my control and they were “unable” to change the reservation. They said it was in the hotel’s hands, the hotel said it was’s policy. So basically I was screwed. I will never use them again.

  8. Persephone says:

    I don’t like staying at hotels. When I go on vacation, I like to stay at bed and breakfasts. Where can I find deals on b&b’s? Thanks.

  9. Horlic says:

    Yeah, true enough third party sites normally offer cheaper rate. Importantly don

  10. spicoli says:

    You forgot to mention that a lot of hotels also offer discounts for members of the US Military.

  11. Pingback: Why It’s Important to Complain - Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *