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Travel Smarter 2012: Tips for finding a better hotel room
It's a simple goal – travel more for less in 2012. In this tight economy we're all searching for ways that we can travel better, smarter and cheaper in 2012, and here at Gadling Labs we're bringing you information about how to get the best hotel deals possible. Here's how you can get started.
Scour Social Media
You're already aware that hotels offer specials on their Facebook and Twitter pages.
2012 Twist: If you make yourself known before arrival and have some social media clout (or Klout, as the case may be), you may even snag yourself an extra upgrade or discount – like HARO founder Peter Shankman's surprise dinner at Morton's.
Stephanie Gravalese-Wood, marketing coordinator and social media "voice" behind The Red Lion Inn, says that they monitor their social channels and regularly check in with guests to see how their stay or experience was. "For anyone mentioning that they are looking to stay, we direct them to our Last Minute Specials page as well as to our social media travel specials." It's helped draw a minimum of 50 clicks on the first day and more than 100 each week.
You can also try checking in on location-based apps like FourSquare, where you may score extra points or specials. SPG members, for example, get extra points for checking in with linked accounts.
You know apps on your iPhone or Android can make travel easier.
2012 Twist: Mobile booking, particularly at the last minute. Use apps like Priceline's "Tonight Only Deals" tool, or the aptly named program Hotel Tonight to score up to 60% off reservations for that evening. Sometimes being a procrastinator pays off – we've seen hotels for up to $50 less than the best available price on their website through the app. You may not know which hotel you're booking until you've paid, but we've yet to see a hotel that's not of the quality advertised.
You know how to ask for a corner room or higher floor.
2012 Twist: Seeing your actual room, via a site like Room 77. Just how good is that upgrade? Sites like Room 77 tour individual hotel rooms to show you exact views, distance from the elevator and more. If you're a light sleeper, need to get work done or just want to know if the upgrade is worth the cash, we'd suggest you check this out.
Read Reviews Carefully
The days of picking the top-rated hotels on TripAdvisor hotel are over.
2012 Twists: We're not saying to discount TripAdvisor entirely – the site is still our best way to see real-time trip reviews coming in from travelers. But, in recent months news has shown that the site may not be the most accurate reflection of a trip. Instead, we'd suggest turning to social reviews or checking out the property's social media profiles - honest feedback is often posted by travelers in the comments section.
Try Something New
Don't go for the big chains just 'cause.
2012 Twist: We've long been fans of boutique hotels for their smaller size, more personalized service and often better costs. Still, we see the advantage of knowing what you're getting, particularly when it's a place you haven't visited before. Not sure where to find a property? You can always turn to reputable member organizations like Five Star Alliance, Relais & Chateaux, Leading Hotels of the World, Preferred Hotels and more for databases.
If booking boutique is out of your price range or isn't an option, we'd suggest searching for a newly-opened property. Sure, all of the kinks might not be worked out yet (the spa or all restaurants might not be open) but you can almost always find rates of 20 to 30% off the normal price, a bonus for being one of the first to book. Plus, everything is shiny and new! Keep up with us – we'll tell you about all of the best hotel openings and where to book.
Research, Research, Research
Skip the travel agent.
2012 Twist: Okay, we're not saying to hate on travel agents entirely– there are many companies that do a great job. But we're pretty sure that most travelers out there now are old pros at that thing called "The Internet" (after all, you're reading a blog) so take matters into your own hands. Try combining flight and hotel costs on Expedia.com or Orbitz.com. Search Kayak and take advantage of their flexible flight search and newly integrated TripAdvisor reviews. Check a new favorite, FlightFox, for great airfare deals. Scan the hotel website for deals. See if social media will score you an extra discount.
Flash Sale Savvy
Find the best deal site for you.
2012 Twist: You know sites like Jetsetter, SniqueAway and RueLaLa travel exist. So USE THEM. We can't always say you'll get the best deal – we've seen rates that compare on the hotel's website or via other OTAs, but if you plan ahead and watch your email alerts, you can often score great deals on hotels that you otherwise couldn't afford. Cities like Las Vegas, New York and Washington, DC, have regular and wonderful deals as well as Caribbean and European destinations. If you're looking for something cheaper, consider Groupon or LivingSocial's travel verticals, great for getting away for a night or two close to home. Of course, if you refer friends (on the off chance that they're not already using these sites), you can even earn credit towards your next trip.
You know check-in is at 3 PM.
2012 Twist: Know not to throw a fit when your room isn't ready if you arrive at 11. If you know you're arriving early, call ahead of time and ask if your room is available or can be made ready for your arrival. Yes, hotels are in the service industry, but front desk employees still like to be treated nicely.
Leverage your benefits.
2012 Twist: Loyalty programs once only benefited the business traveler and the jetsetter who stayed frequently enough to accrue huge amounts of points. Not anymore – programs like SPG's now only require 50 or 75 nights a year to accrue major status (easy for the moderate to heavy traveler) and your credit card can even earn you rewards. Some programs, like Kimpton and Delta, even give you extras like free internet just for signing up to be a loyalty program member - before even your first night's stay.
Have another tip we haven't listed? Share it in the comments, below.
[flickr image via Wolfgang Staudt]
Filed under: Hotels and Accommodations