You’ve seen the bazillion ads on TV, on the web, on your phone, everywhere – ‘Best prices on the internet for hotel rooms!’ Did you believe the ad? You’re doing it wrong.
Did you do a search on the web for a hotel room and see lists of search results marked Ad in tiny print? Did you enter your dates only to be told there’s nothing available for those dates at any of the places you want to stay, BUT here, try one of our ‘partners’? Did you click and book? You’re doing it wrong.
Did you ever find yourself in one of those booking services (Trivago, Expedia, Hotels, Booking) and see flashing text stating ‘only one room left at this price’ or ‘last room booked 10 minutes ago, these prices won’t last’? Did you panic, click and reserve? You’re doing it wrong.
Do you look at reviews on TripAdvisor before you make a reservation? Have you seen No availability for your dates from these sites? Did you think that lovely B&B had no rooms open? You’re doing it wrong.
Where do booking services find all those rooms?
A short explanation and then all will be revealed for how to get the best price for your stay. Booking services charge individual properties a fee to get you to book a room. They use scare tactics like ‘last room!’ or ‘prices going up!’ to get you to book right away without doing any research. (Plus, they have to pay for all those TV ads somehow.) They put the hotels closer to the top that give them the most inventory or that charge the highest prices because they make a commission on every sale. From 3% to 30% on every room.
Why isn’t my favorite B&B in the list?
Many B&B’s and inns don’t have rooms on these aggregate sites. 30% of your income is a big bite! Which is why, if you love B&B’s, you should expand your search and not click on the ads that pop up first. Look at the map that your search engine sometimes provides. That usually gives you at least 3 B&B’s from which to choose.
But, back to the hotel room aggregators – hotels have wised up. That’s why you now see ads from hotels wooing you to ‘book direct’. They no longer give the booking service the ‘best’ rooms. They do what’s called ‘run of the house’. Sounds like you get everything, right? No. You get whatever room is left. The one next to the elevator, the one next to the pool where the basketball team that just won the championship is celebrating, the one next to the housekeeping or utility ‘closet’, the one with the great view of the parking garage.
Now it’s time for you to wise up as well! By all means use those aggregating services to find hotels in the area where you are going. They do sorting for you, too. Want a B&B instead of a hotel? Sort by ‘type of property’. Want pet friendly? They sort by that as well. (Good also if you have allergies and DON’T want pet friendly!)
Now that you have your list of properties in the area, don’t be dismayed if everything seems ‘full’. Hotels don’t give all of their availability to the booking service. This is where the cagey shopper in you comes to the fore – call the property directly. Here’s a sample of what you may find:
- There IS a room for you on the dates you want (hotels hold rooms back from the service);
- It’s less expensive than on the booking service (no commission for the hotel);
- They may also give an AAA or AARP discount that the booking service doesn’t have;
- You can select the room you want (as available). No need to squish your 6’6″ frame into a double bed;
- Breakfast may now be included (more savings!). Of course, breakfast is always included at a B&B;
- Optional packages may now be available to you. Maybe the hotel has a dinner package or sightseeing tickets you can take advantage of.
Another option, if you’re doing your planning late at night, is to do a simple search on the property that catches your eye. 99% of all hotels, B&B’s, and inns now have online reservations where you can check their calendar whenever you’re awake. (We get reservations coming in from Australia when we’re sound asleep!) You can find your room and make your reservation with a few clicks or taps.
After all this, you may find the rate on the booking service IS lower than the hotel’s website. But, you still have wiggle room. Ask the hotel if they will meet the price you see on Expedia, etc. If you want exactly what’s listed ‘standard queen room, no breakfast’ more than likely the hotel will agree to meet that price because they are still saving the 20% commission. Everyone wins!
A few easy steps to get the best value for your trip:
There you are – how to do it right. Save a little money on your next vacation. Spend it to do something fun like a sunset sail, a hot air balloon ride, or buy silly souvenirs for the kids.
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