Hotel Insider Secrets for Better Prices and Service

February 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

We share a lot of hotel insider secrets here on the Travelpro blog, but we always keep our eye out for new ones to share. We were rewarded last month when USA Today published its article, Hotel secrets: Insider tips for lower prices and better service.

Glenn Haussman is a podcaster with shows like “No Vacancy” and “Checking In With Anthony and Glenn” (co-hosted with Anthony Melchiorri from Travel Channel’s “Hotel Impossible.”) Glenn shared a few secrets with USA Today about how to find better prices and service.

One suggestion that was new to us was to understand who owns the hotel? Most hotels in a chain are rarely owned by the name on the front — Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott — but are instead owned by a franchisee. That means if you have a service complaint, you should direct it to the real owner, and not the brand’s customer service line. You can often find the name of the ownership company on a plaque near the front desk

Another hotel secret we’ve discussed before is watch out for resort fees. These are mandatory fees that are usually added on by the hotel after you’ve received your initial price quote, and go toward amenities like parking, pool, and workout facilities.

“Resort fees are a scourge,” Haussman told USA Today. “They create an antagonistic relationship with the customer, which is antithetical to everything the hospitality industry is supposed to be about.”

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OHThe best way around the resort fees, says Haussman, is to call the hotel ahead of time and negotiate your room rate directly — don’t go through the website, don’t go through the customer service (800) number. The best deals will be gotten by speaking with the hotel’s general manager. This is especially important if you’re not going to avail yourself of the different amenities the hotel offers, like a swimming pool or workout facility.

Haussman’s third big secret is to book your hotel room directly, not go through an online third-party booking site. The hotels have to pay those third-party sites as much as 20 percent of the hotel cost if they refer guests to them, so the hotels don’t want to pay it. That’s also why you don’t get loyalty points, and may even get less-than-preferential treatment from the hotels. The fee can be even higher for independent hotels than the big chain hotels.

So Haussman’s recommendation is that you should call the hotel directly to book your room (that’s also when you can negotiate the resort fees). Haussman says most hotels are happy to give you a 5 – 10 percent discount just to save on the referral fees.

Another secret we’d never heard, but it makes a lot of sense: If you want to switch hotel brands, even though you’ve had long loyalty with the old brand, is to ask for a status match with the new hotel. Whether you want to just test out the new hotel or want to switch completely, it’s often not necessary to start over with the new hotel.

Finally, always try to stay in the newer hotels. They have the faster Internet speeds and the larger TVs. Plus, you’re more likely to get the frequent traveler upgrades, since it often takes a year or more to get a new hotel’s business up to a profitable level. That means the upgrade rooms will sometimes sit empty, which means you can snag one fairly easily (or even for free if they won’t budge on the resort fees).

What hotel insider secrets do you have when you travel? Any that you’d like to share with us? Share them on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

6 Things to Do Before Booking a Hotel

January 10, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel offers many choices and demands many decisions and you want to make the ones that give you the most for your money. On any trip, your hotel choice is probably one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make.

The quality of the accommodations, amenities, and freebies are just a few of the factors that will affect your decision. The wrong or right choice can mean the difference between a memorable trip and a miserable one.

The Ellis Hotel, formerly the Winecoff Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia. Make sure to follow these important steps when booking a hotel.

The Ellis Hotel, formerly the Winecoff Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia.

A recent Smart Traveler article reminded us of some important factors to consider if you want to ensure your next trip is one worth remembering, not one you’d rather forget.

First, check the EXACT location of the hotel. Use Google Street view or Bing’s Bird’s Eye and get a look around. Make sure the hotel is, say, near the beach (like they said), has the great views they promised, or isn’t stuck right on a busy street that makes walking impossible. Doing this can help you avoid a hotel near the interstate or road construction.

Check to see if the hotel has any airport shuttles. You can save yourself time and frustration with a complimentary shuttle. Taxis and ride sharing can get expensive, so taking an airport shuttle to the hotel can save a few bucks. Just remember to tip your driver.

Check parking availability and cost. Parking on hotel property can add $10 to $35 or more per day. No parking at the hotel? The cost for off-site parking will often be significantly higher, and the inconvenience of walking to and from the off-site lot is higher, too. Weigh the costs between paid parking and ride sharing before you commit.

Do they have free or fee Internet? There’s no guarantee that a hotel offers free wifi; there could be a daily charge for it. You could also be charged per device, so connecting a laptop and phone can gobble up any savings. The more expensive hotels typically charge for their wifi while the less expensive hotels don’t. So either figure out how to use the mobile hotspot feature on your cell phone, or figure out whether you want to spend $10 – $20 per day on Internet access.

Do they have a rewards program? Loyalty programs are usually free and often provide great rewards. Ideally, you’d sign up before you make your reservations because members often get discounted prices, earlier check-in, later check-out, and other perks, but you can sign up once you check in. Just remember to do it before you check out so you can get the points. Some programs even give complimentary wifi and upgraded rooms.

