Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

hotel deals guestmob collectionsThe 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.hotel deals guestmob booking pagePreviously, 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.

How to game Priceline to get the best deal on a hotel room

If you like to stay in nice hotels but hate paying full price for them, you’ve probably tried to bid for a room on Priceline at some point. But are you sure you got the lowest possible price? I’ve been using Priceline to bid on hotel rooms for years and I think I have the experience down to a science. Here’s how I use the site.

Map out a bidding strategy using free re-bids

If you’re familiar with Priceline, you know that if you’re opening bid is rejected, you need to alter either the star level, dates of travel, or geographic zones in order to bid again. Otherwise you have to wait a full 24 hours before submitting the same request, even if you’re willing to increase your bid.

A good way to circumvent this rule when bidding on hotel rooms in large cities is to determine what level of accommodation Priceline offers within each geographic zone. All you have to do is click each zone, one-by-one and see what star levels below gray out. For example, Atlanta has 21 zones. If you click into each, you’ll discover that only 6 of those zones have 4 star hotels; 3 other zones have nothing better than 3.5 star hotels; 7 zones max out at 3 stars; 3 offer only 2.5 or 2 star hotels, and 2 allow bids only on 2 star hotels.

So if you want to bid on a four star hotel in Buckhead, you actually have 15 free re-bids in the zones with no 4 star offerings, at no risk. If you’re willing to pay up to $90, for example, start out with a $45 low-ball offer, and then move up in $3 increments each time your bid is rejected, adding a “safe” zone each time.

Bid 1: 4 star, Buckhead- $45
Bid 2: 4 star, Buckhead, Druid Hills, $48
Bid 3: 4 star, Buckhead, Druid Hills, Forest Park, $51

And so on. If you strike out getting the 4 star hotel and are willing to move down to 3.5 stars, you start all over again, and, based on this example have 12 free re-bids on “safe” zones that have no 4 star or 3.5 star hotels. This can be time consuming, but I’ve gotten some incredible deals using this method, which has been explained on other sites as well, including the Westin Atlanta North at Perimeter Center for $55, the Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing for $45, and the Marriott Toronto Airport for $48, to name just a few.Do your homework

If you’re the kind of person who hates Priceline’s element of surprise- you never know exactly what hotel you’ll get until after you enter your credit card information- do some research on sites like Bidding for Travel and Better Bidding to find out what you might get. Bidders post successful and unsuccessful bids in the forums and the sites also features lists of reported hotels in the different zones in many cities around the world. Don’t assume that these lists are comprehensive- I’ve gotten hotels that aren’t on these lists, but they are useful to give you an idea of what you might get. A new site, Bidding Traveler, allows you to enter a low-ball bid and a final offer and then advises you on an optimal bidding strategy based upon recent accepted and rejected bids on Priceline.

Still nervous?

One other tool travelers might want to be aware of involves a glitch on the Priceline site I read about in a forum on fatwallet.com, regarding credit card security codes. Priceline requires bidders to enter their credit card information before they bid, but the glitch is that the system reportedly allows unsuccessful bids to go through with an incorrect security code. Only if your bid is accepted will it prompt you to correct your security code.

Practically, this glitch provides some good intel. For example, let’s say your $50 bid was rejected, but you try again at $70, with an additional zone or reduced stars, and the system prompts you to correct your security code. That means they want to accept your $70 bid. But perhaps you have some free re-bids and would rather try again at $60, knowing you can always come back to $70 and get your room.

After your bid is accepted

Some hotels practice a sort of informal discrimination against travelers who book via third party sites like Priceline, by giving them the least desirable rooms. In order to try to avoid this, call the hotel as soon as your bid is accepted. Express your room preference and give them your frequent guest number. Some chains won’t give you points on a Priceline stay, but some will, if not always for the room, then at least for other incidental charges you might accrue while staying at the property.

If you have any kind of status at that chain, they are a lot less likely to shaft you just because you booked on Priceline, and even if you haven’t signed up for that hotel’s frequent stay program before, it’s usually worth your time to do so before arrival, since those with no status tend to get last choice of rooms.

Using Priceline for rental cars and flights

I’ve also had some success using Priceline for rental cars, sometimes scoring rides for as little as $12 per day before taxes and fees. There is no free re-bid system but you can start at the luxury or premium level and work your way down to economy or compact. I’ve found that in practice, most rental companies will allow you to upgrade if you bid on a small car and decide you want something different, assuming they have the category of vehicle you want.

