Posted in Hotel, Travel

How to beat the system – Beating Hotwire rates

Before booking any hotel, please do a price comparison on all travel sites using both your laptop/PC and your cell phone.  Travel websites love to advertise lower rates on mobil phones using their applications but don’t let anybody mislead you, it is not always lower and you probably can do better than that.  A friend of mine, Ivan Aramayo said that if you clear your cache and cookies, the travel websites will also reset with a slightly different price in your favor. If you really look around you can beat Hotwire or even Priceline!  When buying Hotwire Hot Rates or when you name your price on Priceline, you don’t even know what you are getting until after purchase.

I am already preparing for my 10 day road trip at the end of this year in Hungary – Czech Republic – Austria and need either an apartment for 4 adults or 2 double rooms in a hotel in Innsbruck, Austria. We would be checking in on January 3, 2017, checking out on January 4, 2017. I love to go for the impossible, which is getting a 4 star apartment or hotel room on 2 star cost, so let’s go for it.

I normally start with Hotwire.com, I chose a star category and an area and off you go.

The lowest 4 star hotel,  the Austria Classic Hotel Binders Innsbruck on Hotwire Hot Rate on my IPhone is $76.

hotwire

Now go and check the same hotel on the same travel site, www.hotwire.com but this time on your laptop computer.  I have a MacBook Pro and I am seeing the same hotel on the same site being only $69.  That is $7 lower so for 2 rooms the difference is already $14 plus taxes, about 20 bucks.

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If you have a stand alone computer I would suggest to go check that as well, I can pretty much guarantee you that you would get another rate.

I think I can beat this Hot Rate 🙂

Go on Tingo.com and check the same hotel: Hello $52 a night!

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I can still do better than this: Hotels.com lists the same hotel for $50 a night, this is just getting better!

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Lastly, my favorite website: Expedia, and no surprise, being a Gold+ member, they are giving me the best rates available: $48!!!!!

From $76 I went down to $48 per night saving a total of $56 on 2 rooms for 1 night.

Not too shabby! 🙂

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Image: resultsincoaching

http://www.instagram.com/travelbigspendsmall

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Posted in Hotel, Travel

How to check your hotel room for bed bugs

Nothing worse than traveling and taking your new “pets” home in your luggage and clothing.

I came across this video on Facebook that shows you how to examine your room in a couple of minutes and tells you what to do when you do find bed bugs.

This is how bed bug bites look like:

arm

Please check out Jim Dill’s video from the University of Maine and prepare for your trip 😉

 

Image: homeinspectioncost, bed-bugbites

Posted in Travel

Best Price Guarantee

Most hotels offer you a Best Price Guarantee (BPG) but only if you book directly with them.  Before booking ALWAYS CHECK THE CURRENCY depending on which country that is in.  Also keep in mind that there are different types of rooms, some with breakfast or taxes included, so you really have to be sure to compare “apples with apples”.  Most hotels claim that if you find a lower rate elsewhere they will match the lower rate and give you an additional 5-10% off which sounds good but they exclude a few websites and have terms and conditions so you may disqualify. Now, if the room rates are non-refundable and you disqualify you get stuck on a higher rate without getting the promised refund and 5-10% discount.  It is the hotel’s best interest that you book directly with them because they try to avoid paying a commission to travel sites who sell their rooms but you need to watch out for your best interest 😉

Before booking a foreign hotel make sure that your credit card does not bear transaction costs for international purchases because if it does, it is best NOT to book directly with the foreign hotel; is best to book your hotels in the USA, in US funds to avoid such transaction costs.

American travel sites also offer you a Best Price Guarantee (for foreign hotels) and I personally prefer to deal with an American company because I can use coupons and reward bucks, earn points or get money back if I belong to a loyalty program.  Customer service may not be as good outside of the USA so it is more pleasant and worry-free to deal with American companies (should things go bad with the hotel).  American sites also refund you the difference and Expedia, for example, gives you a $50 travel coupon which I have qualified for many times.  The only disadvantage of the Best Price Guarantee on American sites is that you need to find a lower rate within 24 hours unless you are Expedia+ Gold level customer, in that case you can take advantage of the BPG program until the day of your travel, which is more like it.
Image: iscrapapp
Posted in Hotel, Travel

How to remedy hotel issues

The best way to prepare for your trip is by booking on American travel sites because they stand behind their promise.  If you live outside of the USA use your local travel agencies that are registered in your country, offer warranty and have a good customer satisfaction.

