Tuesday, 26 June 2012

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Tips For Booking A Hotel

I missed a day of writing yesterday. Did you notice? Nah, even my wife didn't notice. Truth is, everybody is so insanely busy at this time of year that I could run through town in a flaming pink tutu (either a really bright pink or a tutu that's actually on fire...take your pick) and barely get a second glance from anybody. The reason I missed yesterday however, was that I figured it was time to get some hotels booked for our vacation that starts next week. Yes, I'm a bit of a procrastinator. Just ask my wife who 17 years later is still waiting for the "richer" part of our wedding vows to kick in.

I've got it done though, so I thought today I would share some tips with you for getting hotels booked. It doesn't sound like a hard thing to do, but believe me there's plenty of places you can go wrong. I know because I've gone wrong at almost every place possible, and even a few where it was impossible. So in the spirit of helping you avoid screwing things up to the level I'm capable of,  here are my tips for getting your hotel booked:

#1 - Book the hotel in the city you're headed to.

Seems like common sense doesn't it? Amazingly however, when I started looking for hotels in Miami, I found some great deals in Chicago, Seattle, and a particularly strong deal in Norway. Once when I was looking for a hotel in Los Angeles, I booked a hotel in New York because it was just that good a deal, and I couldn't bring myself to not book it. Of course I had to cancel it later, but for a week I was able to brag that I snagged a four star hotel in Times Square for $79. Nobody ever asks if you're actually going to New York when you tell them about the deal you got, they just congratulate you on your find.

#2 - Book refundable rates

This is especially important if you're going to book hotels in cities that you're not going to. I am very much a "grass is always greener" kind of guy, and I'm sure that the next great hotel deal will show up in my e-mail the second I book a non-refundable rate. It's gotten to the point where Lori won't even ask which hotel we're staying in until the day before because she knows it might still change. I'm not actually that bad, although I will confess to downloading the Hotel Tonight app on my phone, and some of those "tonight only" deals look pretty good.

#3 - Look for promotions

The one thing that will get me to make a hotel booking and stay with it, is a great promotion. This time while we're in Florida, we're chasing the Radisson Big Night promotion where if you stay one night in a Radisson hotel (avg. price in Florida of about $100) they give you enough points for a free night anywhere else in the world (avg. price in Paris of about €350) and they have three brands you can do this with. Fortunately the Radissons in Florida are fairly nice, but I'm pretty sure I could convince Lori to stay just about anywhere if it meant a free night in Paris. Of course, I have no trip to Paris planned, and we'll probably end up using the points somewhere else, but let's keep that between us. Besides, it's possible that one day I'll be looking for a flight to Portland and I'll find a great deal to Paris. Might as well have the points ready just in case.

#4 - Have a budget in mind

I gave myself a budget of $500 for the eight nights we needed in Florida, and I was doing pretty well at sticking to it, but on occasion I've been known to get distracted by shiny things. In this case, when I say shiny things, I mean the Four Seasons in Miami. Or the Mandarin Oriental in Miami. Or the Fountainebleau Miami Beach. Each of these hotels look amazing, but just one night at them would probably blow my hotel budget for the entire trip. That doesn't mean that I didn't try to work it in though. If we spend one night at the Four Seasons, and then the next six nights sleeping in the van in their parking lot, does that count as spending a week at the Four Seasons?

#5 - Consider the amenities

For most people, these involve questions like "How is the pool?", "Is Wi-Fi included", and "Do you have a free breakfast?" Our family enjoys these things, but they're trumped by the question "How far is the nearest outlet mall?" I may keep my kids happy by booking a hotel with a nice pool, but they're getting older and pretty soon they'll be off to university. When that happens, I'll be left at home with Lori explaining why ten years ago I booked the hotel with the lazy river instead of the one next to the Disney Character Warehouse. I don't need that kind of grief in my golden years.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippycups and Walkingon Travels. If you didn't get here from there, you should go check it out. There's people there who can give you some actual tips on how to book hotels when traveling. Although when they tell you they spent a week at that all-inclusive resort, make sure they don't mean in their van.