One of the main strategies I use for discount hotel rates is to survey room rates and book the best flexible cancellation deal I can locate as soon as I start planning a trip. Currently I have about 40 hotel reservations in Europe across many hotel chains for three trips with six weeks of hotel stays for trips I am planning December through August. About half those reservations are two different hotel chains for the same dates. I play my loyalty cards and shuffle hotel reservations periodically, sometimes changing my hotel on the day of arrival (or at least before the cancellation penalty is incurred). I might change hotel reservations five or six times before I actually arrive in a city and go to my final hotel reservation.
A similar football metaphor is my trip planning is preseason and I have multiple players (hotel reservations) in each of the positions (dates). Many of these hotels will not make the final cut. I periodically review hotel rates for the dates I have already covered and make adjustments and cuts as the final travel trip dates get near.
What this means in Practice
This morning I spent a couple hours checking hotel rates for dates I plan to visit several cities. I made several new reservations.
My objective is to trade up in hotel market segment (midscale to upscale), room type and benefits, while maintaining a balance with my other two primary objectives for lower hotel room price and most desirable location.
I have a couple of post ideas to share examples of why I book refundable reservations and periodically check cities and dates again for better hotel stay options.
My first tip for a valuable hotel rate discount are Club Carlson 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 weekend rates.
Club Carlson 2-for-1 rates and 4-for-2 rates
The most useful benefit of Club Carlson Visa card membership is complimentary Gold elite status. Club Carlson Gold elite takes 35 nights or 20 stays in a calendar year by regular qualification.
Gold elite is the penultimate tier level in Club Carlson hotel loyalty program, below Concierge elite. Sadly, only Concierge elite members (75 nights/30 stays) receive complimentary breakfast with Club Carlson. Gold elite members do not have a free breakfast benefit.
The most valuable benefit to me of Club Carlson Gold elite are 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 weekend rates at hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
The basic deal is the Club Carlson 2-for-1 rates allow you to book either Thursday-Friday or Friday-Saturday nights and only pay for the first night.
4-for-2 rates allow 4-night stays Wednesday-Sunday or Thursday-Monday and pay only for first two nights. These rates are even better than half-price when you are in a hotel with normally higher weekend rates than weekday rates, since you can pay for Wed-Thur lower rate and get Fri-Sat free. More cities tend to have the opposite impact with higher weekday rates.
One of the first reservations I tend to make when planning a trip to Europe is a check for Club Carlson 2-for-1 and 4-for-2 availability. Over the past four years I have found this to be one of the top ways to place myself in an upper-upscale hotel on paid rates. Hotels with room rates of $150 to $200 per night are more than I am willing to pay for most travel.
The ability to drop the hotel rate from $220 to $110 per night on a 4-night stay at Radisson Blu Amsterdam is a significant benefit. Radisson Blu Amsterdam is a 70,000 points reward night, so $110 all-in per night for 4 nights is equivalent to a 280,000 points redemption. Just checked and there are no Netherlands hotels today with 2-for-1 or 4-for-2 availability for the same dates I booked two weeks ago.
I had two 2-night stays at Radisson Blu Amsterdam last year using the now expired Club Carlson Visa card member benefit of one free night on award reservations. Four nights cost me 100,000 points. I thought I would not be able to afford a return visit to this hotel, where rates are frequent;y over $200 per night, until I saw the 4-for-2 Gold elite member rate available for booking two weeks ago.
I booked Radisson Blu Krakow in August on a 4-for-2 rate at $85 per night all-in. Early October I checked the 4-for-2 rate again and saw a rate drop to $60 per night and rebooked my 4-for-2 stay, then cancelled the first reservation. This same Radisson Blu hotel was $143 per night on a 2-for-1 reservation I booked for a stay last July, before I canceled in favor or 15,000 points per night Holiday Inn Krakow rate during our summer 2016 trip.
Club Carlson launched a double points promotion yesterday. My 900 PLN Polish Zloty room rate is $231 for 4 nights earns 47 points per dollar = 10,857 points. That is sufficient for a category 4 (38,000) or category 5 (44,000) Points + Cash night for 10,000 points + 60% Best Flexible Rate.
Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson Double Points or Double Nights Nov 1-Dec 31 and RED Triple Points.
If this were a solo trip to Krakow I might have booked a Best Western about ten minutes tram ride from Krakow city center square for $35 per night or DoubleTree Krakow for $50, where I would get a free breakfast benefit as HHonors Diamond.
Radisson Blu Krakow has a prime location within easy walking distance to many Krakow city attractions, thus avoiding crowded tram rides. Food is cheap in Krakow, at places outside the major chain hotels.
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