Meet DeAnne Connolly Graham, a tourism industry veteran, who will describe how to save money when booking a hotel. She based her responses to our questions on her own experience combined with some input from a well-known hotelier, who asked to remain anonymous.
If you have tips on saving money on hotels, please share your comments below.
How long have you been in the tourism industry?
Years ago people only had the choice to stay with family, friends, or in hotels when they traveled. Now they have a number of choices including sites such as Airbnb, Home Away, and others. Why stay at a hotel?
A hotel has support services and amenities that you can’t get at an Airbnb or that type of property. Also as of now, they are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, nor do they have many of the necessary insurances or security in place.
What tips do you have for getting the best deal? Many people use travel websites for the convenience of not having to call each hotel individually. Is someone better off using those sites or booking with the hotel directly through the hotel website, the 800 number, or the calling actual local hotel?
Travel sites are great for comparing rates and features for properties, however, I would suggest that once you find a hotel you like, contact the property directly. They will almost always match the rate and sometimes even give an upgrade. Because hotels have to pay commission to these 3rd party sites, they will often be happy to honor the discounted rate as well as add something extra.
How far in advance should people book a hotel room?
You want to book your reservations 30+ days out so that you can get the best airfares coupled with the reservation.
Any tips on getting an upgrade for free at a hotel? Some recommend checking in close to the end of the day to have a better chance at getting one. Do you agree?
There is not a good strategy for upgrades during a region’s high season. For example hotels in South Florida run at run 90% + occupancy rates during the winter season. However, during the summer season hotels may be a little more flexible on certain days of the week when occupancies are lower. To assure an upgrade, a traveler could be proactive and maybe book a lower category and then suggest to the reservations agent a possible upgrade fee to guarantee the upgrade.
Are there certain days of the week or times of the year that it’s cheaper to book a hotel?
It depends on the type of property and seasonality dictated by location. Business hotels in a downtown district are always busy during the week and may have flexibility on weekends if they are not near an entertainment district. Resorts are always sold out on weekends and may have opportunities during the week if their base group business is not there.
Are hotel loyalty programs worth it? Why or why not?
Yes, Yes and Yes! We live in a society where loyalty is everything. “Point Junkies” live of their rewards, especially when they travel for a living.
Is it cheaper to get the hotel when you book your flight?
Many airlines or websites offer bundling. Bundled packages are a great way to save on your travel, especially when hotels and airlines have distressed periods and offer deep discounts.
Some recommend booking 24-48 hours before you want to check in because you may get a better deal due to cancellations. Is that too risky or is that smart?
Last minute deals are not very often played by the hotels, as most are very sophisticated in the revenue management. Also when you book a last-minute deal, often the property name might not be available until you confirmed the booking. A better strategy would be to look for advance purchase deal that is further out if you truly know that you are traveling on certain dates.
What don’t people know they can ask for at most hotels?
Since most hotels have to have parity with the online third-party partners, travelers should be able to see the same information on either the hotel website or the online travel agency website. It is always good to inquire about special packages that might be bundled with a local promotion.Be careful booking through third parties, as their cancellation policies or change policies are more strict than when you often book with the hotel directly.
What would you recommend to someone on a budget?
If you are on a budget, simply shop your options on the internet and also call the hotel directly. Hostels are also a good and inexpensive option if you’re traveling with a group or don’t mind sharing space with others. As always do your research. There are very nice and not so nice hostels.
You know a lot of people in the hotel industry. How do they travel?
I posed my question to a friend who runs a hotel. Here was his answer: My personal travel habits have changed and my wife and I now only travel to hotels that are right in the middle of all the action. I like hotels where one can fly into the airport, take a taxi or shared ride service to the hotel and then just have your entertainment, dining and shopping experience right at your doorstep. This is how we have traveled to various locations around the world and how we selected our hotels for a stress-free experience with walkability in mind.
Why do you love to travel?
Adventure, new experiences, learning about various traditions and cultures, meeting interesting people
What has been your favorite trip and why?
To Grand Cayman because I have a lot of family still there
What destination is/are on your bucket list?
The Greek Islands, Italy, and Spain. I also want to see more of the natural parks throughout the U.S. Horseback riding, white water rafting and more zip lining adventures are on my list.
What is your best packing tip?
Pack light with outfits that can be mixed and matched. Ladies especially, don’t pack more than 3 pairs of comfortable shoes…basic colors that can go with any outfit.
What tips do you have to make it through a long plane, bus, or train ride?
Have a good book to read or access to the internet. Don’t stay seated too long. Get up at least every 30 minutes to stretch and move around.
How do you avoid jet lag or time zone fatigue?
I would suggest resting/taking a nap when needed.
What has been your biggest travel nightmare or mistake?
Flying back from Shanghai, I did not get up and move around on the flight back, and I could barely walk for 3 days after getting home. My legs were a mess! I found out later how really dangerous that can be.
If money were no object and you could retire or live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
South Florida. I do love it here, but I would do LOTS of traveling.
You can reach DeAnne at ROI Media Consultants, Inc or www.linkedin.com/in/deannegraham/