Tips For Gaming Hotel Websites To Get The Best Room Rates

Major hotel chains have sophisticated software that dictates room rates based upon expected occupancy, but with a little knowledge and a bit of effort you can ensure that you get the best deal. The key to getting the best possible price is understanding hotel demand and trying different search terms to see which combination of dates yield the lowest prices.

Depending on location and time of year, some hotels have dramatically higher occupancy on the weekend, while others that cater to business travelers are busier during the week. If you want to save money, schedule your trip accordingly.

For example, let’s say you’d like to spend a week dividing time between San Francisco and the nearby Sonoma County wine region. If you want to save a bundle on hotels, hit Sonoma during the week, when it’s nice and quiet and the room rates are low, and then on the weekend stay in a business class hotel in the suburbs of San Francisco or in Silicon Valley.In many destinations, you can find a good deal on hotels any night of the week, save Saturday nights and sometimes Fridays. You can either work around this, as outlined above, or manipulate your search terms to make sure you’re not paying the higher Saturday night rate for more than one night.

If you plan to stay more than one night at a chain hotel, particularly if part but not all of your stay includes a weekend night, definitely split apart your travel dates into one-night increments to see how the price changes. For example, if you search for a room on the website of the Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia for a two-night stay, checking in this Saturday night, you’ll find a AAA rate of $260 per night. But if you split your search term to see the price for Saturday night and Sunday night, you’ll notice that while the Saturday rate is $260, the AAA rate for Sunday night plummets to just $134. The Hilton is quite content to charge you the higher rate for both nights but you’d be a fool to pay it.

This is not an isolated example. I did a quick search for other hotels this weekend and almost every hotel I checked out had a different rate for Saturday night versus Sunday night, but none offered the Sunday discount to the customer booking both nights together in one reservation on their sites. The Renaissance Marriott in Philadelphia offers a AAA rate of $279.95 for a two-night, Saturday, Sunday stay this weekend, but if you search just for Sunday night, you’ll notice the rate plummets to $180.45 – though you don’t get that rate unless you make two reservations.

The Hyatt Regency on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago has a Saturday night rate of $170 versus $116 on Sunday, but again their site doesn’t give you the lower Sunday rate unless you make two reservations. And the same goes for Chicago’s Westin River North, which has a $233 versus $118 split for this weekend.

The split can work the other way as well, especially in the suburbs. For example, the Hyatt House in Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia is $18 more expensive on Sunday night compared to Saturday this weekend. And there are also occasions when the hotel offers a better rate for multiple night stays compared to a single night stay. Again, it all depends on expected occupancy.

This summer, Orbitz got a lot of bad press after admitting that it shows higher priced hotel options to those searching for rooms on a Mac, so many advocate double checking searches on a PC, if you can, but I tested various searches on my PC and my MAC and they all appeared to yield the same results.

The bottom line is that you always need to check and split apart your travel dates when searching for a multiple-night stay. If you can save money by making multiple reservations, go for it, and add a note in the comments section asking them to combine the reservations so you don’t have to move rooms.

Then remind them again when you check in. Or, to simplify matters, call the hotel directly, tell them what you discovered online and ask them to extend the lower rate for your entire stay. They might not do it, but it’s worth a try. Whatever you do, don’t throw away money by failing to explore all your options online before booking.

[Photo credit:Uggboy Ugggirl on Flickr]

Hotel News We Noted: September 7, 2012

Greetings from Toronto, where we’re visiting our fair neighbor to the north during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF, for short). There is much to be enjoyed in this bustling capital, where hotels like the new Shangri-La, Trump, Ritz-Carlton (can you believe that’s what has opened only in the last year?) and soon-to-launch Four Seasons are dominating the luxury hotel scene, and buzzy up-and-comers like ALT near Pearson Airport and boutique-chic The Drake (no relation to the Chicago property), which rocks on in Ace Hotel-like hipster fashion on the trendy Queen Street West.

But enough about Canada, as there’s plenty of hotel news to be had around the world this week. Welcome to the first fall edition of “Hotel News We Noted.” As always, send us a note if you have tips, comments or suggestions.

Viral Video: Ritz-Carlton Showcases “The Art of the Craft”
Ritz-Carlton is showcasing their commitment to service and their “staff as family” approach with a new YouTube series that goes behind-the-scenes to highlight the work of hotel staffers. From shoe shiners to housekeepers, the videos showcase the level of commitment that each staffer has for their jobs. We love how employees at every level within the company take such a sense of pride in their job and the organization as a whole.
Hotel Openings: Four Seasons Baku and Pudong
The Four Seasons has had a big week with the opening of two new properties, Four Seasons Hotel Baku, the brand’s first in Azerbaijan, as well as the second property in Shanghai, Four Seasons Pudong. Once a well-kept secret among oil industry executives, Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is attracting interest of a much broader range of travelers, especially with its rich cultural history, vibrant art scene, designer shopping and developing wine industry. The Shanghai property is primed for business success, located in the newly built, 55-story 21st Century Tower. Is anyone heading that way who will report back on how these hotels look in person?

Hotel Revamp: Peninsula Hotels
YouTube videos must be all the rage this week, as Peninsula has also launched their own series, dubbed “Peninsula Moments,” offering a more film-like approach to what it looks like to go behind-the-scenes at the hotel. Part of a new brand campaign and revamp for their flagship Hong Kong property (to the tune of a cool $450 million), here’s what else you can expect:

  • Cool new city guides from LUXE, designed exclusively for the hotels.
  • The re-launch of the Hong Kong property, which features the same designer as the Getty, new rooms and suites, and upgraded technology and design enhancements. These include touch screen tablets pre-set in one of five languages offering full control of all room technology, complimentary long-distance VOIP phone calls from guest rooms and, from the hotel’s Rolls-Royce fleet, upgraded in-room technology including memory-card readers and the now ubiquitous in-mirror bathroom TVs.

