Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hidden hotel savings tricks

After several unsuccessful attempts at bidding for a four star hotel in Baltimore at a bargain rate last weekend, I conceded defeat and opted for the "automobile association" discount at a Sheraton property.  Although I was disappointed in not paying less, I did earn points and was able to flex my elite status into an upgrade.  But, the real lesson, besides learning to bid better (or more realistically) on priceline, was not considering what might be going on before I got there that 1) might have influenced the room/rate availability and 2) presented savings opportunities to exploit. 

Over Labor Day, there happened to be a large conference/convention going on at this particular hotel.  While it was great for the hotel, it was not so great as a guest in attendance that was not a part of the group.  After learning what the conference was, I was curious and researched the group.  Sure enough, there was a "special rate" for this conference last weekend.  While it may be a little sneaky, one could have easily found this promotion code and used it for their reservation, saving a bit more than I paid.  However, if you are looking to earn points as well with these special rates, you might be out of luck.  Starwood, in particular, doesn't allows this.  In many cases, though, you are better off saving the money when and where you can than worrying about the points, if you don't travel frequently.

For future bookings, when you want a particular hotel, and are willing to do a little "extra" research, try using Google to see if there is a conference going on.  It might not only yield a discounted hotel room, but airfare as well.  Here is a suggestion: in Google, enter the date(s) for when you want to stay in the search bar, add "special conference rate" and the city.  Using this method, a sample result can be seen here.  Scroll through the listings provided and look for a direct booking link or other code to use.  This is somewhat crude and can be refined to include the actual hotel name as well.  Most major cities have conferences going on all of the time at larger, more upscale hotels.