Jun272009

Case Study: Finding Washington, D. C. Hotel Deal for July 2009

We have all done hotel rate searches and you may already have a strategy that works well for you. I just completed a hotel rate search for family members planning to stay 7 nights next month in Washington, D.C.  

Here is a case study of how I approached the task of finding a hotel deal in Washington, D.C. for July 2009.

The search was more challenging than I predicted, primarily due to constraints of

1)      Two kids

2)      No hotel changes during stay

3)      Must be near metro in downtown DC

The Search Process:

# 1 Check rates on meta-search engine like Kayak.com or search engine of your choice to get comparative rates for Washington, D.C.

Hilton Washington at $115 for Wednesday and Thursday night looked like the best weeknight deal in the rates shown on Kayak.com. The rate for the week was only $106 per night. The Renaissance M Street was even less at $99 per night. There was a $200 range in upper upscale hotel brand rates for weeknights Monday through Thursday night.

Friday and Saturday nights had widespread hotel rate deals with many upper upscale hotels under $100 per night: Grand Hyatt ($99), Crowne Plaza The Hamilton ($90), Westin D.C. City Center ($95), Marriott at Metro Center ($109), Hilton Garden Inn Downtown ($98).

These downtown D.C. hotels were averaging $100 on weekend nights and $250 on weekday nights.

Sunday was a variable day depending on hotel. Some hotels were only $20 more on Sunday night than Friday-Saturday rates and other hotels were $100 more for Sunday night compared to the weekend rates.

Initial check shows possibility for major brand, upscale hotels with Renaissance M Street ($795 after tax) or Hilton Washington ($850 for 7 nights after tax).

# 2 Check Rates for Priceline, Hotwire Successful bids

Checking a website forum where people post their winning bids is crucial for the traveler planning to use Priceline or Hotwire for hotel bidding. Here are the two most popular websites for Priceline bid info:

http://www.betterbidding.com

http://www.biddingfortravel.com

Rates on bidding threads in the sites listed above for Priceline looked like an average of $75 would likely secure a room.  The 7-night rate with Priceline would be right around $600 for an unspecified 3.5 to 4 star room bid. Recent bids for Washington D. C. indicated likely hotel winning bids would be at Renaissance Mayflower for around $75 per night, Marriott Wardman Park ($65), or Renaissance M Street ($70).

Priceline looked like a pretty sure bet for one of the Marriott Hotels.

The hotel guests I was working for did not want to go with the uncertainty of Priceline, although I thought that was a good choice.

Another problem with Priceline is there is no guarantee the hotel will honor the reservation for 4 guests (2 adults and 2 teenagers).

# 3 Checked SkyAuction.com and LuxuryLink.com for hotel and timeshare offers. Nothing found.

My family looked for apartment rentals on their own and found a $1,400 all-in one bedroom apartment for the week.

# 4 Check individual hotel sites for special offers. 

This is a process that is generally limited by time. There are dozens of hotels, each with several special offers, and a rate check is the only way to know if the special offer is a good deal. Checking all the special offers of 20 hotels can take a day of rate searches. Limiting your searches is imperative.

I found loads of high-value special offers, however, nothing was even close to the price of staying at the Renaissance M Street ($800 all-in for week) or Hilton Washington ($850 all-in for week) or Priceline ($600 all-in for week).

#5 The Starwood Loyalty Preference

After coming up with the Marriott and Hilton options, I was asked to look into Starwood Hotels more closely. The hotel guests have 40,000 Starwood points. These Starwood members have one stay so far during the free weekend night promotion and will earn a free weekend night with a second paid stay in Washington, D.C.

Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria is only $108 per night, but the commute into D.C. is a consideration and they decide being in downtown is more important than price.

Starwood Hotels in Washington D.C.

Average Rate

7-night rate after tax

W Hotel

$269

$2,156

St. Regis

$265

$2,124

Westin Grand

$256

$2,052

Westin D.C. City Center

$210

$1,683

Four Points

$196

$1,571

Fairfax at Embassy Row

$194

$1,555

Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria

$108

$866

Other Hotel Chain Options:

 

 

Renaissance M Street

$99

$800

Priceline (likely a Marriott brand)

$75

$610

 

#6 Break down potential rates within the selected set of hotels including a Search of Hotel Special Offers

The primary difficulty in finding the lowest available hotel rate is the lowest rate is usually some special hotel offer that is only accessible through the hotel’s own website links. This means that for the 6 Washington, D.C. hotels in the Starwood chain, the lowest rate is likely available through a link on the Hotel Offers page on one of the 6 websites for these specific hotels.

Kayak, Expedia, and Travelocity do not show these hotel special offer rates.

UpTake.com is good at pulling up hotel special offers, however, I still have not found them to lead me to the lowest rates in the few searches I have conducted through the website.

The problem with special offers is that you need hours and hours to check all the possibilities.

The feature that narrowed my search was the discrepancy between hotel rates over the weekend among the Starwood brands.

Washington D. C. Hotel Weekend Rates for Friday and Saturday nights

W Hotel (SPG category 5)

$269

St. Regis (SPG category 6)

$291

Westin Grand (SPG category 5)

$206

Westin D.C. City Center

(SPG category 4)

$109

Four Points (SPG category 4)

$92

Fairfax at Embassy Row

(SPG category 5)

$119

 

The rates at the Four Points, Westin City Center, and Fairfax at Embassy Row were so much lower for the weekend than the other Starwood Hotel options. With the list narrowed to these three hotels I could easily search special offers, free nights, and Cash & Points for the best 7-night value at a single hotel.

Westin D.C. City Center had a 3-night rate of $119 for Friday through Sunday for the lowest overall weekend rate. Westin DC City Center also had Cash & Points awards for all the dates around the weekend. Four Points Downtown and Fairfax at Embassy Row only had Cash & Points for 2 days of the 7 night stay.

# 7 Focus on a single hotel and special offers for Westin Washington D.C. City Center

3rd Night Free brings the rate down from $119 per night for Friday-Saturday, and Sunday nights to $300 for 3 nights.

The big score was when I found availability for three nights at the Westin D.C. City Center using the pay your BirthYear rate at $180 for the first night and $36 for the second and third night. This rate was $50 less than the 3rd night free and brought the nightly room rate down to $84 per night.

Westin D.C. City Center

Two Night Paid Stay Fri-Sat

Three Night Paid Stay Fri-Sun

Lowest standard rate

$218 ($250 after tax)

$357  ($409 after tax)

3rd Night free

na

$300  ($344 after tax)

Pay your Birthyear Special Offer

$215 ($246 after tax)

$251  ($287 after tax)

 

 

 

 

Final reservation choices:

a)      $287 for three paid nights at Westin Washington D.C. City Center and 4 nights free for 40,000 points.

b)      $287 for three paid nights and 4 nights using Cash & Points award for $240 + 16,000 points; $275 after tax.

$562 + 16,000 points = Final Booking for 7 nights in July 2009 Washington, D.C. at Westin DC City Center.

16,000 points provided over a $1,000 savings on the published Starwood Hotels rate of $1,683 after tax for the Westin DC City Center for my family’s travel dates.

 

Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.

Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Comments

  1. Do you know how to do a city wide search but specify what size bed you want? Such as I want two queen size beds in Washington DC.

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