Tips For Hotels and Resorts

Here are some general tips and guidelines to consider when using the best websites for booking hotels and resorts.

1. How far in advance.

  • Much like it is for airfare, how far in advance you should book your stay heavily depends on the general demand for rooms at that particular time of the year in that particular location.  It’s all about supply and demand.
  • Generally speaking if it is going to be high season or if there will be a major event (trade show, sporting event, festival of some sort, etc.) going on in the area at the time then the earlier you book the better. You probably won’t get a great discount, if any, but at least you can make sure you will have a bed to sleep in.
  • If it is low or mid-season or a lower occupancy time period in general then there is a lot more room for strategizing the timing of your reservation or purchase, especially in a bad economy. Start looking at least three months in advance if you can, using the websites that I mention above.
  • If a hotel that you like has a good rate earlier on in the process and they allow you to cancel up to a certain date with no penalties then book that rate and keep shopping around.
  • Here are some thoughts and ideas for figuring out the level of demand for rooms for particular dates and places.
    • Generally the more business-oriented cities tend to have higher occupancy rates during the work week while the places that are more known for weekend getaways tend to fill up more on Friday and Saturday nights.
    • Oftentimes the websites of hotels in the area will let you know when peak dates are far in advance.  You could even call some hotels directly and ask them.
    • Each town or city usually has its own convention and visitors bureau website that tells you when the major events are going to occur.  You could also call them for more detailed information on expected occupancy rates.
    • If you have travel date flexibility and are looking to get a better price and be less hassled by the bigger crowds in general then this little bit of extra research is well worth it.

2. Since your lodging can obviously have a tremendous effect on the overall experience of your trip, it is best to search for reviews of the properties you are considering whenever possible (see Step 3).

  • Although it is possible to have some bogus reviews, if you can read enough of them you will start to get a feel for what the properties are really like.
  • This assumes that you are not using one of the opaque sites like Hotwire or the bidding section of Priceline where you do not know the name of the property ahead of time.

3. When you have found a great rate online it is still best to call the hotel directly to see if you can get an even better rate.

  • Various travel websites are great for researching hotels and resorts and finding where deals can be had, and sometimes those sites can actually provide the best rates. This is especially true when they are packaged with other things like rental cars and/or airfares or if they are booked through an opaque travel site like Priceline or Hotwire where you don’t know the name of the hotel ahead of time. These are some of the ways hotels try to discreetly fill rooms without cannibalizing their higher rate paying customer market. However, if you are not booking the room in any kind of package and you are not using an opaque site, then the experts still strongly suggest you still give the hotel a call directly to see if you can get a better rate. Sometimes a travel website may even say a particular hotel doesn’t have anymore rooms available when in reality that site has merely sold out of the rooms they were allotted by the hotel.
  • Here are some general tips for when you call the hotel.
    • If the hotel is part of a chain or is managed in some way by an outside party make sure to call the hotel directly rather than use a general toll-free number. Someone onsite often has much more knowledge and flexibility than someone sitting in a big impersonal call center taking calls for multiple hotel properties.
    • Always ask if there is any possibility for a discount, whether it’s for being a senior or a student or a teacher, for low season, for special packages, for multi-day stays or whatever else you can think of.
    • Don’t be shy or embarrassed (they aren’t when they ask for rack rates, i.e. full price), and just try to keep the conversation friendly and light-hearted. If the person on the phone happens to believe bookings are a little light for the dates you are requesting or if they see some other dates or whatever that might work better, it often helps to give him or her every opportunity and inclination possible to try to help you and get your business.

4. Be flexible whenever possible.

  • Much like it is for airfares, be flexible in your dates whenever your situation allows for it.
  • By using some of the research tactics covered in the ‘How far in advance’ section above you can get a pretty good idea which dates are going to be more booked for particular cities and/or hotels than others. With this knowledge you could change the departure and return dates of your trip, or if you are planning to go to more than one city you could change the dates you visit each city. The potential savings and the better selection and availability can sometimes be pretty substantial.

Go back to the best websites for hotels and resorts.