What is the best booking engine? Do you have any deals? What is the lowest price? Where can I get the best price? As a travel professional this is by far the number one question I am asked, even if the verbiage varies. Airfare is complicated, but when it comes to hotel rooms, it can be relatively simple if you already know where you want to stay, who is traveling with you, and what type of room you want. If you are flexible on your dates, aren’t sure which property, or have questions about the destination, this post is not for you. But if you know exactly what you want, I can show you how to get the best price without spending hours searching every booking engine out there.
If you don’t know of any good travel agencies in your area, you can run a Google search, but this often does not find the most qualified local candidates, sometimes only companies that are large, and spend a lot of money on advertising are at the top of the results heap – scrolling through the list can make you feel like you are searching for buried treasure in a dump. To find an local travel agent or agency that is known for stellar service, can provide expert advice when needed, and will care about you and your travel experiences, a better option in your search for a qualified travel professional is by checking with friends, checking you local Chamber’s website, asking a referral or networking group that you or a friend already belong for a recommendation, or even try putting out a public request on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Once you locate a couple of options, call them and explain that you normally book your hotels yourself, but you are looking for more value and would like to give them the opportunity to work with you on an ongoing basis for your periodic trips.
Second identify one discount booking engine you like, Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity, it really doesn’t matter, but just pick one and stay away from Kayak.com and the like, they will have you traipsing down the rabbit hole turning your 5 minute search into an hour and five minutes!
Then the next time you are planning a hotel stay, you can follow these three easy steps, that will take less than 5 minutes saving yourself time, frustration, and that nagging feeling that you didn’t get the best deal.
Search the hotels website; this should take less than a minute. For example if you are looking at a Residence Inn, go to http://www.marriott.com and check their price for your travel dates.
Search your preferred discount website; this should also take less than a minute.
Send an short email or text message to your travel agent, stating the lowest price you found. Include a copy of the screenshot or webpage where you found the best price. This is not because your agent doesn’t believe you, it is because we need a screenshot or webpage to get a price match and it will ensure that we are searching for the exact room, dates and category you want without wasting your time. If your travel agent finds a better or matching price, they will let you know along with what you need to know to book it. If they can’t, they will tell you. A professional travel agent will not be offended if you book your room elsewhere at a cheaper price, rather they will be glad you gave them an opportunity to earn your business. And let me be clear, by cheaper price I am talking about an amount that is more than you would tip your local barista. Sometimes hotels are a penny off, so that they can claim to be the lowest price, and in fact the fine print you find on all low price guarantees that I am aware of, specify state that the price difference needs to exceed $1.00.
By using these 3 short simple steps, you will free yourself from feeling that you have to check the price on every single website and booking engine, but still feel confident that you did your due diligence.
Along the way you will have cultivated a relationship from a travel professional that will be familiar with your travel tastes and preferences, and the next time you are planning a big trip, that special cruise, or shutter, you get bumped from your connecting flight late one night and think you are going to have to sleep on an airport bench, you have someone you can call that will be happy to go above and beyond to help you out. Sometimes it truly does pay to have friends in the travel business.
A couple words of caution, when comparing prices make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Are taxes included in the quote or is their an extra resort fee? Are the dates an exact match? Is this a prepaid price that gives you a discount, but will charge you the full or a partial amount if canceled.
This method is not the best method if you are looking for a complex itinerary, multiple destinations or a trip packaged with air, tours and other activities, but it is just the ticket to simplify your life when a short hotel stay is all you need and you already know where you want to stay. Also mention any discounts that you think you might qualify for, such as military, AAA or senior as well as loyalty programs that you are a member of. Without this information, your travel professional will not be able to do their best job finding you the best price.