I’ve been less successful using Priceline to book flights. I’ve only tried it twice and both times I wasn’t happy with the itinerary I got. I used it to book a flight from Chicago to London and ended up with a long layover in Cincinnati. The second and last straw for me was a Chicago- New York flight that departed at 6 A.M. and had a long layover. For international flights, you can depart at any time midnight-midnight on your proposed date and for domestic, you’ll travel between 6 A.M. and 10 P.M. I’m a big fan of non-stop flights that leave well after the start of the Today show, so Priceline does’t really work for me on flights.

Priceline not for you?

If Priceline still seems a bit too risky for you, you might consider trying a new site called BackBid. The site allows travelers to post their existing reservation and then invites other hotels to try to beat it. I’m not very risk averse and I love Priceline, so I haven’t tried it yet. If you have, let us know how you made out in the comments section, and happy bidding.

Image via Flickr, Loren Javier.

Even more Cyber Monday hotel and travel deals

cyber monday travel dealsBlack Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t just for holiday shopping. You can get great deals on holiday travel too. Writer Melanie has already tracked seven great Black Friday travel deals and Chris found some awesome Black Friday cruise and general travel promos but there are more floating in every day. Peruse the list below, and let us know if we’re missing any – we’ll add it right in!

Best Western
Purchase a $100 Best Western Travel Card online and receive a bonus $20 gift card reward for yourself. Cyber Monday shoppers can choose a $20 Best Western Travel Card, or a $20 gift card from participating retail partners. The Best Western Travel Card can be used like cash to pay for accommodations at more than 4,000 Best Western hotels worldwide. BWR members will be able to take advantage of this special offer now, through Monday, Nov. 28 at 11:59 p.m MST.

Abercrombie & Kent
The luxe tour company is offering independent departures to 10 of their most popular destinations at up to 50% off during the Six Days of Holiday Savings, from November 28 at 9 a.m. to December 3 at 1 p.m. CST.

Cape Resorts Group
Starting Friday and going to midnight Monday, purchase $100 in gift cards and receive a $20 bonus gift card. With every additional $125 purchased received additional $25 on your bonus gift card. The card is valid at all Cape Resorts in Cape May, NJ.

Marriott’s Florida Hotels
JW Marriott, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance Florida hotels and resorts are joining in on the e-shopping spree with up to 25% savings on Cyber Monday with rates starting from $95 to $186 per night. The one-day only online sale is available for those who book on Monday, Nov. 28, 2011 for stays through Jan. 8, 2012.* For reservations, visit www.marriott.com/floridacybermonday (live on Cyber Monday) or visit www.marriott.com and enter the promotional code DOD.

Omni Hotels & Resorts
The Omni Hotels & Resorts “Holiday Treat” limited time offer is back for a second year, offering travelers exceptional values on wonderful winter destinations. From Black Friday through Cyber Monday, rooms across the brand will range from $79 to $119 in favorite Omni destinations such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Worth, New York, San Francisco and more. Plus, in honor of the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season, Omni will give away 100 room nights to 100 followers at Facebook.com/OmniHotels.

InterContinental Hotels Group
IHG’s (InterContinental Hotels Group) is offering a Twitter-exclusive travel deal with their “Gotta Get 100” promotion. Followers of @IHG_Deals who uncover the “Gotta Get 100” link and register for the promotion Nov. 1 through Nov. 28 will be eligible for $100 off of any flight on any airline to any destination, when they book two consecutive weekend nights (Friday, Saturday or Sunday) at any IHG hotel throughApril 29, 2012. IHG is also giving away a $100 prepaid gift card for every day of the “Gotta Get 100” promotion. For more details visit www.ihg.com/get100rules.

Viceroy Resorts
A variety of deals are available for Cyber Monday, detailed at viceroyhotelgroup.com/cybermonday. Many involve social media offers and include hotels in Palm Springs, Santa Monica, St. Luicia, Aguilla, Snowmass, Abu Dhabi, Miami and more.

Hotels.com
hotels.com® is starting its annual Four Day Sale at midnight on Black Friday with more than 300 properties half off their original costs for travel through January 2nd in most destinations. The sale runs through 11:59 p.m. on Cyber Monday.

American Airlines
Beginning Nov. 23 and running through Jan. 2, 2012, customers traveling on American’s Wi-Fi-equipped aircraft can enjoy 30 minutes of free access to special discounts and in-air exclusives at top retailers with the Gogo Fly & Buy Holiday Store. Purchase a two-pass holiday pack for $14.95 and use the passes any two days until Jan. 3, or buy a three-pass holiday pack for $19.95 and use the passes on any three days through the same promotion period.

Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is offering savings of up to 25% on roundtrip flights from the USA to over 100 destinations worldwide through Cyber Monday.

