Don't be a victim of dynamic pricing:
This first hint applies more to booking an airline ticket than a hotel room but, to be honest, I originally forgot to put it in my post on 'Booking an airline ticket' so it is going in here.
Fortunately for the cognoscenti avoiding dynamic pricing is simple. When you are ready to book: either clear the cookies from your computer or use a different computer.
Click here for a great explanation of dynamic pricing; how it works and how to avoid it. The page is slow to load but it is worth persisting because the article is excellent.
David and I have definitely been victims of dynamic pricing in relation to airline tickets. I am not so sure about hotel rooms but this article suggests the practice relates equally to booking hotel rooms.
I know, I know Tripadvisor has had its share of bad press recently - with suggestions that not all the reviews are genuine. Well maybe; but don't you remember the days before Tripadvisor when you had ABSOLUTELY no independent information about what you were about to book. The best you could do was rely on the word of a travel agent trying to sell you a room in a hotel they had never been to.
Just turn your brain on when you are reading Tripadvisor reviews. If there are nine great reviews and one crappy one then maybe the crappy reviewer has a hidden agenda. If the most recent review is really glowing but lots of earlier reviewers were disappointed, stop and think for a moment about whether the glowing review is genuine.
We travelled a lot in the days before Tripadvisor and while we still manage to book the occasional rat infested flea pit it happens a lot less these days.
|Hard as it is to believe this B&B had one of the worst rooms we have ever stayed in - You would never pick it from the outside.|
Read room descriptions carefully - and with a hefty grain of salt:
We got lucky. It was low season and for the first two days of our four day stay there was a vacant room at the front. The owners offered to upgrade us at no extra cost. It was a pretty ordinary room but it had beautiful french windows looking out across the coastline to the sea. I have never appreciated a view quite so much before or since.
|The view from our front room on the Amalfi coast|
A couple of weeks later, in Sicily this time, we had booked another 'room without a view'. The 'view' couldn't be worse than our Amalfi Coast hotel, could it? Actually it could. This time there was no window at all. We found ourselves in an internal room with no ventilation except a sky light. The skylight opened just a few inches and even that required us to stand on the bed with a long pole in order to release the catch.
Chain hotels and loyalty programs:
Loyalty programs are not just offered by the high end. Many of the international chains have mid-range brands where you can afford to stay with the family. We have found that, particularly in the U.S, the trick is to find a brand you like and stick to it. We quite like the Hilton brands - Garden Inns, Hampton Inns and Homewood Suites. We'll usually collect enough points on a long roadtrip to qualify for a free night and the points and status credits can be used in Australasia.
If you find a chain which is rolling out a new brand you've hit the jackpot. Years ago when Intercontinental rolled out it's Holiday Inn Express Hotels across the US we scored a succession of brand new hotels - they'd had no time to get old and shabby - at very reasonable prices.
If you need extras like parking, wi-fi or breakfast check the charges when you book:
Parking, breakfast and wi-fi charges can be wicked. Our personal best was A$45 per day to park at the Intercontinental in Budapest many years ago. I shudder to think what it might cost now.
Again we got lucky. The hotel wasn't full and the manager upgraded us to a room at the front with a wonderful view of the Danube. The value of the upgrade was about the same as the cost of the parking so we figured we came out about square. We had a great time in Budapest and I would recommend the Intercontinental to anyone - just don't try to park there.
|The view from the Intercontinental in Budapest - I think - I don't label my photos so I can never be sure - lol.|
General tips for not getting the worst room:
- If you see the words 'room without a view' - be suspicious.
- Ask for a room on a high floor - they are usually quieter.
- If the hotel is near a busy road ask for a room at the back.
- Ask for a room away from the elevator shaft. Lifts can be remarkably noisy.
- If the hotel has a pool and you are travelling with children request a room opening on to the pool area. If you aren't travelling with children get as far away from the pool as you can.
- Some hotels now allow you to check-in on line before you arrive, much like an airline online check-in. The great advantage is you can choose your room before the crowds arrive.
- If the room isn't up to standard, say so. Be polite and explain the problem. We have found hotel staff and managers to be very receptive to complaints provided they are put in a calm and reasonable way. There is a good chance the problem can be rectified.
- A number of chain hotels have a money back guarantee if you aren't completely satisfied.
- If you are in the NRMA or other (Australian) state based motoring organisation take your card to the US with you. There should be a little AAA icon on the back which entitles you to a 10% American Automobile Association discount at lots of hotels.
- If you don't want to pay extra for things like wifi, parking and breakfast then don't stay at expensive hotels. Ironically the more you pay for your room the more likely you are to have to pay separately for all the extras.
- Sometimes you will get a cheaper price if you book with expedia.com but often these are worst rooms in the hotel. If you are a member of a hotel loyalty scheme and want to ensure you are credited with the appropriate points, don't book with expedia.
- Unless your room is non-refundable keep checking the rate right up to when you arrive. If you see a better rate, cancel and re-book.
If anyone has any other tips or advice I would love to hear about them.
You may also like: -
- Booking an airline ticket yourself: how to avoid some common mistakes
- 11 tips for Australian travellers to the US