So you booked a room and arrived.  The shower head is missing and there is no hot water. There is mold growing in the bathroom, water running in the toilet.  You have an ocean view room but can’t see the water because of the dirty windows and spiderwebs. Plaster or tiles are coming off, the smoke detector start beeping at 3 AM because the battery is dying.  You are in the mountains in the middle of the winter and heat is so weak your mucus could freeze to your face.  This passed August on the Mediterranean in one my hotels there was no AC which was hard to bear; we opened the windows but the passing trains were pretty disturbing until about midnight.  You book a nice resort overseas with a tropical pool and a swim-up bar but the pool is closed for either maintenance or for the season and green algae is growing int it.

What if you get awaken at 2 AM because the front desk called your room by mistake?  There are people heavily partying in the room next to you, making noise even on the hallway, slamming doors.  Does any of it sound familiar? For me it is all of the above, I have seen it all in my 25 years of traveling but instead of putting up with it, I opened my mouth.

Simply go the front desk and complain, hopefully they will either call for maintenance or transfer you to another room (in those cases they normally upgrade you) or give you a discount from your room rate when you check out, unless you prepaid it. One resort threw in free breakfasts, internet and valet parking for the remaining days of my vacation.  If the problem persists then you gotta complain to your travel agency when you return; just document the case by taking pictures, perhaps the names you speak with at the hotel.

As mentioned above, travel agencies protect customers so if you could not resolve the problem directly with the hotel, they will help you, you can expect either a partial refund or a future travel coupon anywhere between $25 and $200, depending on how serious the violation was.

SPEAK UP, you have rights as a customer, even overseas!

Image: extra.shu.ac

Posted in Hotel, Travel

You booked a room but the hotel no longer exists. Now what?

The best way to prepare for your trip overseas is by booking on American travel sites because they stand behind their promise.  If you live outside of the USA use your local travel agencies that are registered in your country, offer warranty and have a good customer satisfaction.

Learn from my experience: I booked a trip to Costa Rica seven months in advance. I am my own travel planner and “travel agent”so I put this customized 10-day self-drive tour together.  First I planned the road trip (mapped the country) then booked rooms in the cities we were going to visit. I used different travel sites to take advantage of all possible deals and promotions but I used American agencies for each reservation.  It was important to fish for deals since we were traveling during the winter holidays, spending both Christmas and New Year’s Eve over there.  Winter in Costa Rica is “peak season” and  even with high rates, hotels do get sold out during holidays.

Two weeks prior to my trip I reviewed the plans and started to look into facultative programs for each city.  I googled my hotels but one of them was nowhere to be found.  First I thought that was impossible, an American travel agency would never let me down.

I contacted the travel agency about my discovery which they initially did not believe; however the next day they emailed me telling me that the phone line was ringing out without anybody answering and there was no voicemail set up.  I started to worry, the hotel should be crowded this time of the year; morning and evening hours are the busiest hours of the day with guests checking in and out, so somebody should be there.  And why wouldn’t they have a voicemail? Do they have enough staff?  Sure enough, two days later I got the notification that the hotel was sold and they terminated the contract with the old management.

They offered me a full refund but I refused to accept it, simply told them to fix this because now I won’t be able to find another room ON THE SAME RATE 0f $44 including taxes, in the same class with the same amenities and volcano view, including a breakfast buffet and free passes to a thermal spa, during Christmas. Upgrade is acceptable, downgrade is not 😉

I went through the regular customer service before requesting a supervisor, who escalated the case.  I was “screaming and yelling” at everybody because I was nervous;  what if prices went up since then, or what if nothing was available anymore, and I certainly did not want to change the cities of my road trip.  The manager looked up my hotel area and googled about 12 resorts online, which she called one by one.  As expected, everything was sold out and days were passing fast as we were trying solve this problem.  Since the supervisor was unsuccessful in securing another room she made me a nice offer: refunded my money and gave me a total of $500 towards the trip, including car rental.

My biggest challenge was to find another hotel and the possibility of re-writing the road trip last minute.  Being resourceful as I am, I was able to locate another hotel but 40 minutes away from the volcano with an average cost of $100 per night with taxes; however, I slightly altered the original plans.  I still had $200 leftover, which covered the entire cost of the car rental for 10 days (I only had to pay $22 out of pocket after taxes). So at the end things went in my favor but they surely gave me a lot of headache!

If you point out that the travel agency made a big mistake by not disclosing the termination of your hotel and letting you travel overseas (holidays or not) without timely communication. Imagine when you arrive and your hotel is not there, just a vacant lot!!  What’s worse is that you already paid for it!! Being holidays everything is sold out in the area, you would not have a room to sleep and shower!  You may not have internet or signal on high altitude to google another hotel or call anybody, other than just driving around and stopping by hotels costing anywhere $200-600 a night. What a waste of time and frustration it would have been!  If the agency lets you know ahead of time, you might have had better luck with pricing and keeping the original plans.

MY ADVISE: Google your hotels before your trip to make sure they are still there!