One of the main strategies I use for lowering my hotel room rates is a common sense tip to recheck rates for price drops at hotels I booked. This strategy worked well for hotel stays I have planned next month in Europe. Over the course of 10 nights in Europe my rebookings yesterday saved $10 to $25 per night for different hotels in Austria, Poland and Slovakia. Those are just the rate drops from this month. Some hotels have dropped over 35% since I made my first bookings for this trip back in August. Some hotels dropped 15% in the past week.
Over the past 15 years the trend I notice is hotel rates tend to be lowest around 3 to 6 weeks before arrival for hotels which do not reach their anticipated occupancy. Booking a flexible rate early is advisable in case the hotel does reach a high occupancy and rates climb steadily up to arrival date. This is especially advisable for resorts and city event travel.
The trend I commonly see for hotels are early bookings, two months or more before arrival, are not the best deals on room rates.
Airline ticket purchases are essentially nonrefundable after 24 hours. You gamble on any ticket purchase. For example, I purchased two tickets San Francisco to London for a February trip at $600 each last month. Last week I could have booked my tickets for $400 each flying out of my local Monterey airport and saved $500 overall considering the cost to park my car at SFO. I pulled the trigger on airline tickets to allow me to begin booking the hotel stays I needed. I have great deals lined up for hotels and I will periodically recheck those bookings over the next two months for rate drops.
Reserve hotel bookings with flexible rates, then recheck periodically for rate drops, cancel old rate and rebook lower rate.
For my December trip I currently have three hotel reservations in three different hotel chains for my dates in Vienna, Austria. All three reservations are flexible rates allowing cancellation with no penalty. Two of these hotels are bookings I already reserved, canceled and rebooked again after noticing rate drops.
And now I don’t think I will use any of these three reservations. IHG Rewards Club came out with their promotion last week for earning up to $100 MasterCard gift card with two IHG hotel stays. The $100 gift card applies for an InterContinental hotel stay.
Loyalty Traveler (Nov 16) – Mastercard Priceless Surprises earn $50 to $100 Reward Card after 2 IHG stays Dec 1-Feb15.
InterContinental Vienna was 149.15 EUR/$165 USD per night for a prepaid nonrefundable rate on November 16 for my stay dates.
Today the IC Vienna is 128.25 EUR/$135.79 for the same prepaid room. After the $100 gift card rebate, my nightly cost drops to $36 to stay at InterContinental Vienna for one night.
Of course, I need two more nights on a second IHG stay to earn the $100 gift card, but that simply means changing from a Hilton hotel chain booking to IHG for two nights at a lower room rate than the Hilton brand hotel I already reserved for Krakow, Poland.
InterContinental Vienna rates on November 19
149.15 EUR = $158.10 USD
InterContinental Vienna rates on November 27
128.25 EUR = $135.95 USD
While there is a chance the IC Vienna rate will drop even more, I am ready to click the mouse on this nonrefundable rate for InterContinental Vienna. My hotel stay plans favor earning the $100 IHG Rewards Club Mastercard rebate during this Europe trip.
Two Hilton brand stays I booked will be canceled due to the more favorable promotion value received from two IHG Rewards Club stays.
Finding lower airfare is gamble and luck, finding lower hotel rates is strategic and methodical
Airfare purchases are truly opportunistic. Grab a fare deal when they are around and hope you don’t see a big drop later on.
I am kind of bummed that fares dropped significantly for my February trip to Europe since I purchased tickets last month. I essentially overpaid about $300 per ticket one month ago compared to the deals that rolled around this past week from California airports.
Loyalty Traveler – UA/DL/AA today best California deals of year to Europe Nov-April (Nov 22).
Grabbing the lowest airfare is simply a matter of luck and timing , even for someone like me who studies airfare to Europe almost daily.
Hotels still offer consumers opportunities to strategically book, cancel and rebook for lower room rates. My strategy of booking, canceling and rebooking while holding several hotel reservations for the same stay dates in different chains will likely continue to be my method for lower hotel rates until hotel chains start charging a holding fee for flexible cancellation room rates.
Since room rates tend to be comparable across different chains for hotels in the same competitive set (upscale hotels like Hilton and Marriott in same area will likely be within 10% of each other’s room rate), the hotel loyalty promotions are often the main distinction between the real deal value for hotel stays.
I initially favored Hilton HHonors stays for triple points and booked Hilton brand hotels in a couple cities in Europe. The opportunity to get a $100 rebate from IHG Rewards Club combined with a low rate at InterContinental Vienna shifted my hotel preferences for this trip.
Reserving rooms on flexible rates, rechecking periodically for rate drops and keeping an eye on hotel loyalty promotion value are all considerations for planning my hotel stays. Sometimes those considerations place me an Econolodge and sometimes those considerations put me in an InterContinental.