This is a guest post from Wendy S. Goffe, a lawyer specializing in trusts and estates with Stoel Rives in Seattle. You can follow her on Twitter.
As spring break approaches, some travelers are scouring the internet for one last ski trip or a warm-weather getaway to replenish their vitamin D levels. I’m in Maui attending an estate planning conference that has come together. held at the 5 star Grand Wailea, part of the Waldorf Astoria chain.
Room rates here start at almost $ 500 a night, and for a view of anything other than the parking lot, accommodation gets considerably more expensive. Business meetings tend to be designed for attendees with generous expense accounts and free time. Since I don’t have either, I’m saving money by doubling up to a $ 440-per-night room with my friend Karen Boxx, a professor at the University of Washington Law School.
By staying together we figured we could save enough money to make sure we had something left for some fruity drinks and a trip to the spa. Without these perks, in our effort to save, Boxx and I might start looking like an old, bickering married couple by the end of the week. Even when we foot the bill ourselves, we share the belief that the money spent buying shoes and scouring consignment stores for designer brands far exceeds the value of an ocean view or a private room.
Also in attendance is our colleague, David English, professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, and the gold standard of frugality versus frugality. He has a reputation for always finding the cheapest alternative. This time, he is staying in a 3-star hotel a few kilometers away.
Finding a hotel room on any budget can be a long-term project. Comparing the advertised rates is tricky. Like airlines, which have long unbundled their fees, hotels have joined the bandwagon with costs that can quickly add hundreds of dollars to your bill.
Here are nine tips, from Boxx, Britons and other seasoned travelers, for managing hotel costs and finding great deals.
1. Let go of the nostalgia. Forget about in-room coffeemakers. Even in a 5 star hotel you may have to pay for your morning joe. Those cute little soaps and shampoos that everyone loves to take home are also disappearing. Hotels have realized that it is cheaper to use wall dispensers.
Boxx recalls an experience at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, DC in the 1980s that would be difficult to replicate today. The receptionist, who heard her sniffle the day after she arrived, asked her, “Miss Boxx, aren’t you feeling well?” She was impressed that he remembered her name when she checked in the night before. But the personal touch didn’t stop there. “Do you want the porter to go to the pharmacy for you?” What’s your favorite cold medicine? âNot only did he deliver what she asked for, there was no charge.
2. Compare prices online. Expedia, Kayak (an aggregator of other search engines), Orbitz, Priceline (an auction-style site that lets you name the price you’re willing to pay), and Travelocity are just a few of the places where start your search. If internet access is essential, check out HotelChatter, which rates the quality of access at thousands of hotels around the world.
Websites do not always list additional fees and regulatory surcharges. Call the hotel and ask before you book, or your business may fail.
3. Be flexible on travel dates. This will give you the best deals. Google Hotel Finder will tell you the best time to stay in a destination. Or you can enter parameters including your budget, desired travel dates and geographic limits using various filters, and that will give you a list of destinations to consider.
4. Budget for amenities. If you have a good deal on the room, be prepared to pay for the extras. Your request for what has always been standard with a room may, without warning, end up as an additional cost on your bill.
Resorts may charge additional service fees for nothing specific. Then expect to pay extra for a cabin or umbrella.
Other extra charges that show up on hotel bills include the use of workout facilities, the pool, or even an ironing board. You may also need to pay to: use the business center for anything other than printing a boarding pass; Internet access ($ 30 per day at the Ritz in addition to the high room rate); valet parking mandatory; or even call an 800 number. And don’t expect a free newspaper with this $ 5 morning cup of coffee ($ 13 for a pot at the Heathman in Portland, Oregon).
5. Look for hidden discounts. If you are a member of the AARP, AAA, or a professional group such as the American Bar Association or the American Medical Association, you may be eligible for a discount. You can also search the internet for discount codes at sites like Hotels.com, Retail Me Not, Orbitz.com, or Coupon Heaven.
Hotel websites advertise packages and deals. If you like a particular channel, sign up for their email newsletter with the latest information on discounts and packages. The American Girl Doll Suite package at the Ritz Carlton in Chicago includes a doll bed with its own turndown service and cookies for your child as well as the doll. In my experience, the room isn’t the nicest, but it might please a little traveling companion and the room is $ 20 less than the price of a regular room with a king bed.
6. Consider cheaper hotels. Ironically, they tend to deliver more for less, even in the same chain. For example, Hampton Inn and Embassy Suites typically offer free breakfast, internet, and local calls. Their more expensive sister chains – Hilton, Waldorf Astoria, and Conrad – charge for all of these privileges. The same goes for the Fairfield Inn by Marriott, which offers internet, breakfast, coffee, and newspaper for a fee, unlike its more expensive relatives, The Ritz Carlton, JW Marriott, and Bulgari Hotels and Resorts.
7. Join a loyalty program. With this investment of a few minutes, you can reap continuous dividends. At the Fairmont President’s Club and the Kimpton InTouch loyalty program, members have free internet access. The same is true for Omni and Wyndham hotels. The more points you accumulate, the more giveaways and upgrades you are entitled to. Travel Zoo maintains an up-to-date list of popular loyalty clubs and their benefits.
8. Don’t hesitate to negotiate. Hotels with vacancies are often willing to negotiate to fill a room. Don’t be afraid to ask for free breakfast, internet, parking, or use of the workout facilities. Hoteliers prefer to save a little less on an occupied room than to leave it empty overnight.
9. Find packages. You can get a better deal with a plan, even if you don’t need or want all of the components, says English, who travels on business nearly two dozen times a year and is a staunch Orbitz fan. He rarely needs or uses the free parking, round of golf, or hotel breakfast they offer, but he always comes out on top.
With all that you’ve avoided being frugal, you might be able to justify splurging every now and then. A luxury hotel room can make a vacation truly memorable. Boxx fondly remembers a stay last April at the beloved Baur au Lac hotel in Zurich. Even the mini bar was free and every time she walked through the lobby the staff greeted her by name. âIt was worth every penny,â she says.
Craig Mason, Seattle architect and frequent business traveler, rejoices over the night he spent at the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, built in a refurbished penitentiary. He’s also a staunch fan of Andaz Hotels (a division of Hyatt) which include a gourmet breakfast, a host of other luxuries, and surprising design cues, like the glass-framed bathtub in the middle of the room. San Diego. Pleasant memories of such an adventure can linger long after the sting of the beak has worn off.
Do you have a tip for saving on hotel costs or an experience worth the shock of the sticker? Please comment in the space below.
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