Of course, you often have to book directly through the hotel rather than through the discount comparison sites or the conference websites to get those points. (Be sure to check with the individual hotel before you make the reservations just to make sure. Call them directly, don’t call the 800 number, because they don’t always have the best information.)

Are you a hotel travel veteran? What are some of your recommendations for hotel rookies and newbies? Tell us some of your recommendations and secrets on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Eoghanacht (WIkimedia Commons, Creative Commons 0/Public Domain)

Lights Out for These Hotel Mattress Myths

September 20, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, the hotel bed. Sometimes it’s a real crap shoot as to whether you find a comfortable bed like you’ve got at home, or something that should be outlawed by the Geneva Convention. If you don’t sleep well while you’re traveling, it may not just be that you’re away from home. It may be that your bed is, well, terrible. Or at least, not very comfortable.

While hotels advertise that their beds will give you “sweet dreams” and dispel any idea of counting sheep, not all guests would support those claims.

According to published reports in a USA Today article, two recent surveys say guests aren’t buying the idea of amazing beds.

The article asserts that hotel beds are at best, just plain old average.

Eighty-one percent of travelers say the “single-most important feature” in a hotel room is the bed, according to a hotel guest survey by MattressAdvisor.com. With plenty of guests complaining about poor sleep, not enough sleep, and restless sleep, what’s a weary traveler to do?

First, be picky about where you stay. Choose wisely.
Read more

Creative Ways to Manage Hotel Pet Peeves

November 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever stayed at a hotel and found they have a few issues you’re just not happy about? While you could always complain, the front desk staff can’t always fix your problems.

For instance, a poorly-placed outlet is not something the staff is going to be able to fix during your stay. So rather than register a complaint, carry a short extension cord in your luggage for just such an instance.

A room at the Hotel Burgenland in Eisenstadt

Hotel Burgenland in Eisenstadt

Smarter Travel has discussed how to work around your hotel pet peeves, so you can enjoy your next hotel stay a little more.

Here are five of their best pieces of advice.

  1. Loud hallways and rooms. If you’ve ever spent the night listening to the ice machine, or the elevator that dings every time it lands on your floor, or the stairwell door slam shut, we know your pain. Rather than wait to see if your room is loud, call ahead and ask for a quiet floor or for a room far away from an area where people are coming and going. Finally, pack a couple pairs of earplugs. Read more

The Case of the Disappearing Amenities

February 10, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Most people take home a tiny bar of soap and some lotion when they leave a hotel. They may also have tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner tucked away in their luggage as they glide through the lobby and out the front doors. Perhaps a shower cap to boot.

Not a big deal, as it turns out. In fact, many hotels sort of expect, and even want you to take their small sample soaps.

Sofitel Arc de Triomphe מלון סופיטל שער הניצחון

Sofitel Arc de Triomphe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent study by Hilton Hotels showed that 73 percent of respondents were willing to admit they took home some swag from their last visit to a hotel.

People take these toiletries home and use them to stock their guest bathrooms. It does feel pretty fancy to select your own soap when staying the weekend with Auntie Margie. Others use the stuff themselves or even give it away as gifts. (Because nothing says love and friendship like a small bar of soap with a major hotel chain’s name on it.)

In fact, Hilton is using premier brands as an additional selling point for their hotels. A recent article in Premier Traveler Magazine’s website lists Neutrogena, Giovanni, Aroma Actives, Refinery, and Peter Thomas Roth as new additions to Hilton’s arsenal of body care products. These are some toiletry heavy hitters. Hilton, in fact, is glad to offer these miniature bottles of bliss as part of what they offer the weary (and upscale) traveler.

We understand the importance of quality toiletries in ensuring guests stay revitalized during — and after — their travels,” said Chris Naylor, vice president, brand operations for Hilton Worldwide. “The refresh of these bathroom products is part of our commitment to enhancing the overall travel experience, leaving our guests fresh and ready for their next adventure.”

The brands themselves also get buzz from being placed into the posh hotels.

Of course, it’s unlikely that someone will book into a hotel based solely on a love for Peter Thomas Roth, but these little details add up. And in the world of high end travel, encouraging your guests to steal soap can be a solid move.

Hotels Join the Hidden Fee Movement: Previously Free Perks Now Cost $$

December 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Sad to say, some hotels are climbing on board the fee gravy train. Things that used to be included can now sometimes incur charges for unsuspecting travelers.

Of course, everyone is familiar with, and usually wary of, the dreaded minibar fees. People know to avoid the minibar if they’re frugal, and they know they’ll get charged an arm and a leg for a beer or can of coke, if they do decide to indulge.

Fees for wifi have become fairly common, especially at high end hotels. But hotel fees are becoming more varied and sneaky.

