We are serial road trippers. We’ve been on a road trip recently and twice we noticed something sad while checking in to our hotel.
I felt sorry for this guy:
No, not William Shatner.
This guy: one poor guy looked like he’d been sleeping in his truck for days. He seemed to be going from place to place inquiring the price of a night’s stay. When he heard the price was $120 he sort of slumped away on his continuing search for a room he could afford.
I felt really bad for him, but didn’t think I could tell him how to find a deal since he was leaving while I was checking in. I hoped to find him outside, but he was gone. We paid about $60 for that room.
Another night a well-dressed couple checking in ahead of us complained about the cost of the room: $125/night. They paid it anyway. We paid $65 for the same room.
I wanted to shout, “You can get this room much cheaper!”
Why do people pay full price when they can get it at a discount? Here are reasons I’ve heard people give for this and how to get around those problems. Are any of these myths holding you back from great deals?
1. Problem: They think it’s too difficult to book a room online. They might say they don’t like to use computers or smart phones.
Solution: A friend or family member can show them how to use a site like Kayak.com where most deals are listed. You can find a hotel at the lowest price offered online that way. If that’s too difficult for them, teach them to use Hotwire or Expedia.
2. Problem: They think they can’t cancel a reservation and they don’t want to pay for a room they can’t use.
Solution: You can cancel a reservation 24 hours ahead of time if you reserve it on Expedia.com. That’s a huge benefit if you are not 100% sure that your plans won’t change.
3. Problem: They think you have to reserve a long time ahead and it’s too late to reserve a room online.
Solution: You can make an online reservation any time before you arrive at the hotel. When we’re on a road trip, we often pull in to a McDonald’s or other place with WiFi to make the reservation. Sometimes we’ve done that at a Mickey D’s right across the street from the hotel. No problem. It’s another way to avoid cancelling a reservation!
4. Problem: They don’t know how far they’ll drive on a particular day, so they wait until they are tired and find a hotel then.
Solution: See #3.
5. Problem: They are afraid a room booked online will not be nice enough.
Solution: In my experience you have to take the online star ratings with a little skepticism. Generally what I think of as a 2-star hotel is usually listed online as a 2 1/2 -star or 3-star hotel. If I have time, I read some of the reviews of the hotel before booking. I have never been disappointed booking a “3-star hotel” online. You can specify only 3-star hotels in your search at a particular site. Then if none are available in the city you are in, you can choose to drive farther to get to a 3-star hotel. We have done that with HotWire and have been pretty happy with the results.
6. Problem: They don’t want to bid on a room.
Solution: I don’t like to bid on rooms anymore myself. I used to on Priceline, but it was time-consuming and frustrating. I just use HotWire, Kayak, or Expedia these days. I did try Trivago, which is supposed to be similar to Kayak, but they did not have as many hotels to choose from as Kayak does.
7. Problem: They don’t want to have to check more than one site online.
Solution: I don’t like to go from site to site either. I generally check HotWire first, then Expedia, then Kayak if I can’t find something I like right away. Most of the time I don’t have to go beyond HotWire. They don’t have a lot of choices, but they have good prices.
8. Problem: You can’t get a deal for more than 2 persons per room.
Solution: This is true only when you bid on a room, like at Priceline, or when you don’t know the name of the hotel when you agree to buy that room. In those cases you are guaranteed a room that will sleep 2 people. You might get 2 queen beds or you might get one king or one queen or one double. If you reserve one room thinking there will be 2 queen beds, you could be sorely disappointed. If you have a family you can still book a room online for less than the standard price. Try Kayak.com and just specify the number of people. If you have a large group of people, consider contacting the hotel by phone as far ahead of time as you can to try to get a group discount. another option for a large group is to rent a home or apartment via HomeAway. They can often be cheaper per person when you have more than one family wanting to stay together.
9. Problem: You don’t know the name of the hotel until after you’ve paid.
Solution: Don’t bid on a hotel room and don’t agree to rent a room if the name isn’t listed. You can use Kayak for deals on named hotels. The discount won’t be as great as when you don’t know the name, but you are still getting the best available price for a named hotel.
10. Problem: Discount sites trick you into staying at a lesser hotel than you think you’re getting.
Solution: This is sometimes true. Whenever a site says the hotel is “like one of the hotels in this group:” you have to pay attention. Often they will have several hotels with very good reputations and one listed that is not as good as the others. Just figure that you will get the one with the lowest reputation. That way if you get it, you are ok with it, but if you get one of the better ones you will be pleasantly surprised. We usually get the least desirable of the group in those situations, but occasionally we’ve had good luck with a beautiful hotel for a very low price. I love it when that happens!
Extra Savings for Discover Card holders: you can get back 5% on any purchases you make on Expedia. You have to go through the link at Discover to get it. You might have a similar deal on one of your credit cards. It pays to check!
Do you have any reasons why you don’t like to book a room online? Why pay more for a room if you don’t have to? How do you save on hotel rooms? Do you have a favorite site to find deals?