Who doesn’t want the best deal possible when booking a hotel? Especially when it’s your vacation!
Staying in beautiful and unique hotels are typically the most expensive costs of your trip, and directly influence the enjoyment of your vacation. I have developed these tips over the years to help get the best deals and have an amazing experience.
Sign up for hotel loyalty memberships
Not only do these memberships provide some great perks (Kimpton’s free Wi-Fi and $10 raid the mini bar is one of my favorites), they also give you more bargaining ability with the hotel in the event you need something extra during your stay.
Sign up for the hotel’s email newsletter
There are often special deals or last minute deals that only subscribers have access to. Sign up for these as early as you can to ensure you catch them.
I typically check for prices in this order: Hotel website, TripAdvisor, and then Kayak. By doing it in this order, you should get the prices from all the third-party sites. (Ensure you have the check marks selected for all the 3rd party sites.)
Book with the hotel
Especially when it’s the same price as third party sites. Hotels love when you book with them rather than the third party sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Booking.com. I used to think it didn’t matter how you book your room, that price was the main factor. But over time, if the cost is the same, it makes sense to book directly with the hotel. You often will get a better selection of room when you book direct, build points with the brand in their loyalty programs, and most large brands have a price match guarantee.
There seems to be a widely discussed sweet spot of 6-8 week before your trip. And while I’ve found that’s a pretty good window, I think everything is luck. Sometimes you can get a last minute deal but that’s never been a great strategy, especially for someone who doesn’t like to take a risk of the price increasing. If you book with the hotel, you can always contact them about matching a new lower rate if you find it has gone down.
Some packages offer amazing perks. When we booked our mini-moon in Cabo, we booked two different rooms (1 suite and 1 regular room) but each reservation included a 15-minute massage and a pitcher of sangria. One foot massage overlooking the ocean in our suite and then one a few days later lounging by the pool was pretty amazing!! It also saved us quite a bit of money. Having the best room for a few nights at the higher cost was worth it given it was our wedding night. Downgrading to an another amazing room but saving $$$$ was totally worth it. *Caution – You may need to move rooms in the middle of the trip by booking two reservations so make sure the bonuses are worth it to pack and unpack again!
Consider the extras
Make sure that any extra’s included in the room rate (wifi, free breakfast, bottle of wine, the newspaper) are things you would actually use. It’s often tempting to spend the $25-50 more per night for breakfast but maybe you never eat breakfast? Or you can grab breakfast some place close by for cheaper. I prefer that anyway because there are WAY too many places to eat to limit you to a single restaurant every day ☺
Consider booking two hotels
Arriving late to your destination? Is it worth spending $$$ on your fabulous hotel if you’re only going to check-in and go to sleep? A strong case can be made for this when your vacation hotel is considerably more than a modest hotel down the street *Caution: Make sure to factor in transportation costs between hotels. If the hotel is across town is cheaper but the Uber ride is $30, is it worth the hassle?
Non–refundable or Cancelable
Many times the non-refundable rooms are cheaper than the rooms that let you cancel. Often though, cancellation is allowed up to 24 hours prior to arrival. If you’re confident that your plans aren’t going to change, opt for the cheaper non-refundable rate. It’s worth the risk many times. If you book directly with the hotel, it’s possible that they will let you cancel anyway, receive a partial refund, or a credit for another stay. We once checked out of a hotel early on a non-refundable rate and was refunded for the night we didn’t use. Don’t expect it but it never hurts to ask. Especially if you’re staying at a hotel known for excellent customer service.
Have clear expectations
We’ve all had different travel experiences and go into each vacation with some expectations. More often than not, you’ve done your research on TripAdvisor (if you haven’t, it’s a MUST. Real travelers photos are SO helpful!) so you have a general idea of what to expect. If you’re paying $100 a night at a Holiday Inn, don’t expect high-quality bed linens, fluffy towels, or nightly turn down service. If you’re splurging and spending more on a hotel room than your car payment, it’s normal to have high expectations. Typically, if you spend that kind of money and your expectations aren’t met, the hotel will do something in an effort to make things right and make your stay more enjoyable.
Confirm your reservation
Send a quick email to the hotel a few days before your arrival. This can save you from arriving and realizing you booked the wrong days (I’ve done that! Whoops!) but it also gives you an opportunity to ask for any special requests such as an early arrival, a bottle of champagne in your room, regular pillows instead of a god-forsaken feather one or plan for a special request. I’ve created this draft email template for you to use.
Consider the season/Events
I’ve found the first week of December is one of the BEST times to travel anywhere, especially any place warm when coming from the US. It hits in-between the busy travel times of Thanksgiving and Christmas and you can find some great deals and crowds are light. Some of the cheapest rates in Cabo are in September. It’s HOT down there and school starts back up in the US so you can get some incredible deals. Our mini-moon hotel was $450 a night when normal rates start around $700-$800. Do your research and find out the shoulder season of your destination. Sometimes if you don’t mind the weather, you can score yourself a great deal!
If there’s an issue during your stay, report it
Because once you do, you’ll feel better. After a trip to Seattle, I noticed several hairs from a previous guest in the bathroom. I didn’t report it because it was easier to clean it myself than report it to the front desk. I also didn’t want to seem high maintenance. Except then, I was disappointed with our room and felt like the hotel wasn’t great or worth the cost.
Once you report it, you can move on. Dirty glasses? Stained bedspread? Report it.
I recently interviewed a hotel manager in the hospitality business for over a decade and she confirmed that YES!, you should report any issues. They encourage guests to report any problems to give them an opportunity to resolve them. It can be anything from a housekeeping issue to an outlet not working. She said that most hotels have procedures for housekeeping and some of the staff are self-checking (once they pass a 150 check test) and others have a housekeeping manager spot check rooms when they flip them for the next guest. But as you can imagine, sometimes things are busy and details get missed.
If you’re still worried that you seem like a picky guest, think of it this way. Chances are that another guest will notice it so you’ll be helping out the hotel provide better service and the next guest doesn’t have the same experience as you. Sort of a traveler-pay-it-forward! 🙂
What other tips have you found to book the best deal for your hotel?
Do you feel bad reporting issues with your hotel stay?