English: Hotel / Casino New York-New York in L...

Hotel / Casino New York-New York in Las Vegas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For instance, one of my colleagues recently stayed at a hotel that noted discreetly at the bottom of a page on its website, “We have taken typical hotel fees, discounted them, and rolled them into a resort amenities fee.”

The additional fee was only $7 per day, but items listed as worthy of the charge included pool chairs and an in-room coffee maker, things most hotel customers don’t expect to pay for.

Other surprising new fees are popping up: they’re charging for luggage storage, charging for receiving packages, and even in room safes. You name it, and there’s a fee for it.

One hotel has even taken the minibar charging to a new level. According to a Yahoo Travel article about hotel fees, a resort casino in Las Vegas has sensors in their fridges that can tell when something is moved. If an item is taken out, it will be charged to the room after 60 seconds. They charge $25 just to use the fridge to chill water you brought yourself.

As with anything else related to travel, do your due diligence. Figure out what fees you’ll need to cover before you make a reservation, and decide whether you’re willing to pay for them. In some cases, the fees are rolled into the cost of the initial booking, so you may need to do a little research if the thought of a hidden charge for having amenities you don’t use doesn’t thrill you.

What’s the most aggravating hidden fee you’ve encountered? Leave a comment here on the blog or on our Facebook page.

Hotels with Women-Only Floors

November 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

More women are traveling for business than ever before these days. With this increase comes a new form of travel marketing: some high-end hotels are offering floors dedicated only to women.

Some of these “no men allowed” floors even go so far as to having female staff and a female concierge serve that floor. For some hotels around the world, it’s a question of safety. For others, it’s a marketing tactic geared toward attracting more women. Some of these gender-specific features include:

  • A focus on creature comforts that are actually sized for women, such as smaller robes, slippers, hangers, and other petite items.
  • Luxury items that are seen as more appealing for women, such as yoga mats, silk clothes hangers, and white wine in the room.
  • Decor that may appeal more to women, such as floral wallpapers and so on.

It sounds great, although we recognize that some people may see these single-sex floors as sexist. A recent court ruling in Denmark stated that a hotel’s women-only floor was discriminatory and the hotel was forced to open its rooms to men as well. In other countries, the women-only floors have remained open for business. Similarly, a hotel in Calgary has offered up a men-only floor to complement its women-only offering.

Perhaps the main beneficiary of women-only floors is the hotel industry. These rooms generally come with a hefty price tag for all the extra amenities and security. And whether these floors are successful will, in all likelihood, be determined more by the bottom line than the courtroom. Hotels are driven by profit which means filling rooms. If these gender specific floors can’t stay filled, we can’t imagine they’ll be kept around.

What do you think? Would you stay on a gender-specific floor? Would it be worth the extra cost? Leave a comment on our blog or Facebook page.

Awesome Hotel Amenities That Don’t Cost Extra

October 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif...

Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whether it’s free wireless internet, complimentary continental breakfast or simply a few bars of soap and a chocolate on the pillow, most hotels offer a little something extra for their guests. While upscale hotels have always gone the extra mile for their guests, some luxury hotels are now offering complimentary amenities so lavish, guests may feel they have stepped into an episode of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.

At the Beverly Wilshire hotel, for example, a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce Phantom is available for rides anywhere within a three mile radius of the hotel. If you’d prefer to take the wheel, you may want to pay a visit to the Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa – guests may borrow a Porsche at no additional charge. The only catch? It must be returned the same day.

If you’re a music lover, you’ll want to spend the night at the Hard Rock Hotel in Chicago, where guests can borrow a Fender guitar. The hotel has a selection of over twenty Fender guitars to choose from, and will even provide a floor amp and top-of-the-line headphones so you can play into the wee hours without disturbing other guests. Speaking of borrowing top-of-the-line items, the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai lends out 24-carat gold iPads (retail value: $10,000) to their guests upon check-in.

If you have a penchant for designer fashion, you may want to spend a night in one of the VIP Suites at the W South Beach Hotel. Recently, the hotel offered guests complimentary pajamas – and not just any PJs, but a limited edition pair created famed lingerie designer Arielle Shapiro, retailing for $165.

Once you’ve become accustomed to living in the lap of luxury — or at least visiting for a short while — even the most basic of amenities won’t do. At the Kitano Hotel in Manhattan, even the toilets are luxurious. Each room is equipped with a $1,500 Toto toilet – and these are no ordinary loos. The Toto is a combination toilet and bidet featuring accompanying wall control panel, which allows guests to select from a variety wash and dry methods.

If you have caviar dreams and champagne wishes, you’ll want to book a night at one of these hotels and live the high life – until it’s time to check out, that is. What’s the most extravagant hotel amenity you’ve seen or experienced? Leave a note in the comments section or on our Facebook page.