Some people say there's no such thing as the best time to book a hotel room, as long as the hotel has attractive amenities, good food, nice rooms, and courteous customer service. But those people fail to mention anything about the room rate. Well, if-like me-you are a price-conscious traveler, paying attention to things like pricing and booking times is as important as keeping an eye on the other external elements I mentioned earlier. By following specific booking tips, you can enjoy your stay at some of the best hotels in the world, at a price that doesn't make you hit a rough financial patch later on. These tips include booking on the phone or in advance, shopping around, calling the hotel directly, using a rewards card, and considering the best time window for cheap room rates.
Book over the Phone
Booking a hotel room online is fast and convenient, but sometimes it does not hurt to pick up the phone and have a conversation with a "live" person. Who knows, you might have a nice talk with a help desk representative who, because he or she is having a good day, would give you the deal of the century. The truth is, hotels have deals that often are unadvertised and only known to insiders, so you could be fortunate by conversing with a hotel staffer.
Call at the Last Minute
Edgar E., a Denver resident who has managed several 4- and 5-star hotels around the country, says that calling a hotel at the last minute can land you fantastic, unexpected deals. This is because hotels often have guests who cancel at the last minute, so they are willing to cut their losses by transferring the room to new guests. Plus, these last-minute cancellations are not advertised and the hotels typically don't have time to adjust their online room availability databases, so you would not be able to see the modifications on the Internet.
Call the Hotel Directly-Not the 800 Number
Large hotel chains, such as Hilton and Marriott, generally have standard customer service numbers you can call to book rooms anywhere in the country-and the world, for that matter. So, call a customer service rep, tell him or her where you want to book a room, and specify things like room type, price range and desired amenities. But, again, because hotel systems sometimes are not updated automatically, the rep to whom you talked may not have the full picture of what's going on at the particular hotel you want to stay in. So it is better to pick up the phone and call that hotel directly. That way, you save time and know exactly what type of room is available during the timeframe you want-and also save some money, while you are at it.
Knowing the best time to book a hotel room also implies understanding the various options you have to reduce your overall lodging budget. Shop around and call your travel agent for more information about hotel room rates in your desired location. You also can talk to your airline customer service department because some airlines have discount agreements with hotel chains, whereby airline customers get a good deal if they book during specific times at specific hotel facilities. To comparison-shop for hotel rooms, use portals like Hotels Combined and HotelsComparison.com, along with the mishmash of online travel agencies that range from Expedia and Travelocity to Priceline and Orbitz.
Be flexible with timing when shopping for the most affordable hotel rooms around. For example, if you see a room rate at $75 from August 20 to September 3, adjust the timeframe to see if you can get a lower rate. Sometimes, tweaking the time window by a day or two can yield a positive result. So, in our example, considering a time frame of August 22 to September 5 could bring the room rate to $60 or $55, saving you more than $200. Room rates generally vary thanks to the laws of supply and demand, and you can get a reduced rate during low season.
Book in Advance
You should book in advance to lock-in good rates that the hotel chain may never offer again. If you see a good deal, and think it is too good to be true, seize it before the hotel chain agrees with you and realizes that the discount is too great a gift and way below prices that rivals are proposing. The way it works, hotel chains routinely have promo periods in specific parts of the country, in an attempt to boost sales at specific facilities or counter competitive threats within a geographical span. So, you could get lucky if you keep looking!
Use a Rewards Card
If you have a travel rewards card, use it when booking a hotel room. Also, call your bank or credit card company and ask a representative about ongoing discount programs. That way, you can get a "double benefit" by using the card to book a room and build up rewards points, and by getting advantages and extra benefits associated with the specific discount program the company is currently running.
Mention Your Loyalty Number
It never hurts to call the hotel directly and tell the help desk rep that you have a loyalty card. In a nice, joyful tone, tell the rep that you have been a regular guest for so many years, that you love the facility so much, that you intend to come back to spend two weeks at the hotel, that customer service at the hotel is better than what people get at other hotels, and blah blah blah. James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, said that "a little flattery will support a man through great fatigue." I say that a little flattery will support a cash-strapped guest all the way to a great hotel room. The idea here is to not lie but to tell the rep in a courteous way some of the things you like at the hotel, and intentionally leave aside things that could be improved.
If you follow specific procedures to book your hotel room, including choosing the perfect time for booking, you are on your way to lodging paradise. You will get rooms at rates you want, at the locations you prefer, with the amenities you relish. But you have to do your homework, though. You should do some research online and offline, and call the hotel directly to inquire about ongoing deals. Also, sign up for newsletters from large hotel chains and travel agencies, so you also know what is going on.