When I begin planning a trip, one of the first things that I do is to investigate hotels. I mean, I’ve gotta stay somewhere right and if you haven’t figured out from my blog posts, I’m a planner. A serious planner! I also suspect that some would say I’m a picky traveler. I like to simply believe that I know what I like: I don’t like large hotels, I really don’t like chain hotels, and I really don’t care about the amenities because I’m not there for room service and the swimming pool. What I am looking for is cool, funky, and fun with some genuinely unique touches.
So how do I go about finding these hotels? Word of mouth is key! But given that I often go places that few of my friends have been too, that doesn’t always work. So I do web searches and, yes, I even look at newspapers, and travel magazines, but I also like to look at blogs like mine. If you bypass those first few web pages that have either paid for your views or are part of a conglomerate, you’ll start to find people like me who have a love of travel and want to share their insight. And no disrespect to those travel review websites but, no, I don’t look at them. If you like them, do it; do what works for you!
But here’s one of the important things in those early stages of discovery: identify as many hotels that you like. Don’t focus on just one, unless you’re willing to pay whatever rate it is they offer. The more hotels that fit your requirements, the more options you will have to choose from.
In addition to being a planner, I also like to get the best value for my money that I can. Which leads me to my next bit of advice: write to the hotels directly. Don’t be afraid and don’t be embarrassed. Write to them. Tell them when you are planning to come. If it’s for a special occasion, or you are even a return guest, tell them. And ask then what the best possible rate they can offer will be.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned – yeah, the hard way sometimes – that it’s best to be as specific as possible. If you see a room that has a balcony that you’d like, or the décor is a specific colour or style that appeals to you, or whatever, ask for rates that reflect that room type. If you just say that you’re looking for a “room for two and what’s the best possible rate that you can offer?”, that best possible rate could be an interior room with no windows (yep, that happened to me) or the room on the back side of the hotel with no views of the ocean but, instead, a view of the hill behind the hotel that had a path right in front of your window so strangers could look in (that one’s happened a couple of times!)
Some hotels won’t reply, and some may not offer anything better than what you find on their website, but very frequently I’ve found that the hotel will give me a better rate, they will recognize me when I arrive, and sometimes, there is even a very kind welcome drink waiting for me in my room. I mean, seriously, what’s wrong with that? For a few minutes of emailing the various hotels that you identified from the start, you may just end up at a gorgeous hotel, at a better rate than those who book last-minute, and a few additional bucks in your pocket for something else.
And last but not least, yes, go back to that social media feed and tag the hotel both when you confirm – it shows your excitement and appreciation and gives them a little free marketing – as well as when you arrive – all for the same reason! It’s a two-way street: remember that!
Obviously, you can take all of the above with a grain of salt. If you like a certain chain hotel, then stay there, by all means. And if you want to accrue points on a hotel booking site, then do it! It’s your vacation so do what’s right for you so that you have the best possible vacation!