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?