Hot Amenity: Find Your Chi At Palace Resorts
This change alone is enough to let us book a stay at a Palace Resort (an all-inclusive brand located throughout Mexico) – they’ve added Chi amenities to all of their rooms. Not a woman? This means the industry’s best hair dryers (plus flat irons) in all rooms, as well as the brand’s own line of amenities. Looking good while traveling AND keeping our suitcase from going over the required weight limit? We’re all about it.

Sleeping Beauties: Westin and Diamond Resorts
People have long loved their hotel beds, and many brands, both luxury and mid-range, sell their sleeping products online so that you can enjoy the same comforts at home. If you’re a Westin fan, snag their signature “Heavenly Bed” online through September 22 for 20% off. If you’re not in the market (or the budget) to replace your mattress, we’d suggest a stay at a Diamond resort, which just launched the heaviest pillow in the hotel industry, a 51-ounce pillow that feels more like a memory foam than the typical “must fluff all night long for a good night’s sleep” variety. At just $27 on the hotel site, they won’t break the bank, either.

Westin Hotels Want You To Work Out On This Crazy Bike

The notion of a hotel providing bikes to guests is not a new one. Nor is the notion of a hotel having a fitness center with elliptical machines. But the combination of elliptical and bike? It’s one we’ve not yet seen.

Westin Hotels & Resorts recently announced a partnership with with ElliptiGO, creator of the world’s first outdoor elliptical cycle. It’s yet another way the hotel is getting into fitness. Recently, they unveiled new gyms and a partnership with New Balance that allows guests to borrow workout equipment.

Now, guests can rent the $2,500 ElliptiGO 8C for an average rental fee of $10. Properties participating in the pilot program that will run throughout the summer include The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort & Spa, The Westin Georgetown, Washington D.C., and The Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa.

“Our pilot program with ElliptiGO reinforces the brand’s commitment to promoting an active lifestyle and making exercise convenient for our guests in innovative and exciting ways,” said Brian Povinelli, Global Brand Leader, Westin Hotels & Resorts.

A fun way to get a workout in? Certainly. Something we’ll be renting? Probably not – we have enough trouble riding a bike, and Segways terrify us. This looks like a hybrid of the two and we’re pretty sure we’ll hurt ourselves, the expensive bike or others while riding. That said – it seems like a fun perk. Would you try the ElliptiGO?

Hotel News We Noted: June 22, 2012

It’s finally summer, and outside isn’t the only thing that’s warm in this week’s edition of Hotel News We Noted. Here, we explore some of the world’s most sizzling new hotels and promotions, as well as cool amenities that can keep you traveling in style.

As always, if you have a suggestion or a comment, feel free to email us.

Hotel Trends: U.S. Hotels Catering to Chinese Travelers
Chinese travel to the United States is up 36 percent over last year, to the tune of more than $1 million. This article from the Seattle Times explored what that means for hotels. Chains like Marriott and Hilton have already rolled out special programs for tourists, while Starwood and The-Ritz Carlton have relocated managers to China to help them gain cultural awareness. Fairmont has just rolled out a new Chinese menu. Just one example includes the nation’s strict hierarchy – employees should not be placed on a higher floor than their boss, no matter the room type. Chinese guests are also not housed on floors with the number four, which sounds like the word for “death” in Mandarin – a strange request for a U.S. audience, but something that these tour groups have greatly appreciated. And, at the tune of $5.7 billion per year spent by the Chinese in the United States, or $6,000 per traveler, hoteliers can’t afford not to take note.

Cool Perk: Leave the Workout Gear at Home, Thanks to Westin
Westin is making it easier than ever to stay fit on the road (and still avoid checked bag fees). For $5, guests can get an entire New Balance outfit – from a sports bra to shoes – delivered to their room as part of an exclusive gear-lending partnership with New Balance.

Money We Wish We Had: Larry Ellison Buys Lanai, Two Four Seasons
Oracle CEO and billionaire Larry Ellison has gone and done it again. This time, he bought Lana’i, one of Hawaii’s seven islands, which has not one but two Four Seasons Resorts. Purchased are the 236-room Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay and the 102-room Four Seasons Resort Lana’i, The Lodge at Koele. We didn’t realize this was even possible, but apparently it is – he purchased the island to the tune of $500 or $600 million from David Murdock, another billionaire.

Unique Amenity: An On-Site Bagpiper
Guests at Sea Island’s (image of their luxe property The Cloister above) can relax after a day of shooting school or playing one of the resort’s three championship golf courses and enjoy the sounds of the resort’s resident bagpiper, who plays on the golf course every day at sundown. Shockingly, this isn’t the only U.S. hotel to offer the amenity – the Inn at Spanish Bay near Pebble Beach has the same thing. Who would have thought?

Soon-to-Open: Hotel BPM, Brooklyn
It’s no shock to us that Brooklyn will be the home base for the boutique Hotel BPM, or Hotel Beats Per Minute in Sunset Park. The hotel, opening August 1, has one cool program we’re keeping an eye on – guests can request one song that will be played throughout the hotel sound system at some point during their stay. At just $139 a night for the opening rate, it might be worth it to go and request something terrible like “Ice Ice Baby” or country music just to see the reaction of other guests. Sorry, we’re terrible.

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

The Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.Previously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.