Lodging is the bulk of your travel expenses, so shopping around is beneficial—not only to your pocketbook, but toward having a successful trip as well. There are accommodations that will suit your needs and fit into your budget—whether you want the basics or prefer the luxurious.
When comparing costs, include room tax, parking fees, amenities, internet usage, and charges for additional guests (the room rate may be based on one or two people). Some properties may require a down payment or advance payment in full. Know what the cancellation policy is—some may not allow you to cancel after a certain date.
Choosing Your Lodging:
- Choose accommodations that are close to where you will be spending the bulk of your time–otherwise you could end up traveling a long distance every day which could get exhausting. You may want to be close to restaurants and public transportation.
- Determine what your needs are. Do you only need a place to sleep, or are you planning on spending the bulk of your time on the property utilizing the amenities? If it is the latter, then find out what amenities the hotel has to offer and any added costs for using them (golf course, spa, exercise classes, etc.)
- If you prefer to be around similar clientele, there are hotels and resorts that cater to singles, families, or senior citizens.
- If you are traveling with children, a room with a kitchenette can be a real plus–and it will reduce your expenses on eating out.
Finding the Best Location/Hotel Room Rate:
Online Booking Sites:
- To make an informed decision, find out what the average room rate is by comparing several hotels in the area. This will give you an idea of what the high and low rates are for that locale. You can also find out what the peak and off-peak dates are.
Call the Hotel Directly/Visit their Website:
- Ask if there are any special offers available. You may be able to get a better rate when booking directly with the hotel, rather than calling the 800 number of the hotel chain.
- If the hotel caters to business clientele, they may offer lower weekend rates and package deals.
- If the hotel quotes you a higher rate than the one you found online, try negotiating with them. Online booking sites take a percentage out for commissions and oftentimes charge a booking fee. The hotel may agree to match the rate you saw online–they would be saving on the commission, and you would not have to pay a booking fee.
Know the Location of the Hotel:
- Check Google maps to see exactly where the hotel is located—view the property and surrounding area in ‘street view’. Find out if it is in a safe area and what businesses surround it.
Read Reviews on the Hotel:
- Check out travel guidebooks and reviews. Get a description of the hotel and its rating.
- Find out if it has been renovated recently, or if it is old and outdated.
Hotel Bidding Sites:
- Another option is to check out bidding sites like Priceline.com or Hotwire.com. You determine what you want to pay for a hotel room and place a bid (remember to consider tax or any other added costs). You will be able to choose the general location and quality level of the hotel, but you will not know the specifics of it until your bid is accepted (or rejected).
- There are some risks to be aware of. Once you place the bid, and if it is accepted, your credit card will be charged, and you will not be able to cancel or make any changes.
- Check to see if your credit cards or frequent flyer miles offer any discounts on hotels.
Be Aware of:
- Before booking a room, know if there are any hidden fees. With online booking sites, watch for wording like “rate does not include hotel charges”. These charges can end up being quite high. For example, some hotels added $50 per night for ‘hotel charges’ in addition to the room rate that was quoted. Check the fine print.
Don’t Rely on Property Photos:
- The glossy photos in brochures or gorgeous pictures online do not always portray an accurate picture of the property. They may be of a scenic sight in the area (not what you will see from the hotel)—or it may be one of the properties owned by the chain—just not the one you will be staying at.
- Here is where a lot of travelers get disappointed—many think that ‘waterfront property’ means that it is on the ocean—when maybe it is actually on a canal filled with mucky water, or a bay, or even just a duck pond out front. Check the exact location on Google maps to see its proximity to the water.
- Find out if they offer a private beach and if swimming conditions are good. If you are planning on walking to the beach every day, you don’t want to find out after the fact that it is rocky or not conducive to swimming.
- Get specifics on what the view will be from your room. A hotel may consider a room to be a water view or a waterfront if it faces the direction of the water–even though the view may be minuscule or even obstructed.
Proximity to Main Attractions:
- The proximity of the hotel to popular attractions will generally determine the room rate as well. The closer you are, the more you will pay.
Find out if there are Plans for Construction on the Property during your Stay:
- If there is, the constant noise and disruption may be a deterrent to staying there. The pool or other amenities may also be closed temporarily. If you decide this is not a problem, feel free to ask for a discount due to the inconvenience.
Room Options and Hotel Amenities:
Find out what Amenities are Included in the Room Rate:
- Does the hotel offer a full breakfast, a continental breakfast, or any other meals included in the room rate? If a swimming pool is important, ask if they have an indoor or outdoor pool. Do they offer transportation or package deals to local tourist sights? Is a pull-out couch or a crib available? Do they offer free internet service, golf course, restaurant, exercise room, spa, or any other amenities that are important to you.
Airport Shuttle Service:
- Find out if the hotel offers an airport shuttle service to pick you up and drop you off.
- Check out the different room rates offered by the hotel and what they include. There can be a substantial price difference based on the number/type of beds, the room size, the view and location of the room, if it has a patio, a kitchenette, or other added amenities.
- Does the hotel allow pets? If you have any allergies, request a room where animals are not allowed.
If you are driving or renting a car, find out if the hotel has a parking lot and if there is a charge for using it. Parking costs could be as high as $20 or more per day.
- When traveling abroad, know what the hotel facility has to offer. Check to see if they have air conditioning, a shower or tub, a private bathroom (or do you have to share?), room service and hours available, TV, exercise room, internet service, etc.
- Is there an elevator, or do you have to carry your luggage up a flight (or several flights) of stairs?
- Find out what type of beds the room has–it is not uncommon for rooms to have two twin beds.
- If you are traveling to a country with value-added tax (VAT), add about 15-25% for room tax.
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