[Flickr via Dan Shouse]

Seven Black Friday and Cyber Monday hotel deals for 2011

2011 Black Friday and Cyber Monday Hotel Deals As a holiday purist, I lament the day that “Black Friday” and its sister “Cyber Monday” supplanted Thanksgiving as November’s most anticipated event. But as a shopper, in particular a seeker of travel deals, I always look forward to seeing what kinds of discounts I can gobble up.

This year, quite a number of hotels are offering flash sales on Black Friday (November 25), Cyber Monday (November 28), or both. Here is a sampling of some of the deals that came across the wire at Gadling Labs. Discounts are not limited to U.S.-based hotels; there are also deals in Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica. All times listed for the deals are Eastern Standard Time (EST) unless otherwise noted.

Charles Hotel, Cambridge, MA
This smart hotel a few steps from Harvard University is offering a one-hour flash sale on Cyber Monday. From 11:28am to 12:28pm on November 28, the Charles will offer a 50% discount off all of its room rates, including suites, good for a stay between December 3, 2011, and March 31, 2012. Booking a room during the flash sale will also net you a $50 gift card at the hotel’s new Corbu Spa & Salon. Click here on 11/28 at 11:28am and use the code CYBER11.Kimpton Hotels – DC, Maryland, and Virginia
Twelve Kimpton hotels in the Mid-Atlantic will be on sale during a 72-hour spree beginning at midnight on Cyber Monday. While upgrades last, the boutique hotelier will offer suites at standard room rates at its properties in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia. As dates of travel are limited between December 15 and December 30, 2011, Kimpton’s flash sale is a great opportunity for families looking for a place to stay over the holidays. For example, the specialty bunk room at the Hotel Rouge in DC will be on sale for $119 per night, down from its typical rate of $299. Deal-seekers should visit the website www.kimptonhotels.com/cybermonday and use the code SALE72.

Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, CA
Travelers with plans to vist Santa Monica between November 28, 2011, and February 28, 2012, can snag a Cyber Monday deal from the Shore Hotel, Santa Monica’s newest LEED-registered hotel. For 24 hours on November 28, the Shore Hotel will offer 30% off of a partial ocean view room. Note, however, that the hotel takes the “cyber” out of Cyber Monday by offering this deal by phone. Call 310-458-1515 to book.

Shell Vacations – Resorts in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico
From midnight on November 25 through 11:59pm on November 28, Shell Vacations Hospitality is offering 50% off resort rates for 25 properties in North America. Travelers who visit www.shellhospitality.com/Black_Friday next weekend will find rock-bottom rates for ski retreats in Canada‘s Horseshoe Valley, golf resorts in Scottsdale, and beach-side inns in Hawaii. A sample Black Friday/Cyber Monday rate from Shell Vacations is a room rate starting at $65 per night at San Francisco’s Inn at the Opera.

Z NYC Hotel, New York
For those with plans to travel to New York City over the first half of next year, the Z NYC Hotel in Long Island City is having a super flash sale centered around the number 28 (Cyber Monday takes place on November 28). Beginning at noon on November 28 and running for 28 minutes until 12:28pm, rooms at the Z NYC Hotel will go for $128 per night. Guests will be able to book stays that take place over the 28th of the month for the first six months of 2012. A two-night minimum stay is required. If this isn’t enough to convince the hoards to check out revitalized Long Island City, Z NYC is also throwing in two-for-one cocktail deal. To book, call 1-877-256-5556 and use the code CYBER.

Monte Azul Luxury Boutique Hotel, Costa Rica
The deal on offer at this Costa Rican eco-resort lives up to the spirit of Black Friday. From midnight to 11:59pm on November 25, Monte Azul is offering guests two nights for the price of one. Travel must take place between January 4 and May 31, 2012. Visit www.monteazulcr.com/en/hotel/reservations and add “Black Friday Deal” in the notes section to take advantage of this discount.

JW Marriott Hotel, Chicago
Marriott’s Cyber Monday-only deal at Chicago’s JW Marriott is a chance to snag significant savings on a hotel room next month. Beginning at 8am CST on November 28 until 7:59am CST on November 29, rooms at the JW Marriott will go for $149 per night for the month of December (excluding Friday, December 2, and Friday, December 31). Visit www.jwmarriottchicago.com or call 312-660-8200 to book.

The best “offline” budget hotels in Paris

Hunting down a cheap and central hotel in Paris can be a daunting challenge. It’s not hard to find one and two-star hotels for under €75 (about $105) per night, but they’re often less-than-inspiring places and frequently located in rather grim neighborhoods.

Fortunately, there are dozens of hotels in Paris’ prime neighborhoods that offer rooms at budget rates. However, they can be tricky to find online, as many of them don’t work with reservation agencies. This means that you’ll never see them on websites like Hotels.com, Expedia or Kayak.

