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For Hotels: You're Home Away From Home Part IV: Lessons Learned

Now that we have established where the good places are to stay no matter where you are traveling, the next thing we need to talk about is how you go about finding great rooms for your vacation. There are a variety of methods and depending on your individual situations you will want different things. When I go to a major city or a remote beach vacation I am looking for different standards that I will need to feel safe, comfortable, and have the most fun in. But price is also a huge dynamic. Research is the crucial factor for having a happily ever after during your trip.

So let’s start, where else but at the beginning?! The very first thing you should do is decide when and where you want to go. The most obviously problems are poised when you are going away during a holiday or season where there are peak travels in the region you want to travel to. For instance if you know you want to go away for Thanksgiving I suggest you start pricing hotels in August. This was how I scored a great deal for New Orleans in 2008. In the summer there will be plenty of rooms for you to choose from.

Lately I am obsessed with as my method for hotel research. Many of their offers let you book without paying up front, which is great. This way you can hold your room but continue to look around without worry. I also notice their rates are really reasonable especially in major U.S. cities. The customer service is great and so is the hotel follow-up.

Two important notes: one, if you use a website to book your hotel ALWAYS call or email (this way you have it in writing) the hotel to confirm your stay. Ask them to verify the date, type of room, etc. you have requested. This way you have done all of the legwork. Secondly you should go directly to the hotel’s site to check their prices. More often than not will be the better rate. If not you can mention that to them and see if they can offer you a comparable deal. I haven’t use this site but I hear is decent and I know people still love their Expedia and what knots but again make sure you have hotel and airline confirmation. I know a few people who have gotten screwed using the latter site.

Besides the holidays the beginning of summer is another prime travel season. It is also the beginning of hurricane season so if you are traveling to the Caribbean or the like please get insurance ( that includes “Act of God.’ This will truly save you any costs you have paid out.

During the month of June travel to Europe will be very expensive. But if you have to go then you can certainly work it out. I would recommend going to a travel agent and looking online. My travel agent was invaluable when I planned my summer trip to London and Paris in 2009. I prefer a travel agent because you can get all sorts of advice like honest hotel ratings, how best to travel between cities and countries, and you can also breakdown your payments if that is something you have to consider. I always consider cost, as most of us should. The other bonus with using a travel agent is that once you book your fares they can watch out for other deals and bump you when the time is right. Even if you are just interested have someone on your side that can watch the airfare and hotel rates. Sometimes the really good ones are not found with search engines or available to the general public online altogether. It never hurts to have someone help you by doing some of the legwork for a big trip and it will cost you nothing!! You cannot literally do better than that.

Another great way to save when looking for hotels (less so airfare) is to see what discounts are listed. For example AAA and AARP are great for minor discounts on hotels and even some times in restaurants or when buying show tickets. You have to research it of course but better to do a quick check than pay more first. You do not have to have either of these cards in your name as long as someone in your party does, although I have never been questioned about it. But you should be prepared. 

I know there are military discounts and even some employee discounts so look into those where appropriate. I like to know what deals I can get even before I know where I am going and what I am doing. It allows for me to quickly do a check in my head where it is most reasonable for me to go next.

If you are going away with a big crowd, I say at least four plus, you can probably parlay that into a discount as well. This holds true especially in resorts that are all inclusive. Sharing a room with at least one person is a cost saver but if you can get a bigger room and share with three other people that is even better. Islands are ideal in this scenario.

For flights your initial reaction might be that a non-stop flight is more expensive than one with a layover but you need to consider how much longer you will be traveling for, if that causes a higher hotel bill (paying for a night when you arrive late in the evening) and in these times luggage fees. I always prefer non-stop flight especially overseas. It leaves out much of what can go wrong. Plus I just want to get there already!

Another favorite tool of mine are tourism boards! No matter where you go they have one especially in the United States. You can call, email, or print their materials from their website. I like to email them for free brochures as well as print my own materials. This way I am not missing anything. These are great resources to find out all the attractions, dining, and nightlife a place has to offer. It is concise non-biased information. From that master list I then pick and choose what I am most interested in and then research those items. These sites will likely have coupons for certain popular attractions and combined cheaper entry fees. Depending on where you go you might do better price wise to book some of the more popular, expensive attractions ahead of time. I have even used these sites for attractions in my hometown.

Once you have selected your city and your itinerary you should look into city passes. They exist for places from Boston to London. They can be pricey and some include subway transportation. More often than not each city can have more than one similarly named pass. Be careful what you are looking at and ALWAYS do the math. Make sure the attractions you are paying for on the pass contain more if not half of what you are doing. You can add up your itinerary costs easily if you have used my formula ( These strategies are also key in making sure you have picked a hotel that is in an ideal location for the activities you have planned. You want to stay somewhere were you can easily get around and avoid additional costs.  My methods have never let me down.

I am already planning my 2015 trips and will be sure to let you know where the next great hotel lays waiting for you to check in.

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