Tips for Booking Hotels - The Wanderlust Effect

Hotel Insider: Tips for Booking Hotels

As a couple who loves to travel and works on the other side of the hospitality industry as hotel professionals, we’ve learned a thing or two about scoring the best accommodations and making nice with hotels. Being in the industry has its perks – there’s sort of an unwritten industry rule where everyone really does try to help take care of each other if they can – but for those that aren’t in the travel industry, there are some great things to keep in mind to help maximize your travel experiences. For today’s post, I’ve pow wowed with other team members to provide some tips for booking hotels.

Book Direct

Tips for Booking Hotels
Frangipani Resort, photo by Thierry Dehove

On the hotel website, via email or over the phone: when you can, book direct. Hotels fork over anywhere from 10 – 25% or more when guests book through a third-party so properties, especially little independent guys, really value direct bookings. In many instances there are perks for booking direct, whether it’s free breakfast, a welcome perk (e.g. a welcome cocktail or a bottle of wine), or fun add-ons to boost your experience.

Also remember that a) not all properties are on third-party booking sites (e.g. Hotels.com, Expedia.com, etc.); and b) many hotels do not allow all of their rooms to be booked online. Just because a website shows that a hotel is sold out on the dates you’re interested in (even the hotel’s own site) doesn’t mean there’s not availability. The hotel may have some rooms that are not bookable online. It seems old-fashioned but pick up the phone to talk with a reservations agent. If you see a lower rate online don’t be afraid to ask the hotel to match the rate. Most times they’ll be happy to match and even happier that you gave them the opportunity to match. Moral of the story: always call. 

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]Allowing the hotel staff to better understand who you are allows the team to make your experience even better.[/Tweet]

 

Especially where small properties are concerned, calling in or emailing allows you to establish a bit of a ‘relationship’ before you arrive. It gives the reservations team a chance to learn more about you: if you’re a repeat guest, how you heard about the property, if you’re celebrating something special, if you have mobility issues, who you’re traveling with, etc. Allowing the hotel staff to better understand who you are from the get go allows the team to make your experience even better.

Ask About Specials

When it comes to scoring a deal, why not ask? Ask about specials and package offerings that may be of interest when you call in. Some specials may only be available through the hotel directly so don’t be afraid to ask. During the shoulder season you may be more apt to score deals for things like length of stay (e.g. stay 6, pay 5) or upgraded rooms (discounts on suites), which may allow you to enjoy a better or longer experience than you originally thought possible.

Use the Concierge

Tips for Booking Hotels - The Wanderlust Effect

Don’t be afraid to use the concierge. Some people feel uncomfortable asking someone else to do their legwork but that’s what we’re here for! Generally speaking, a great hotel prides itself on great customer service and being able to help a guest make a stay extra special is part of that. Whether it’s making dinner reservations, asking for recommendations on restaurants or activities, getting a babysitter, booking excursions or booking car rentals, if you have questions or want assistance: ASK.

In that vein, if you have a genuine hotel-related question ask the hotel. Don’t go to online forums and poll the universe for an answer. You may or may not get genuine feedback this way. If you want to know about resort offerings, certain rooms, if a restaurant has gluten-free options, or if facilities are open to outside guests, go to the source.

Be Kind

Frangipani Beach Resort Cocktail Party

You know the old adage, “You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar”? Seems obvious, right? Yet some people test this tactic: book a room, complain about everything possible to try to score a free upgrade or freebies, and generally bring a toxic feel to the environment. The complainer may get a room move out of it, but they’ll also create an uncomfortable environment for everyone involved. Hotel managers and staff are human beings, and the truth is that no one likes being around miserable people. If you have a genuine concern or issue, bring it to the staff to find a solution. Again, any hotel that cares about its guests will do everything in their power to make your stay a great one. Being kind and taking the opportunity to connect with staff makes your stay special and as you would imagine, makes staff want to go out of their way to better serve you. Great service is always the goal regardless of the guest, but happy and grateful guests will find that they create a setting that encourages staff to shine.

Be Loyal

Tips for Booking Hotels

Hotels seriously appreciate repeat guests and generally love the opportunity to say thanks for being loyal. For major chains like Starwood, Hilton and IHG, this means free nights, free upgrades, and other perks after ‘x’ amount of nights or stays. With independent properties, this may mean a special welcome gift or an experiential perk. While smaller properties may not make a practice of providing free upgrades (I never expect this when we travel but I think there’s a misconception that this is common practice), I think it’s fair to say that a repeat guest will be upgraded over a new guest if the need arises. There are situations where rooms have to be shuffled around to accommodate bookings and sometimes this means that guests luck into being bumped into better rooms to accommodate other bookings. A familiar name and face will take precedence.

Being loyal means that you’ll also get to know the staff and the staff will get to know you. When it comes to smaller properties this can provide a really special wow factor: being welcomed back by name, having staff remember your favorite restaurants and activities, getting help with crafting itineraries, or having staff remember to call a restaurant to let them know you’re celebrating a special occasion. It’s hard to put a monetary value on any of those things – they’re intangibles that really make a travel experience spectacular.

Be Prepared to Pay for an Upgrade

Tips for Booking Hotels - The Wanderlust Effect

As a segue from the point above, be prepared to pay for an upgrade. Hotels have different room categories offered at different price points because they offer different amenities and value. Just because the best room on property is available doesn’t mean you’ll get it for free, and you shouldn’t expect to get it for free. That being said, if you want to upgrade when you arrive don’t be afraid to ask. There’s a chance that you’ll be able to score an upgrade on-site at a discounted rate if it’s available. Hotels want to sell their better rooms but they’re not going to give them away. Think of this as an opportunity: if the room is available, it may be your chance to experience a better room at a discount.

Provide Feedback

First of all, if you have an issue, bring it to the hotel’s attention and give them an opportunity to rectify the situation. {Also: Handling these situations with kindness and understanding (see above) is always appreciated.} If the team isn’t aware of an issue that you’re having, they won’t have an opportunity to solve the problem. I think I can speak for many people in the industry in saying that one of the worst things is to read a public review (TripAdvisor and otherwise) that mentions an issue at the property that was never addressed during the stay. Many times the issues are easily fixed which makes the situation better for all involved: guests have a happier, more comfortable stay, and hotel staff is happy to assist in making a guest experience the best possible. All feedback – positive comments and constructive criticism – are appreciated. My take on providing feedback in public forums is this: if you had an incredible experience, leave the TripAdvisor review and share your thoughts, including any staff that really made your stay special (they appreciate it). If your experience was so-so but you never addressed your concerns with the hotel staff, email them directly. Give them an opportunity to improve rather than making it a chance to bash them for something they weren’t aware of.

YOUR TURN: What are your tips for maximizing your hotel experience? Any inside tips that have helped you during your travels?

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect, formerly The Traveling Scholar. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. She is a former resident of London and San Francisco and now calls the island of Anguilla home. In addition to The Wanderlust Effect, Shannon is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort and is on the Board of Directors of the Omololu International School in Anguilla.

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