How To Book A Better Hotel Room In 2013

Here at Gadling, we’re all about traveling more – for less. Whether we dive the fiscal cliff or not, travel is a luxury in this tight economy, and we’re all searching for ways that we can travel better, smarter and cheaper. Here’s what we’ve collected on how you can book a better hotel room in 2013.

Scour Social Media
You’re already aware that hotels offer specials on their Facebook and Twitter pages. Make sure to follow your favorite brands and “subscribe” to these updates. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you don’t want to miss a special or promotion because the update was buried in your news feed. Don’t forget about email either – hotel’s aren’t likely to spam your inboxes, but often send out valuable promotions and alerts via traditional e-blasts.

Pick Up The Phone
Don’t be afraid to call the hotel directly. Ask if they can match the rate you saw on a flash sale website or on Expedia. Hotels want your business. They are often willing to negotiate rates, particularly for last-minute travel when occupancy permits. On that note, join the hotel’s loyalty program wherever possible. In addition to a dedicated phone attendant, you’ll also gain points and a record of previous stays.Personalize
Hotels, particularly in the luxury market, are paying closer attention to guest preferences than ever before. Request feather-free pillows once and they should be in your room automatically on your next stay. Savvy hotels are tracking guest requests, so don’t be shy in asking for what you want … within reason, of course.

Travel “Smart”
Last-minute bookings are more popular than ever, and hotels have admitted that they’ll often discount rates if rooms are available. Not many new apps have launched, but some of our favorites, like Hotel Tonight have improved and added cities, and even our favorite flash-sale darling Jetsetter has added a “rooms for tonight” option. If you’re willing to pay full price, try a site like WantMeGetMe, which allows you to be guaranteed certain VIP perks like upgrades and late checkouts with a rate comparable to booking through the hotel’s website.

Go Boutique … or Leverage Loyalty
Smaller hotel chains are still fighting the big brands for your business. While business travelers often seek out bigger brands for their loyalty perks, consider booking independent or smaller hotels, which can offer a more personalized experience and higher-touch staff. If you’re always traveling to big brands, make sure to use your loyalty membership status when traveling for personal reasons. Even if you can’t book with points, you’ll be flagged in the system as a frequent guest.

Get An Agent
Travel agencies are making a comeback. Agencies can often negotiate preferred rates, assist with itineraries beyond the hotel, and help arrange air travel.

Have another tip we haven’t listed? Share it in the comments, below.

[Image Credit: McLean Robbins] Launches Last Minute Hotel App

Capitalizing on the success of apps like Hotel Tonight, Priceline Group’s has launched a same-day booking product for iPhone and iPod touch.

The inherent advantage with this app is’s much larger user base – over 200,000 hotels. While we’re longtime fans of Hotel Tonight, which allows us to find some of our favorite name-brand hotels at a lower cost, we’re well aware of the need for an app like this for nights when we just need a place to sleep – or when our other options aren’t quite yielding what we want.

A recent search for a hotel in our area near DC showed 94 options with same-night availability. Hotels were found at a minimum rate of $70 for the Budget Inn, Falls Church, and a high rate of $695 for the Mandarin Oriental DC.

We do like that the app really streamlines the mobile experience to those features users need. One tap on the app retrieves all the available hotels in the immediate area, including those special last-minute deals.

Booking is simple too – just two clicks and the room is yours. Achieving what it calls “from app to nap in five taps,” the app also takes care of the after-booking process by contacting the hotel, emailing you a reservation confirmation and showing a detailed map of how to get to your destination.

We’d call that pretty simple. Even better? The app is free in the iTunes store.

Nominees For The 16th Annual ‘Webby’ Awards Announced

Throughout the year, Gadling has reported on and reviewed what we see as the industry’s best travel websites and new products.

But today, nominees for the 16th annual Webby Awards – the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet – were announced. The awards focus on professionals and projects, including Websites, interactive advertising and media, online film and video, and mobile apps.

“The nominees mirror this incredible year on the Internet, from memes to viral videos to cultural movements and extraordinary creativity,” said David-Michel Davies, executive director of the Webby Awards.

There are Webby Awards for a variety of categories, including travel and tourism. Travel-focused websites and magazines, such as National Geographic (Best Magazine Website) and Sonia’s Travels and Appetite For Life (Best Web Personality) were also nominated.
Want to vote on your favorites?

We’ve got a list below the jump:

· Best Travel Website

· Best Mobile Travel App

· Best Travel & Adventure Website:

· Best Tourism Website:

· Best Guides/Ratings/Reviews Website:

Winners will be announced May 1.

Travel Transparency: BackBid and Tingo help travelers stay informed of the best deals

Earlier this year, we offered tips for saving money on hotel rooms by traveling smarter. We only wish we’d known about these three services then.

It sounds like a board game, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is. Tingo takes the guesswork out of hotel booking by automatically re-booking travelers who book through its site at a lower price if the rate drops. The difference is placed back on the traveler’s credit card with no work needed from the traveler. The site estimates that travelers could have saved $314 million in 2011 by using the website.

