Hotel Deals, Tips, And Tricks
Catharine Hamm (Travel Editor, LA Times) gives expert video advice on: Can I get a better deal avoiding the 800 number and calling the hotel directly?; Is it possible to get a cheaper rate if I just walk into a hotel?; Are there certain types of hotels that families should avoid? and more...
What kind of deals or discounts do hotels offer senior citizens?
Older or retired people can often get good deals through AARP and sometimes through senior citizen discount programs, although they are not senior citizens. So you should check with the hotel and see if there are any of those rates available a they can be very good deals.
What are the secrets to booking a hotel room over the phone?
I think that to get the best hotel room rate over the phone, you need to be very aggressive about asking what the specials are, what the discounts are, and if there are any special rates for members of auto clubs (for example, if you're a AAA member.) If you're a member of AARP often there are discounts for hotel rooms. You need to be careful because sometimes those best rates are not as good as a rate that's online. Make sure that you do a lot of comparison shopping when booking hotel rooms.
What is an "opaque site"?
An opaque site is a site like Hotwire or Priceline where you don't see the actual price of the hotel room. It could also be an opaque site for a rental car or an airline ticket. Instead, you are bidding on an unknown and what you are generally getting is the leftovers from somebody's inventory. Opaque sites can be tremendous value, but it also carries an element of risk because you really don't know what you are getting.
Can I get a better deal avoiding the 800 number and calling the hotel directly?
You sometimes can get a better deal on a hotel by calling the local number and speaking with the reservations agent or the hotel manager. I wouldn't discount using the 800 number either, because it's all part of the kinds of tools that you have that can help you get a better rate on a hotel room.
What is a "late check out"?
Late check out generally means that you're going to stay beyond the designated hour for getting out of the hotel. In many hotels it's as early as 11 and sometimes it's noon. More commonly, check out is at 1pm. But if your flight isn't until 4:00 and your check out is at 11:00, what are you supposed to do for those extra hours? You can call the front desk and ask for late check out. Generally they'll grant that. It's very helpful to them because it increases customer satisfaction and it's helpful to you because you're not standing around in a hotel lobby or spending time in an airport.
Is it possible to get a cheaper rate if I just walk into a hotel?
Sometimes if you walk into a hotel late in the day, you will get a better rate because there's inventory that's still unsold - there are rooms that are still available. The hotel, rather than have those go vacant for the night and risk not getting revenue for those rooms, will discount them. You may be the recipient of a discount, just because there's extra inventory. That's unlike, for example, a rental car, where you should never just walk up to the counter and say you need a car. You should always call ahead, even if you stop as you're getting off your plane. A hotel is a little bit different and you can achieve big savings this way. However, it doesn't always work. I've had an experience where I've tried to check in late in the day, and I went in very confidently and said, "It's six o'clock. How about a little discount on that room?" and they said essentially, "Well, it's six o'clock and you don't have a place to stay, how about if you pay full rate?" It doesn't always work, but it's worth asking.
Are there certain types of hotels that families should avoid?
I think, sometimes, bed and breakfasts are not the ideal places for families. Sometimes, children and antiques, because these tend to be in private homes, aren't a good mix. I think it's also important to understand when you're staying in a hotel that primarily serves business travelers that children can be a distraction and, for them, can be an annoyance. It's a good idea to make sure that you understand who the clientele is and what the rules are that govern guest behavior when you're booking a hotel.