If you're about to make hotel reservations for the first time, there are several things you ought to know before you book a room for your honeymoon or romantic getaway. A hotel stay can be one of the most expensive parts of your trip, so make sure you don't spend more than you need to on reservations.
How to Reserve a Hotel Room
- Understand that rates on hotel rooms vary on the type of room you request, on different days, even at different times of the day. To get the lowest rate for the best room, you will need to spend some time researching and may be able to negotiate price when making reservations.
- First, learn the "rack" or published rate. This is generally the highest rate a hotel charges for a room and what people who don't know any better pay for their reservations. Now you know better. So expect to play less.
- Decide what kind of hotel you want -- budget, mid-price, chain, luxury, three-four-or-even five-star. The category is a huge factor in the kind of service, room furnishings, amenities, and rate you can anticipate.
- Once you have an idea of the type of hotel you want to stay in, begin researching online to find prices for reservations. If you want to be systematic about it, open a new Excel worksheet and plug in search returns so you can build a price comparison.
- After you have a general idea of what the hotel you want to stay in costs, visit a few other sites before booking reservations. I like to look at hotels on TripAdvisor, Quikbook and Hotwire to see if I can do better on price there than Expedia and other major online travel agents offer. But that's not the last thing I do.
- Here's a secret most people don't know: Hotels generally set aside their worst rooms for guests who book reservations through an online travel agent or discounter. Your goal is to get the best room at the best price.
- So my next-to-last stop is to visit the hotel's own Web site. There you should be able to find the best reservations prices. In theory. And you should also be able to find out the different types and levels of rooms available on the hotel's reservations site.
- Now you're in the final stretch. After you've noted all the different prices for a room at the same hotel, pick up the phone and call the hotel directly. The reservations manager at the locale will have a far better idea of the occupancy level for the dates you want than the hotel's Web site -- and may be able to offer a discount if you can visit during a less-busy time.
- Understand that even within a hotel, not all rooms are alike. Some are bigger; some are on a corner and have better views. Some are on higher floors (generally a good thing, as views improve and there's less ground-level noise). Some are closer to an elevator (good if walking is a problem, bad if you want quiet). Some have double beds versus kings. Some may be renovated and some may not be. Ask about all these variables before making reservations.
- When you're moments away from booking, use the killer sentence: "What is your best rate?" Pause for the answer. Then repeat: "Is that your very best rate?" Pause again. Then try one variation: "Are there any special packages that offer an even better deal?" By then you'll have the knowledge that you've given it your best shot.
- This is the time to also ask if the hotel offers further discounts for AAA members. If you don't have an AAA card but plan to do any appreciable amount of travel, get one; it more than pays for itself (and know that Trip-Tiks are free). Also ask if you will receive frequent flyer points or any other benefits when booking your reservations.
- Then bring out the heavy guns: "We're going to be on our honeymoon, and we're hoping you'll upgrade us." Most likely no one will be able to answer the last question over the phone. Even so, ask the reservationist to note it pending your arrival.
- Like what you hear? Then book your hotel reservations over the phone, being sure to ask what the cancellation policy is first. Ask the reservationist to email your confirmation number and directions or a hotel brochure if needed.
- Write down the reservations number you are given and put it in a safe place.
- Start counting the days till you leave!
- Keep track of all the prices you find during your research.
- Be flexible; you may be able to save a lot by booking a weekend package (rather than arriving midweek, when city hotels fill with business people).
- If location isn't essential, you may get more for your money in a less-central location such as an airport hotel.
- Better hotels and resorts have concierge levels or private floors. For an additional fee you can take advantage of perks on these floors, such as complimentary breakfasts, snacks, beverages, and hors d'oeuvres.
What You Need
- Know the dates you want to travel.
- Have a valid credit card.
- Know that hotel room rates may vary from day to day as well as site to site.
- Be patient. Your research will pay off in less-costly hotel reservations.