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Hotel Tips: Booking 101

So you’ve decided that you need a little weekend getaway, or you’re planning a family vacation… either way, you need a hotel room (if you’re not camping).

Here are a few things you should know, before booking that room.

1. Destination. Where are you going? What area of town are you staying at? For example – Minneapolis. Minneapolis is broken down into suburbs (too many to list here); Minneapolis, isn’t just Minneapolis. There’s Bloomington (central, west, and east), Egan, Richfield, downtown Minneapolis, etc. Mall of America, and Ikea are in Bloomington; Target Field and Metrodome are located close to Downtown and the Warehouse District, respectively.

2. Research. Once you’ve chosen a location, ask family and friends if they’ve been there and what hotels they’ve been to. They will tell you which ones to stay away from and which ones to go for. This also goes for strangers – if you have a specific hotel in mind, hit Google with the hotel name and location…. people will be brutally honest if they had a horrible experience, and brutally honest if they’ve had a great time. Some things people will complain about…

  1. Bed Bugs – if they’re there…. they will tell you! Hotels might not be upfront about it. They do want you to stay at their place of business after all.
  2. Front Desk Service – are they helpful? Do they pay attention? Understaffed, overstaffed?
  3. Breakfast or no breakfast?
  4. Towels – towel service has to be the number one complaint amongst guests…. none, too hard, dirty?
  5. Number of stairs to elevator ratio… some hotels don’t have elevators if it’s just two stories, or sometimes the elevator doesn’t work and you have to climb stairs.
  6. Pool – yes, no? Too hot, too cold? Too much chlorine? Too strict pool hours?
  7. Location, location, location! Do they advertise it’s close to a popular tourist attraction, but when you get there it’s a blatant lie?
  8. Room temperature – too hot, too cold? Are the guests able to adjust the temperature in the room, adjust the air conditioner?

3. Ready to book! Once you have a hotel chain in mind, keep these options in mind too. Calling a 1800 reservation number or booking online through their website, might not get you the best rate. The number/website rates only have a set one… you can’t get much of a good rate if you call/book online. Give the hotel a direct call. Sure you may pay long distance charges, but you just might get that awesome rate you’re looking for… and they might throw in a few extras for you.

For example – my dad called the hotel we’re staying at this summer. The online rate was $124/night and we’re there for a week. That would equate to $868 not including state and hotel taxes. He decided to call the hotel directly because there were a few specific things he needed – a wheelchair/disability accessible room, a mini fridge for his insulin, and a roll-away cot for myself (the wheelchair accessible room only has one bed and no pull-out sofa). We got a great deal on the room for booking directly with the hotel $86/night and that includes all the taxes; my dad also got the mini-fridge and cot for free, this would set you back $10 each if you required them. He also asked that since he’s heat sensitive due to his diabetes, for the suite to be set a certain temperature; the hotel was so courteous and the room will be set to about 75ºF for the time of our arrival.

If you still can’t get a good deal, your best bet is Hotwire. Hotwire is a hotel booking online service (also can get flights, and car rentals); when hotels have unbooked rooms, they sell them to Hotwire and Hotwire then gives you the customer a discounted deal – five-star hotel for a three star price (as their commercials say!). Hotwire is actually pretty awesome. My cousin used it last year for our trip to Minneapolis, and we stayed for two nights for $80! We stayed in Bloomington West and the hotel was awesome (Bloomington West is about 10 minutes to MOA).

The only downside is you cannot pick the hotel, but from what I’ve heard from other customers is they haven’t been dissatisfied with the service. They’ve always got a nice clean hotel and in a great area close to many tourist attractions. Hotwire picks the hotel for you, well the ones that have been sold for their services. You pay upfront (once all the booking goes through), and THEN they’ll send you the name of your hotel. Hotwire actually gives you a group of hotel names that you could stay at. For example: 3.5 star hotel in Bloomington West can net you either Hilton, Millennium, Crown Plaza, and other respected hotels.

I highly suggest Hotwire. We didn’t use their service for this trip, because they don’t have a wheelchair/disability access database yet. You have to call the hotel Hotwire gave you to see if the same rate can apply to the specific suite, and sometimes it could be a no.

4. Yummy, yummy in my tummy. To continental breakfast or not to continental breakfast… that is the question. For me, it’s a simple answer – yes… there must be SOME type of  free breakfast available (besides a restaurant attached to the hotel). Be it cereal or oatmeal, with juice…. something you can eat for “free” and not have to worry about eating out all the time. Trust me, if your hotel doesn’t have a continental breakfast (and some of them have YUMMY ones!) you will be spending up to $50 a day for breakfast plus the cost of eating out for lunch and dinner.

FYI – “free” continental breakfasts are included in the price of your hotel. If you’re paying $238 a night for a top star hotel room, there better darn well be a continental breakfast included in that price. (P.S. Hotwire also lists this service for the prices it gives you).

5. Location of hotel, location of attractions. This can deepen the pockets; sometimes only by a fraction, and sometimes by a lot. Since we’re talking about Minneapolis, let’s keep with it – Mall of America. If you want a hotel that’s right next door or five minutes, be prepared to see a high amount per night. This is what the hotel thought of when going in business – what you want, and how bad you want it. It’s just like supply and demand, it works just like that. You want to walk across the street and you’re inside Mall of America? Be prepared to pay over $100/night (if you didn’t follow tip #3).

Want to stay downtown where everything is happening? Same thing. Next to Target Field or minutes from the ‘Dome? Again, price, price, price. Same goes for Disney World in Orlando. Or the hotels on the strip in Vegas.

With these great tips, you should be able to now go out there and book a room. These are just some suggestions that you could follow to, hopefully, ensure a great hotel and an enjoyable stay.

Another great tip is time of arrival. Check-in for some states is 3pm, while check-out is 11 am (the hotel website will for sure give you the exact details). If you’ve arrived early to your destination and you’ve got a car full of luggage and don’t want to drive around town with them, visit the hotel you’re staying at and see if your room is ready and if you can check in early. Most of the time they will let you. Don’t be checking in at noon. Since check-out is usually 11, your room might not be ready. 1:30 – 2:30 can be the golden hours, but ask before you check in and be nice about it… don’t go demanding your room. Also an explanation is also great – if you’ve miscalculated your time of arrival and you’re honest with them, usually they throw you a bone.

This also can work with late check ins. If you’re going to be late… call the hotel directly! Explain your situation and also tell them that you really want to stay in this hotel… some hotels can really sympathize with travelers, and they really do want your business. Last summer we didn’t get in to Minneapolis until 1am and when my cousin called at 8pm (I didn’t get in to Grand Forks until 8ish because there was a long wait at US customs), they were able to save our room and not give it away (it was already paid for with Hotwire).

Do you have any tips? If so, post them in the comment section for the readers to see! Sharing is caring!

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