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Hotels
Hotels Worth The Trip
07.28.11

To complement our Inside Tracks on great hotels, we’ve assembled these practical tips to help you navigate the world of hotel travel. It pays to research in advance—you’ll get the most out of your stay and you’ll sleep so much better..

Finding the Best Rates

Travel websites can help you locate a hotel by price. Search to see what’s available at what price, then visit the hotel’s own website or call the hotel directly. Many hotels will guarantee the lowest rate at the time of booking and/or match lower prices you’ve found elsewhere. Sometimes a hotel chain’s national reservations number offers different rates than the hotel itself. Try both.

Other options:

  • Join AAA for hotel and travel discounts, starting at 10%
  • Join a hotel rewards program
  • Look for discounts when booking air, flight & hotels togethe
  • Sign up for a credit card that offers travel rewards

Golden-Age Discounts

Travelers over age 50 should ask for senior discounts when booking travel. AAA or AARP membership provides special senior discounts for hotels, cruises, vacation packages, car rentals and more. Look for or ask about potential senior discounts with hotel chains like Marriott (15%), Hyatt (up to 50% in the U.S. or Canada), Hilton and Starwood. Be sure to have your ID at check-in—you may look younger than you think.

Contact Information

In case you need to be reached at your destination, be sure a friend, relative or neighbor has the following information:

  • Your itinerary
  • Your hotel reservation (with dates and contact info)
  • Your cell phone number (call your carrier to find out about service and extra charges at your destination)
  • Your room number (call or email someone with the number after you arrive)

Getting an Upgrade

Upgrades are a nice bonus when checking into your destination hotel, but you won’t usually get them out of the blue. Here are some ways to increase your chances:

  • Join the hotel/resort’s loyalty program before arrival—you’ll be on the priority list to get an upgrade when certain room categories are overbooked.
  • Book directly through the hotel website or reservations number and kindly inquire about a possible upgrade from the guest services/front-desk manager before arrival. Get it in writing, if possible.
  • When you book a room, mention you’re celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or honeymoon, or that you’re considering staying at the hotel as an annual tradition.
  • Show up as a late walk-in (without a reservation). You may receive a free or discounted upgrade because the hotel has rooms available for the night but no reservations for them.

In all cases: Ask with grace and receive with gratitude.

Tipping

In general, a tip for good service is part of traveling unless gratuities are included (e.g., as part of the “resort fee”) or the staff is not allowed to accept them. Keep small bills handy for cleaning staff, bellmen, valets, shuttle drivers, room-service waiters and concierges. Leave daily tips in your room for housekeepers since they may rotate during your stay. Tipping policies vary from country to country—research your destination in advance so you don’t offend anyone.

Included or Extra?

Don’t assume that basic hotel amenities or services will be included in the price of your room. Find out if the hotel includes the following items in its rates before you book your stay:

  • Breakfast
  • Business services (faxing, scanning, package delivery)
  • Crib or extra bed
  • Early check-in or late check-out
  • Gym access
  • Internet access
  • Luggage hold
  • Parking
  • Phone calls (local calls are not always free)
  • Pool towels
  • Refreshments (bottled water, coffee, tea, snacks)
  • Safe (in room or at the front desk)
  • Shuttle service

Service Fees

Extra surcharges may appear on your hotel bill, so be prepared. Ask in advance and search the hotel’s website for service fees. If you don’t feel you should be charged for certain fees, voice your concerns before you book and the charges may be waived. Such fees include:

  • Concierge, bellhop, housekeeping or valet fee (per day or per stay)
  • Energy surcharge
  • Groundskeeping fee
  • Holiday or weekend surcharge
  • Local, city & government fees & taxes
  • Minibar restocking fee
  • Resort fee ($10–$40, sometimes charged daily)

Disputing Fees

Always inspect your hotel bill carefully before you sign it. Except for taxes, hotel service fees can often be negotiated or waived, especially if they are poorly or improperly disclosed, or not disclosed at all. Calmly protest to the front desk or hotel manager if you weren’t aware of a fee in advance or if it seems unwarranted.

Check Your Room First

When you get to your hotel room, make sure it has everything you’ve requested (e.g., king-size bed, non-smoking, balcony, view, special needs) before you unpack. Check to see that the basics (shower, toilet, TV, locks, lights, Internet) are in working order. If something isn’t right, it’s easier to just grab your suitcase and move to another room. If you aren’t satisfied with your room after seeing it, call the front desk and clearly express why before asking if anything better is available. Try to negotiate the price if you’re offered another room at a higher cost.

Late Arrival

Most hotels require a guaranteed deposit to hold rooms after a certain time (e.g., 6 p.m.). Without a secured deposit, the hotel may cancel your reservation and give the room to someone else. Check the hotel’s late arrival policy. If you are delayed en route and expect to arrive late, call the hotel staff to let them know you’re still coming.

Late Check-out

Standard hotel check-out time used to be noon, but these days, some properties would like you to check-out as early as 10 a.m. Be sure to read the hotel’s check-out policy. If you want more time, ask for a late check-out and find out if it will cost extra. Most hotels will grant your request. If they can’t, they will usually offer to store your bags in their luggage hold for a few hours.

Weekend & Off-Season Rates

Believe it or not, some hotel weekend rates may be cheaper than weeknight rates. This is usually true for hotels that cater to business customers who work in the area during the week. You may also be able to find off-season or “shoulder season” (between busy high seasons) specials. Research the high season at your destination and try to book around it.

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