Most of these hotels want to keep it this way. They’d rather handle their own reservations. After all, the booking agencies usually charge hefty commissions, which drive up room rates for everyone.

For smaller hotels with a faithful clientele, they frequently fill up on their own. They don’t need to pay for the service.

Reserving a room at one of these “offline” hotels requires a little more legwork for travelers. You’ll have to check their website (if they have one), email them (if they have email), or call them (they’ll have a telephone).

EuroCheapo put together a guide of cheap hotels in Paris, and here are five of their favorite one-star sleeps, none of which will ever show up on a booking website:

Hotel Tiquetonne
Double: €60

Located on a boutique-lined street a couple blocks north of Les Halles, the Hotel Tiquetonne seems plucked from a ’60s-era French musical. From the sassy receptionist to the cotton candy color schemes, the hotel sings a chipper tune. Built in the 1920s, the Tiquetonne is massive and creaky, with a wooden banister winding up to 45 rooms with private baths (single rooms share showers). Rooms do not have a TV, but they are equipped with Wi-Fi.

The Tiquetonne is popular-so you should reserve well in advance, by telephone only. The staff speaks limited English, so practice up, s’il vous plait.

(6 rue Tiquetonne; phone: +33 (0)1 42 36 94 58; no website / no email)

Hotel Henry IV
Double €60 – €83

Located on the Place Dauphine near the tip of the Ile de la Cite, the Hotel Henri IV is a royally central Cheapo, and once served as the king’s printing office. The 15 rooms and bathrooms have been significantly spruced up since Eurocheapo first reviewed the hotel in 2001, although despite the 2009 renovation they still offer just the basics: bed, chair, desk and big old windows (some of which look out to the Place Dauphine).

We found the hotel completely charming, although those looking for modern comforts should look elsewhere (no a/c, TV, elevator). Also, while the hotel’s location is a quick walk to the Louvre, Notre Dame and Latin Quarter, the Place Dauphine could seem too quiet for some at night. Breakfast included.

(25, place Dauphine; phone: +33 (0)1 43 54 44 53; website: http://www.henri4hotel.fr; Reservations only taken by telephone.)

Hotel Rivoli
Double €47 – €60

The Hotel Rivoli is a no-frills option for those who want a cheap sleep in the Marais but can’t deal with a youth hostel. Located across the street from Paris’ Hotel de Ville, the Rivoli offers 20 plain (if scruffy) rooms, all of which look out to the busy rue de Rivoli.

The bathroom situation is all over the place: Some rooms share toilets and/or showers, while others have private facilities. We’d recommend asking for a room on the fifth or sixth floor, which should be quieter and have better views. And hey, you can work off those croissants while trekking up the stairs (no elevator).

The Rivoli has neither a website nor email and only takes reservations by phone. If searching around online for the hotel, note that there are other “Rivoli” hotels. Be sure you’ve got the right hotel.

(44 Rue de Rivoli and 2 Rue des Mauvais Garcons; Phone: +33(0)1 42 72 08 41; no website / no email)

Delhy’s Hotel
Double €61 – €91

Offering 21 rooms one block west of the Place Saint Michel, the Delhy’s Hotel is a cheap Latin Quarter pick. The building, with its charming stone walls, wooden beams and lack of elevator, dates back to the 16th century. Rooms have cheery bright colors, satellite TV and telephone. All are equipped with a sink and share toilets, although some are equipped with private showers.

Breakfast is included in the room rate and Wi-Fi is available for free in the reception area. Reserve by email.

(22 Rue de l’Hirondelle; phone: +33 (0)1 43 26 58 25; website: http://www.delhyshotel.com/ email: delhys@wanadoo.fr)

Hotel Eldorado (above)
Double €58 – €85

The fun and funky Hotel Eldorado offers 33 rooms with shabby-chic style near Montmartre. The Eldorado’s bright blue and flower-filled exterior is storybook Montmartre, but things get more bohemian inside. Room décor is eclectic, mixing flea-market finds with antiques and original paintings. While the rooms are perfectly clean, they’re not for the persnickety. (It’s obvious that they haven’t been renovated in ages.)

The Eldorado is quite pleased to keep things quiet: None of the rooms are equipped with a TV or telephone, although free Wi-Fi is offered throughout. Most rooms are equipped with a private bath, although a few super cheap singles share baths.

(18 Rue des Dames; Phone: +33 (0)1 45 22 35 21; website: http://www.eldoradohotel.fr email: eldoradohotel@wanadoo.fr)

More budget hotels in Paris

To read more about these hotels and see other recommended budget hotels in Paris, check out the guides at EuroCheapo.