Find out what you should know about hotels before your next business trip or vacation. You want a hotel to be your home away from home, but many aspects of hotel pricing and policy are anything but homey. Here’s what you need to know:
1. You can get the best rate by calling the hotel’s local number, not the 800 number, which usually links callers to an off-site, centralized call center. Instead of asking the reservations desk, ask to speak with the Manager on duty, the General Manager, or the Director of Sales. These people have the authority to negotiate room rates.
2. Rooms are more expensive in the morning. The best time of the day to make a reservation by phone is right after 6pm. This is when hotels wipe out all the no-show reservations that were unsecured by a credit card. They then offer these rooms at bargain rates. Note: In high-occupancy cities like New York or San Francisco, the deadline is 4pm.
3. Everything is negotiable.Think parking is overpriced? If the lot looks half empty, offer less than the daily rate. Planning to make a lot of phone calls? Some hotels offer a per-day flat fee for long distance in the U.S. and local calling — usually $9.95 — but you must ask for it.
4. Rooms are available even when a hotel has no vacancies. In any large hotel, a few rooms usually are listed as “out of order” at any given time. The problems might be something as simple as a stain on the carpet or a chair that has been sent out for repairs. If you’re desperate for a last-minute room in a hotel that claims to have none available, tell the manager you are willing to take an out-of-order room that has only a minor problem.
5. A thief takes one credit card, not your entire wallet. It’s no secret that crime is common in hotels. The new twist is that some hotel thieves now take just one credit card when they find an unguarded wallet in a room — and leave everything else untouched. Often, the victim doesn’t notice the card is missing until the credit line is maxed out.
Travel only with the credit cards you really need, and check your wallet carefully if you accidentally leave it unattended.
6. It pays to tip the housekeeper every day. Exchange a few pleasant words with the housekeeper if you see him/her — and leave a $2 or $3 tip each day. You’ll get better service. Housekeepers are the most overworked, underpaid, under appreciated people in the hotel, so any gesture will be appreciated.
Knowing the housekeeper also reduces the chances that your room will be burglarized. Dishonest housekeepers are less likely to target guests they have met. And if a thief enters your room while it is being cleaned and pretends to be you — a common ruse — the housekeeper will be able to spot the imposter.
7. Your bags aren’t safe with the bellhop. Even in elite hotels, luggage can be stolen right off the luggage carts in the lobby. Though these bags theoretically are in possession of the bellhop, the hotel assumes no legal responsibility for the loss.
If your bag is going to sit for more than a few minutes, ask that it be placed in a secure room. Keep valuable items in the hotel safe.
Helpful: High-end luggage might impress fellow travelers, but it also impresses thieves. The cheaper or uglier your luggage looks, the greater the odds that a thief will target someone else.
8. Hotel rooms are infested with germs. Certain items in hotel rooms never get cleaned. The biggest trouble spots include the TV remote control, telephone, and clock radio. Travel with a package of antibacterial wipes, and clean these items when you arrive.
Also, while reputable hotels provide fresh lines, bedspreads might be cleaned only once every few months. Remove them from the beds when you check in. Ask for clean blankets as soon as you arrive.
9. The lost and found is a great resource for cell phone users. If you use a cell phone, odds are that someday you’ll forget to bring your recharging cord or lose it in transit. If you’re staying at a hotel, there’s no need to buy a replacement. Recharging cords are the No. 1 item left behind in hotel rooms. Most hotels are willing to lend cords from their lost and found — but guests rarely ask.
Source: Bottom Line Secrets 2008
Any of you savvy travelers have some hotel/travel secrets or tips that you’d like to share with our readers?