The travel journey is like a slow-swinging pendulum—moods and emotions range from aspiration and excitement as you start to plan and dream, to satisfaction and enjoyment as you experience your adventure and relive the memories. Somewhere in between is anticipation, where feelings of anxiousness and impatience can bubble to the surface as you search for the best deals and commit to booking your trip.
There is a far-too-lengthy list of options for where and how to book your hotel, including aggressive third-party sites that are all salivating for your money. You don’t want to feel daunted by your options or forced into making the wrong decision. No one wants to be Ron Burgundy in a glass case of emotion.
When traveling, you shouldn’t have to overanalyze whether or not you’re getting the best deal for your hotel. We know that price and value are important because Google search queries are flooded with terms like “hotel deals,” “cheap hotels,” and “discount hotels.” But there are still too many options! How can you be sure you’re not overpaying for a hotel? That’s where we come in.
We are here to steer you clear of deception. Our focus is on assistance, guiding you through a process that should reinforce confidence, not inspire you to toss your laptop over the balcony. Here are eight tips to make sure you get the best deal and stop overpaying for hotel rooms.
1. Don’t Fall for the Gimmicks
Picture this: You’re a master procrastinator, and it’s days before your trip and you still need a hotel. You check out a third-party online travel agency (OTA) like Booking.com only to see “Booked 2 times for your dates in the last 24 hours” and “Only 5 rooms left!” You scurry around the house, hurriedly searching your wallet to find a credit card. The reality is though, that those “5 rooms” left could simply be whatever that OTA site has left for that hotel. The hotel itself could still have 25 rooms left if you checked their site directly. Don’t feel conned into booking because of false inventory messages. Avoid the urgency marketing tactics.
2. See Through the “Best Price” Sales Lingo
During your research process, you may come across 20 different sites claiming they have the “best price.” It’s like a retail store that promotes its “20% off for 1 week” sale that resets every seven days. Some of these “deals” are just sales gimmicks to grab your attention and get you to book before you’re ready.
But before you throw your hands up in confusion, here’s a brief history lesson. There is something called a price parity agreement, which requires online travel agencies to sell the same rates as hotels, and vice versa. So, while there is no one “best price,” OTA sites like to claim that they have the “best price” since there’s no better—or lower—price because they’re all the same.
There is one awesome exception to this rule which allows hotel reward members to receive lower rates due to their loyalty member status. On Roomkey.com, we make it easy to compare regular hotel prices with these lower loyalty rates for all of your favorite hotel chains all in one place. Just type in the name of the city you want to visit, and we’ll show you all of our partner hotels in the area and the price you’d pay to stay there if you were a member of their rewards program.
3. Stick with a Trusted Source
We could write a 100-page thesis on the impact—both positive and negative— that OTA sites have had on the travel industry, but we’ll spare you the time. The key thing to remember about these popular travel sites is that they are after profits and commissions and don’t always care about serving your best interests. The gimmicks and “best price” lingo that we mentioned above are very effective tools for sites to boost their conversions (AKA, take more of your money). However, we don’t think that those tactics are always fair for customers.
We value trust and loyalty with a focus on a clean search experience. We merge the ease of multi-hotel search with the security of booking direct by taking you to the hotel’s website to complete your booking. This is the best way to ensure that your booking won’t get lost in translation between a third-party site and your hotel destination. It’s as simple as that. Roomkey is not a middleman. We’re owned by big-name hotel brands and have access to 60-plus chains, so the information you see is straight from the source—and secure and accurate.
4. Book Direct with the Hotel Through Their Loyalty Program
When you book direct, you save your time, money, and sanity. As we mentioned earlier, although other sites toss around empty promises like “best price,” the reality is that joining a hotel rewards program will actually get you the most savings. You’ll also get to take advantage of the perks associated with earning points and redeeming them for future stays. In the time it takes you to read this, you could have already signed up for a hotel loyalty program. Did we mention they’re free, too?
5. “Scout” Out Your Deals
Scout is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that utilizes technology to streamline hotel searches. Simply add the extension to your browser and let it do its thing while you research hotels on popular travel sites. As you search, Scout compares the prices you’re seeing against the price you could get for that hotel if you booked direct. When it finds a lower rate elsewhere, it lets you know. Let Scout do the hard part. Spend less time searching for hotels and more time figuring out where to make dinner reservations.
6. Use Roomkey’s Price Alert Feature
Similar to Scout, Roomkey’s price alert tool can save you time and money. This handy feature will monitor rates for your chosen hotel and travel dates and will alert you when the price drops. First, create an account so we know how to contact you. Then, select the hotel and your desired check-in and check-out dates and click the “Set Price Alert” button. That’s all you have to do. We’ll keep an eye out for you and email you when the price decreases so you can book a rate that works for you.
7. Be Flexible in Your Decision Making
After price, location and hotel amenities are the next most important factors in making your hotel stay a success. But, sometimes you might have to trade a perfect location for a better price, or vice versa. Sure, you may have fallen in love with the hotel overlooking Times Square in New York City or the beach-side resort in the Caribbean with picturesque views. But be flexible. Perhaps a property a few streets down or on the outskirts of the city more appropriately fits your budget. In fact, you may just be looking for a place to rest your head for the night without the bells and whistles. Our amenities feature and price sorting tool allow you to sort your search by what matters to you.
8. Read the Fine Print
As you’re planning your trip, take the time to do your hotel research so you know just what you’ll be getting. It’s okay to be spontaneous once in a while, but be on the lookout for add-ons like parking fees, resort fees, or Wi-Fi charges that either come at the last minute or are hidden in the hotel’s fine print.
When you look at hotel rates on Roomkey.com, we show you all the associated costs up front so there aren’t hidden ways to burn holes in your wallet. Unless you book a prepaid rate with the hotel, most properties will allow you to cancel for free if something changes with your trip. That may not seem like a big deal when you’re planning, but it sure beats booking a vacation through a third-party OTA only to be stuck with the full price of the trip when you were unable to cancel after something unavoidable comes up.
At Roomkey, we won’t hide behind the fine print. We make every effort to be transparent and straightforward when it comes to searching for hotels because that’s how we would want to be treated. With Roomkey, you can trust in a better hotel search and a better booking process because your transaction is with the hotel and the hotel only. No middlemen. Stop overpaying for hotels and join the savvy travelers’ club. Search with Roomkey, where there are no tricks. Just travel.