This is a welcome relief for travelers who constantly check prices to get the best deal, often having to go through the laborious process of booking and re-booking reservations, or waiting too long and missing out on a great price. The site shows that a real traveler booking a reservation at Wynn in Las Vegas saw a price drop of $1243 from January 27th to $724 on the day of check-in, a savings of $519. Interestingly, Tingo is also part of the TripAdvisor network of travel media brands, which includes Airfarewatchdog, SniqueAway and more.

Book through BackBid and you’ll allow other hotels in the area to “bid” on your reservation – essentially trying to woo you away with promises of lower rates, increased perks, added convenience and better star ratings.

Unlike sites like Priceline, there’s no hiding – you’ll know the hotel name and total rate (including taxes) up front. Unless you’re a points or property loyalist, the chance of switching hotels for a lower rate or better amenities is often an enticement – and, as we’ve heard, you may even be offered a better deal by your own hotel. We can’t see any downsides there.

And just when you thought, “when is this coming for airfare,” we have something else.

Tripalertz this month announced an “Airfare Guarantee” that says, should travelers find a lower fare for the same itinerary with a public online travel company, the site will not only refund, but double the difference in the fare up to $100 per ticket with a maximum of $400 per household or group of associated parties. Unlike the other sites above, this puts the onus on you, the traveler, but it’s better than nothing at all!

We’ll certainly be using these sites on our next trip – what about you?

Travel Smarter 2012: Use your mobile apps better

It should come as no surprise that owning a smartphone in 2012 is a traveler’s perfect tool to better explore, organize and record their travels. And by now, there are literally thousands of app roundups out there to help lead you to the good ones. But this isn’t another one of those roundups. Instead, today Gadling is taking a closer look at how to use your existing apps – the ones you already have in 2012 – to travel smarter.

Consider the issues you typically face on the road. You’re hungry, or lost. Perhaps you’re simply trying to communicate with someone in a foreign language. The truth is you don’t always need to spend $1.99 on the newest “travel app” to do these things. Sometimes the best app is the one you already have on your smartphone.

Based on hundreds of hours on the road, both here in the U.S. and abroad, testing various mobile apps, we’ve compiled the following travel tips to help you get the most out of the apps on your smartphone. Are you a travel app pro? Click through for our tips.Use Your Camera to Save Important Information
Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’re probably already aware of the huge boom in mobile travel photography apps and tips in recent months. And certainly smartphones (iPhones in particular) have proven themselves as clear winners for traveling photographers.

But are you using your phone’s camera to its full potential? Truth is, your smartphone’s camera makes a great storage and communication tool. Don’t want to carry around your map with directions to dinner? Take a photo. How about a snapshot of the street where your hotel is at so you can show the taxi driver? Voila. Have a food allergy? Take a photo of the food to show at the restaurant.

Get a Recommendation from a Local
Many travel apps claim to help you find cool things to do in new places you’re visiting. Problem is, they don’t deliver. The secret is that locals in your destination don’t use them. The trick to getting good recommendations is to use what the locals use, and right now those two apps are Foursquare and Yelp.

If you’re not already using Foursquare, it’s quietly become the new killer travel app. Most people think of Foursquare as “that service that lets you check in to bars to try and look cool.” But with a series of great recent updates, including an ability to share and make lists and the new explore feature, Foursquare is now a powerful tool to help you find good stuff to eat, see and do in unknown places. Check out their Foursquare Cities account for some great user-created tips in cities like Berlin, Milan, Sydney, London and more.

Yelp is another app many of us know from our daily wanderings in our hometown. Ever tried it on the road? Open the app and click on “Nearby” on the bottom menu, then “Hot New Businesses” to find out what local users are talking about right now.

Store Your Travel Research on Your Phone
Now that the vast majority of travel research happens on the web, there’s no reason for all that research to get stuck on your computer when you leave for the airport. Take it with you – use your smartphone to collect it all in one place.

Many people already use mobile reading apps like Instapaper (for iOS) or Read it Later (for Android) to collect long articles for offline storage – why not create a folder of great articles for your trip? Don’t forget to install the app’s “bookmarklets” on your web browser for easy adding. Another great free source of info is Wikitravel – try uploading the whole destination guide for the city you’re visiting to your Instapaper or Read It Later app for easy offline reading. Evernote is another great document storage app you may already have that lets you store everything from web links to photos to audio recordings.

Make Cheaper Phone Calls and Pay Less for Wi-Fi
If you’ve ever placed a phone call from abroad using your cell phone, you probably remember the sticker shock that came with it when you got the bill back. That’s where Skype’s suite of mobile apps can be a real lifesaver. Use your mobile phone over a Wi-Fi connection to make phone calls (and send texts) while abroad to any phone number. Did you know Skype also has an app that lets you pay-by-the-minute for Wi-Fi at over 1 Million locations worldwide? Skip the $8 daily Wi-Fi rate at the airport and login using your existing Skype credit.

[flickr image via Cristiano Betta]