How To Land The Perfect Hotel Rate - Happy Booking!
What if booking a hotel (or even - heaven forbid - an airfare) was as easy as renting a car? Companies like Enterprise get little credit for their forgiving change policies. Basically, you can rent/hold a car with Enterprise for nothing more than an online booking and cancel at any time. Can you imagine how this mentality would shake up the travel industry? Alas, I digress.
Earlier this week, I wrote about booking the perfect airfare. Let’s be honest, there is no perfect strategy. There are only tips, guidelines and a magic carpet ride of luck. Hotels are a bit easier to navigate. They don’t come with all the airline red tape. And, I’ve found hotel forgiveness is far more attainable than airline even with status. Online booking engines like Expedia and Booking.com will provided generous cancel policies. Booking directly with the hotel (always my preference) will do the same; however, they may charge you a higher rate at first. Alas, here are some tips:
Run the engine - Before you book, check out hotel engines like Expedia, Kayak, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Google, Priceline, Trivago and HotelTonight. But, don’t book.
Take notes on the rates, their terms, and flexible days.
Do you have miles, credits or points worth using first? This can save you a lot of money.
Avoid business traveler dates when rates are higher. The best day to checkin a hotel is Sunday as the weekend warriors leave. True this isn’t convenient, but it’s the cheapest.
Book online on Friday or Saturday. Avoid Tuesdays bookings.
Hotel rates don’t change every second like airfares, but you will find different rates all over the search engines. Afar mentions you can book as late as 3 days before, but if you’re not a risk taker, I say check 3-4 weeks out. You can always setup price change alerts.
Call the hotel directly. If you find a cheaper rates on HotelTonight or another booking engine, save that rate, call the hotel directly, and ask them to honor it. Some hotels will even offer to beat it to secure the booking - Kimpton/IHG confirmed this for me. This will not happen, however, with airlines. Rude.
Locking in those International rates are recommended to book about 1 month away. If you’re headed somewhere super popular or with limited rooms, go further out.
Naturally, check VRBO, Airbnb and other online rooms sites. They have generous cancel policies too. Plus you can save money with Airbnbs not only by rates, but I love to cook in my own place if it has a kitchen especially breakfast.
And if you need to cancel the hotel room for whatever reason (and it’s not covered under the cancel policy), call the hotel directly. They are far more likely to give you a full refund without any problems.
In closing, I think it’s important to note that the hotel industry shows a lot more flexibility with your plans. But, I wouldn’t rely on just one way to get you the best rate (good luck in San Francisco on any given day). Behemoths like Expedia literally own half of the booking market from their eponymous site, Hotels.com, CarRentals.com, HomeAway, Orbitz.com to Trivago. Conversely, Booking Holdings owns Priceline, Agoda, Kayak, Booking.com and even Opentable.com So, do you diligence to explore all the angles. My rule of thumb is to always try and book at the hotel’s site direct. This ensures your points and best service. But if for some reason you can’t and the hotel won’t honor their rate, than book away and re confirm with the hotel just to be safe after it’s all locked in. Travel on.