Travel Tip Tuesday: Booking The Best Hotel Rates

By @ 05/06/14 in Gay travel, Hotels, ManAboutWorld, Travel, Travel Tips Tuesday

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Booking the Best Hotel Rates

Yield management has totally changed the ways hotels are priced. Just like airfares, the price of a hotel room isn’t static, but fluctuates widely to match demand. Technology allows hotels to constantly raise their rates as rooms sell out at their own property and at nearby ones. Add negotiated rates, package deals and flash sales to the mix, and the price variation can reach hundreds of dollars a night. Frequently, the rate at a hotel’s own website (and even the rate you’ll get calling) will not be the lowest rate available. How does a savvy traveler win this game? Here are the four strategies we use to book the best hotel deals:

1. Comparison Shop First

If you’re a member of a frequent guest program, you’ll likely have to book through the program or hotel site in order to earn points. While these sites all promise “guaranteed lowest rates,” that lowest rate is often not on their site — you’ll have to find it, and then make a guarantee claim. We start all our hotel searches on kayak.com. This is a quick way to check multiple sites at once, and see if there are any major price discrepancies. When occupancy rates are high, hotels.com frequently has negotiated bulk rates that can be hundreds of dollars less. Verify the rate, and then use the “guaranteed lowest rate” procedure to match or beat it, and still get your frequent guest points. (When a hotel isn’t part of a frequent guest program, we usually book through hotels.com, taking advantage of their Welcome Rewards program.)

2. Membership Has its Privileges

The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program offers Platinum and Centurion Card members preferential rates, along with upgrades, breakfast and other benefits. One stay can often offset the card’s annual fee. The program has been widely copied and adapted by other paid and free programs, like Tablet Hotels’ Tablet Plus, Founders Card, Want Me Get Me and Virtuoso. If you stay at larger high-end mainstream and boutique properties, these programs are worth checking out.

3. The Package Deal

We don’t like “opaque” bookings, where you don’t know the name of the hotel until after you’ve booked, but some of those same rates are bundled into package deals, like those offered by Expedia.com. Booking your hotel in conjunction with your airfare, or even just a car can often result in big savings. Many airlines also package hotels with bulk inventory deals that can mean big savings — especially when large conventions or events gobble up room rates.

4. Call in a Secret Agent

Many hotels have negotiated rates with large travel agencies and consortiums, particularly American Express and Virtuoso agencies. Using a travel agent affiliated with one of these can grant you access to these privileged rates. And since hotels still pay travel agent commissions, many agents will make hotel bookings without a service fee. If you frequently stay at high-end boutique properties, using an agent specializing in luxury travel will often get you VIP treatment on arrival as well. If you’re looking for an agent, you’ll find some great ones among our Global Correspondents.

 

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