BOOK YOUR OWN HOTEL
Hotels are like airline tickets—prices are moving targets and there is no guarantee what is available one will be the same the next.
This is especially true for hotels in foreign countries where prices are tied to the daily currency exchange rate. Adding to the confusion are the myriad of aggregate sites that all claim to have the best rates. Is there any logical way to approach the hunt for a good night’s sleep?
The first question to ask is if you are a member of a hotel reward program.
The most well-known ones with the most extensive offerings are probably Marriott/Starwood, Hilton and Sheraton.
Long term loyalty might trump immediate bargain hunting. Those points can add up and mean extra perks at check-in, upgraded rooms, or free breakfast. Or that most valued extra of free WIFI.
Assuming you are not a road warrior with multiple points to spend and just want a nice place in a central location or near your preferred sightseeing, with restaurants or cafes nearby, public transportation if necessary, you join the search on the popular sites
Pressure for transparency has vastly increased the accuracy of information on these sites. It still pays to be careful and compare—that really great rate might not be so great compared to a slightly higher one for a much larger room or with breakfast included. Especially if breakfast is in a city where a cup of coffee costs $5.
We all read Trip Advisor. While there will always be someone with a complaint, the general tone of the reviews is a good indicator if this is where you want to be.
But don’t stop when you find that great deal.
Note the prices offered and then contact the hotel directly. You will probably be able to negotiate the same rate as the online aggregate with a potentially better experience.
A tip the online aggregates won’t tell you…when you book with them, the hotel is only getting a fraction of that price. Expedia (or whatever booking engine you use) is keeping a chunk of that money.
Hotel managements are not stupid—they will leave the worst rooms for those Expedia clients and save the better ones for the direct bookings where they make the most money.
Do not be afraid to negotiate, even at the last minute. On a trip last week, my Marriott hotel was booked directly on the Marriott website. That morning I saw my room was listed on hotels.com for $14 less. After a pleasant chat with the frontline agent my room rate was adjusted. And I still had a room with a preferred location.