How Travel Experts Book Hotels

(Reader's Digest) Have you ever let the idea of vacation go because of unrealistic prices? Well, you’re not alone. Finding an affordable room through the many travel sites nowadays is intimidating. Your vacation was intended to be stress-free, but expensive hotel rooms can turn the entire trip sour —or even shut it down completely.

Before you abandon your dream vacay, booking your stay through a hotel website is one of many common travel trips you can safely ignore. Here’s how travel experts book their vacations—without breaking the bank.

Call the hotel

With smartphones and computers nowadays, this might seem a bit outdated. However, more often than not, calling the hotel is the best way to score find those rare deals. According to Jill Douglass, General Manager at the Commander Hotel & Suites in Ocean City, MD, calling the hotel can give you “access to valuable unadvertised money-saving specials that the hotel may be running during the time period when you’re looking to visit.” Plus, when you book over the phone, you can usually get a cancellation agreement of “at least a 24- to 48-hour buffer before your check-in, in the event that you need to cancel for whatever reason,” she says. These amenities are not usually available through the hotel website and can make all the difference when you are planning an affordable vacation.

Other than providing discounted prices, calling the hotel can have additional travel perks. You can inquire whether the hotel “has any discount partnerships with or coupons for area restaurants and attractions,” says Douglass. On your arrival to the hotel, remember to ask the front desk whether the hotel is fully booked. If it’s not, “guests can always request room upgrades,” informs Douglass. If the front desk offers any of these hotel amenities, you will want to book a room ASAP. Capitalizing on these deals will help formalize your vacation itinerary, while also saving money!

Ask in person

While it may seem unconventional, you can beat the inflated prices on hotel websites by asking in person. This method is useful to those planning road trips, who might need a quick hotel room nearby, or simply have a free spirit and thirst for adventure. Charles McCool, travel expert and owner of McCool Travel, told Reader’s Digest, “on road trips, when I cannot reliably predict where I will end up for the night, I often rely on just going into hotels and asking for rates. I will ask to apply all kinds of discounts and even just ask if they can go as low as a certain price.” While this is not a sure-fire way to get a lower price than their websites, it will surprise you how accommodating hotels can be when they have rooms to fill. 

Try an app

You can find an app for everything these days, but there are specific apps to help you find the best price for a hotel room. Hotels.com is a well-known app, which “has a great price matching policy just in case a better rate is available elsewhere, and the website almost always has discount coupons available that allow you to save even more,” says Luxury Travel Financial Strategist, Kira Brereton. Similarly, TripAdvisor “compares prices across different websites for you,” to help you find the best deal possible, says Travel Writer Sara Essop. Additionally, Hotels.com and TripAdvisor can also find the best rate for your holiday on Orbitz, Expedia, and countless other travel apps. You can call the hotel’s front desk if don't actually want to use the app to book and ask them to match the lower price that you found on a travel site, says Colleen Kelley, travel expert and host of Family Travel on PBS.

If you’re looking to book a cheap hotel for the same day, professional travel writer and photographer Holly Habeck suggests using the app, Hotel Tonight. “Though it may sound risky to book a room the day/night of your arrival, it’s an easy way to score up to 60 percent off on accommodations—some of which are even four or five-star hotels.” We still have more options if this still isn't enough. People often use Airbnb, an app that lets you list and book apartments, rooms, and homes across the globe. Sara Essop recommends using Airbnb “if you are traveling with a larger family/group or want more space.” While using Airbnb means giving up the traditional hotel experience, it provides nurmerous luxury housing options that are cheaper than hotel rooms. Any of these apps will help you find great accommodations that will make your vacation perfect—as long as you avoid these stressful vacation mistakes. Happy app hunting!

Consult a travel agent

While apps, websites, and even the front desks at hotels can provide a lot of valuable information, it’s often helpful to speak with a travel expert who can help mold your vacation to your preferences. Angela Rice, a member of OASIS Travel Network and co-founder of Boutique Transformative Adventures, recommends “finding a travel consultant who identifies with your travel style and specializes in destinations where you would like to travel.” Since travel agents are well-connected to many hotels and restaurants, “they have access to immediate pricing as well as availability,” says Tara D’Agostino, founder of the luxury hotel representation company WanderLuxe Destinations.

Other than being able to book an inexpensive room, a travel advisor can often secure many amenities for their guests, including “free Wi-fi, early check-in/check-out, hotel credits to be applied to the bill at the end of the stay, and free breakfast, amongst other things the hotel may be offering,” says D’Agostino. Travel agents have connections that can often help guests book hotel rooms that are not listed online, and get VIP treatment from their hotels, says D’Agostino. Not to mention that travel consultants know which dates will be the cheapest times to travel, based on the destination’s high and low seasons, and can offer recommendations for lesser-known hotels.

While you may be concerned that the cost of hiring a travel advisor will make the vacation more expensive than simply booking through the hotel’s website, D’Agostino assures that this is not usually the case. “Using a travel advisor affiliated with a well-known consortium such as Virtuoso, Travel Leaders, Signature, or Traveller Made” can provide a plethora of benefits at a very low cost.

Book through Costco Travel

You can officially buy your vacations at Costco! According to Sara Rathner, travel expert at NerdWallet, “Costco members can get even more value out of their annual fee by looking into Costco travel packages. They’re a great option for anyone who wants a more luxurious trip at a down-to-earth price.” To qualify, you must either have a Gold Star Membership or Executive Membership at Costco. The Gold Star Membership costs $60 per year and gives you access to stores and travel packages; the Executive Membership costs $120 annually and comes with the added perk of 2 percent back on your first $1,000 spent through Costco Travel. So, if you’re a Costco member looking to beat the prices listed on websites, Costco Travel might be the place for you!

Bottom line? You should never let the price on a hotel website ruin your dream vacation! There are many ways to travel affordably and go on your vacation without spending all your savings. Using these expert travel tips, you’ll be trading stress for sunglasses, obligations for oceans, and responsibilities for some much-needed R&R in no time!

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