Last Minute Hotel Rooms
Last minute hotel rooms can be had at prices that would make Conrad Hilton weep. The one big “no-no” amongst hotel operators is having empty rooms, so they will go to almost any lengths to try and ensure full occupancy. One of the increasingly common routes they take is by offering deals for last minute hotel rooms.
Bargain hotel room deals will only be available if a hotel has a fairly large number of rooms to fill. As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, it’s all a question of supply and demand. Looking at the other side of the coin for a moment, if a hotel is almost full for a particular night or period then there will be no cheap hotel rooms on offer and no bargain late rooms. So avoid all local and international events that are likely to require people from outside requiring rooms. These will include major conferences and conventions, new year’s eve, football, a marathon and other big sporting fixtures, pop and rock concerts and festivals, and the like.
If you can’t avoid such busy periods – perhaps because you are attending the event itself – in order to get any bargain last minute hotel rooms, you’ll have to book somewhere a little further away than you might like. Provided transport links, roads and freeways make traveling between the two locations relatively easy, you’re all set.
You can either get your late rooms by going on to dedicated websites that specialize in last minute deals or late rooms or else do a search and/ or check out the ads. I always favor looking at ads because these reflect what’s happening at this exact moment. If a hotel operator wants to fill empty rooms quickly and cheaply the best and almost instant way is to put on ad online. Websites spend months and even years trying to get to the top of the Google, Bing and other search rankings and their position is more a sign of their efficiency at getting good search engine rankings than their ability to supply cheap late rooms.
You should beware of hidden extras that could add significantly to price you will end up paying for late rooms. These “extras” might include:
- Extra charge for breakfast: i.e. the offer is for “room only. One London hotel tried to charge me £32 just for a single breakfast (roughly $50 US!) once and charges of £10-£25 ($15-$40) are very common in large hotels throughout the world. Needless to say I refused and walked around the corner to a café, where I ate like a king for under £6.
- The price quoted does not include local taxes. In Europe, for example, this could be a 20-25% Value Added Tax (VAT) which will be added on to your bill at check-out.
- A booking fee. Some websites charge a booking fee on top of the prices quoted. My advice is to avoid these sites – unless, of course, they still offer the best deal, even with the booking fee added on.
- Extra charges for paying with a card. How else are you supposed to pay? Throw a brick through their windows, with dollar bills wrapped around it?
- … and there are others. Just beware.
Sometimes it’s worth calling hotels by telephone. To get the best rate, you need to be reasonably aggressive and ask what their best rates are. See if any special offers are available, such as multiple night discount, free parking offers and discounts for certain automobile or social clubs, maybe even for members of political parties. But before you telephone do your homework. Look online, try a few discount hotel room websites, especially those that specialize in last minute hotel rooms and see what the best price is.
Don’t forget to check out the hotel’s own website. They often have “lowest price guaranteed” arrangements, which mean that this really will be lowest deal available to you, though I’m often surprised at how often that phrase proves to be untrue! If you look in the small print, you’ll often see all kinds of get out clauses that excludes “websites operated by authorized agents and affiliates”, “contract booking price arrangements”, “deals made on a Tuesday afternoon when the sun’s shining in New Mexico” and so on. (OK, I made that last one up, but you get the idea?)
When you know what all the options and prices are, just pick the best deal available. It might be worth telling the receptionist you are speaking to that there’s a better offer available online (if there is – try not to engage in bluffing games, in my experience they seldom work), but don’t be surprised if the person you speak to at the hotel or at their reservations office suggests you take the online price. Very often hotels do deals with wholesale operators (the people who run these websites offering discounts for last-minute hotel rooms) that give them a better price than their own staff can offer – even with the website taking a discount from the hotel owners, which they all do.
Don’t be afraid of haggling. It is often regarded by “westerners” as a “common” or “foreign” thing to do, but haggling does get you the best deal. Even so, I’d suggest that once you arrive at the hotel for your stay that you stop be pushy and troublesome. OK, perhaps see if you can get a room upgrade (they tend to offer these to nice, friendly people, by the way), or free or reduced price parking, but leave it at that.
The best way to get a deal next time is to be the model guest. People who cause trouble and extra work for the hotel staff do so at their own peril. As someone who used to work in hotel and restaurant kitchens, I can assure that those horror stories they assure you are urban myths are actually true!
Enjoy your last minute hotel rooms and bask in the knowledge that, once you get the knack, you will never pay full price for a hotel room again. Believe me, it’s a lovely feeling.