Nothing can be more aggravating that looking for travel deals. I’ve written about how to find a cheap car rental and how airfare pricing drives me crazy but putting together a post about how I search for hotels has been not as easy as I though it would be.
I think it comes down to numbers. To fly from point A to point B, there are only so many airlines you can fly on. When you get to your destination, there are only a limited number of rental car companies to choose from. When it comes to hotels, the options can seem endless.
For every trip, there are some requirements that will allow you to narrow your search. For this post, I’m looking for the cheapest room (that I will be willing to stay at). To start, lets say that I’m looking for a hotel for a night near Los Angeles Airport; that will narrow my search significantly. I use a site that has a good map function, like TripAdvisor, to do my first search.
From here, I’m able to get a list of the highest rated hotels in the area and the prices for when I’m looking to stay. I can now make choices based on my preferences if I want to stay with Hilton (Hampton Inn and Embassy Suites) or with Hyatt (Hyatt Place).
For example, we’ll look at the two cheaper options. While the Hampton Inn is $8 less expensive, I recently had a really good stay at an Hyatt Place, so I’ll check them out first.
As you can see, the least expensive place to book the Hyatt Place is with Hotwire.com. Clicking on the link here would take you to Hotwire to complete the booking. However, that might not be your best move at this time.
By clicking on the hotel name, you can see all of the offers available. I always look for the hotel official site, in this case Hyatt.com, to see their price. In this case the price looks more expensive, but I’ll check anyway, to make sure.
That sure looks like the Hyatt official site is more expensive than the other sites such as Hotwire, Travelocity and Hotels.com, doesn’t it? Hmmm…lets look at the Hotwire offer a little closer.
So the Hotwire offer is for the same room (1 King bed standard room), has free cancelation, and you pay at the hotel.
To be honest, I wasn’t looking for that scenario when I started writing this post. Usually the hotel official rate is lower or at least within $1 to $2 of the other sites. However with such a difference between the other “main” booking sites and the official Hyatt site, you have an important decision to make. Should you book with Hotwire, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Expedia or should you book through the Hyatt.com site?
For me, qualifying for status or getting premium benefits don’t apply. In this case, I’d book through one of the other websites, making sure to read the fine print to make sure the reservation is fully cancelable until just before the stay with no penalties, and that I’d be able to pay the hotel directly for the stay. It’s worth the $25 a night not to book direct.
If I was really in the mood for a bargain, I’d also book a refundable room with Hyatt the same as the one I booked with the other website. I’d then go to Hyatt’s website to put in a claim against Hyatt’s Best Rate Guarantee. Here’s what Hyatt says on their website:
Want the best rates available on Hyatt rooms?
Book on Hyatt.com and get the guaranteed best rate at any Hyatt Hotel Worldwide.
Hyatt offers its Best Rate Guarantee when you book on Hyatt.com. With no booking fees, you can book a stay at any Hyatt hotel or resort including Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, Hyatt House, Hyatt Ziva and Hyatt Zilara properties, and get the best published rate available anywhere online.
We stand behind our guarantee. If you find a lower, qualifying rate published on another site, we’ll not only match it, we’ll discount it by 20% for your entire stay.
As you can imagine, there are any number of restrictions that Hyatt puts on this ‘guarantee.’ The most restrictive of them is that you have to book the lowest available rate available on Hyatt’s website before putting in a claim. This includes if the least expensive rate is also non-refundable.
That means you have to book a room that you have to prepay for with Hyatt before you can claim that you have found a room cheaper somewhere else, hoping that Hyatt will match it. So then what if your plans change? Maybe I don’t want to book a prepaid non-refundable room. Too bad if I want to claim a Best Rate claim. IMHO that’s a totally BS rule and undermines the point of saying that you always will honor the lowest rate, but I digress.
But back to this specific case. The cheapest room on the Hyatt website is a fully cancellable rate up to 24 hours before the stay. No harm in booking that and then submitting the claim form saying that you found a cheaper price on Priceline. If it works, Hyatt will match the lower rate plus 20%. The main requirement is you have to submit the request within 24 hours of booking the room with Hyatt. I suggest taking a screen capture of the rate on the other website to prove that you found the room at a less expensive rate, should it suddenly get pulled because it shouldn’t have been that price to begin with.
I’ve only tried this once myself but I was able to score an amazing room at the Park Hyatt Washington D.C. for $155 a night. I spent an extra $33 to upgrade us to a Park Junior Suite where the shower was bigger than some rooms we’ve stayed in.
Most times, it won’t be that confusing. You’ll find a rate on TripAdvisor, Oyster or Trivago and the hotel chain website will be the same. IN THAT CASE, you can just to the hotel official site, log in with your loyalty number (here’s how to sign up if you don’t have one) and book your room. Oh, you didn’t forget to check for discounted rates with AAA, AARP, Senior or Military did you? I didn’t think so.
Booking with the hotel directly does have benefits. Most hotel chains require you to book direct to get points in the hotel programs for your stay and they’ll include things like free wi-fi. That might be worthwhile, depending on the difference in price. It’s rumored that you’ll get a better room if you book direct instead of through a different website. So if you don’t want a room over the dumpster and a/c unit, it might be worth the few extra dollars to book direct.
So what tricks do you use to find a cheap hotel? Have you ever put in a claim for a best rate guarantee and was it honored? I’m always looking to pick up new hints.
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