I have to be honest, I am a five star gal. I love a good hotel and all the trimmings that come with it. And who doesn’t?
But we all know the five star life comes with a five star price. And while I don’t mind paying for the experience, I also want to ensure I get value for money. With hotels facing competition from the likes of Airbnb and similar, they are working harder than ever to get your business.
I’ve compiled my seven best “hotel hacks” for getting the best price, a nice room and even some extra benefits for your next stay:
- Pay for Club Floor Access
As an often single female traveler, this can be gold. Also, for couples and families, this can not only be a lifesaver, but a money saver. Many brands, for example Intercontinental allow you to upgrade (for a fee) at check-in. Here’s why it’s worth it – ALWAYS free breakfast, usually free drinks and snacks in the evening, a haven away from the madding crowd and usually a better room (more space, closer to the action). An example of this is my recent in Bali where the Club rooms included access to a private pool, free breakfast at any restaurant in the resort, afternoon tea, evening cocktails at one of three venues, free transfers from the airport and more. Hyatt also has some of the best and most generous club floors I have experienced, with wine and beer, occasionally cocktails and always some innovative canapes and finger food.
2. Join the Club
Just like airlines, hotels have their own loyalty programs and some of them are excellent and offer members cheaper rates online. Usually members get free wifi, can gain points for upgrades and have a better experience (think gifts in room etc). While I am loyal to Qatar Airways for frequent flyer points, I tend to spread my hotel love around, primarily because for many programs, membership has its privileges. Hyatt is another chain with a strong program, offering points for upgrades, late check-ins (worth their weight for late flights), etc. Again, Intercontinental’s program shines, because it offers great benefits. It also has a great program called Ambassador’s Program which for US$200 a year (or 25,000 of their loyalty points), you score guaranteed upgrades, a free weekend hotel night and other benefits. Here’s a tip, the smaller hotel chains are also among the most generous. I love the Anantara program, they have a great range of hotels and offer great rates for members.
3. Book Direct
Don’t be fooled by the claims of “cheaper rates” at places like http://www.booking.com. Most big hotel chains have a policy of bettering those rates on some of those sites. Also, you can’t earn loyalty points AND quite often the rules are very inflexible. Try their websites, also, it never hurts to call a hotel direct and ask what specials or rates they have on offer. Also remember, many brands like the funky W offer free wifi if you book direct with them. A side tip – if you live in the GCC, many hotels give special rates for residents. For example, during the recent Eid holiday period, many hotels in Doha offered special rates and packages for Qatar residents.
4. Let them know about special events
Hotels love a reason to make their guests feel special, so letting them know about a birthday stay, anniversary or another special event like a graduation etc, gives them a chance to do that. While it might not be as extravagant as a room upgrade, you may score a cake, some special treatment or a bit more!
5. Get Status Matched Across Hotel Loyalty Programs
Most of the big players in the loyalty stakes – Hyatt, Intercontinental, Hilton, Starwood and the excellent Marriott Rewards, will match your status if you have an “elite” (gold etc) with another brand. I have elite status with Hilton thanks to my status with Hyatt. This means, additional benefits, free wifi and better rooms. No complaints there! You just have to contact them directly and prove your elite status with one chain (send them a scan of your loyalty card). Pure gold!
6. Use them or lose them
Points that is. Many chains like Hyatt and Starwood will let you earn points on dining or spa treatments. This also means you can use them to pay for not just rooms, but experiences like treatments. A great program for this is Shangri La’s Golden Circle. In Doha, you not only get a 20 percent discount in all their restaurants (yep…that’s right), BUT you can also earn points for room nights and other activities.
7. Book Last Minute
This goes against every Virgo bone in my body, but for hotels this can work for your advantage, especially in quiet periods. It’s no secret for example that the current GCC “situation” has meant fewer Saudi Summer visitors for Qatar, so in recent weeks hotels have been working overtime to come up withs special deals for those looking for a staycation. Sometimes waiting can work in your favor. Also, in busy periods, many hotels experience what is called a “wash” when unsecured bookings (those not paid for in advance or secured with a valid credit card), do not show or change plans. This is a greta time to secure a booking in a popular hotel.
No plan is foolproof, and these are just the product of my experiences. But I do hope they help you have a better hotel stay next vacation!