Traveling is a lot of fun but it can also turn into a nightmare if you don’t plan properly. The last thing you want is to spend a boatload of money on a babysitter, pet sitter and tickets to a show only to have the worst vacation ever because the hotel you stayed at was like something out of American Horror Story. To make sure you have a wonderful travel experience I have created this list so that you can make the most out of your vacation.
***I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.***
1) Do Research Before your Trip!
My husband will be the first to tell you how overly prepared I am for our vacations. I create optional itineraries with things to do around the location we are traveling to. I include pricing and hours of restaurants, stores & venues.
Some may say this is a little much and my husband would agree but during our last trip we had plans to have dinner at our favorite spot in Orient Point LI before catching the last ferry home. I had planned everything perfectly and it left us with a little over an hour to have dinner. It would have been perfect except when we pulled up to the restaurant it was CLOSED!
Now, that may not seem like a big deal except we were 15 minutes from every restaurant and they were all heading in the opposite direction of the Ferry. We had to rush over to another restaurant; slam our food down in 20 minutes and rush back to catch the last ferry of the night. The only thing I had not researched before our trip was the hours of that specific restaurant! It goes to show, doing your research beforehand is worth it.
As far as Hotel research; make sure you find out the specifics about the hotel you are staying at. Do they have a restaurant on property? What are the hours of the restaurant? Is Breakfast Complimentary? Do you have to pay to park? If you find out the answers to these questions before hand you can make sure you are staying at the right hotel for you.
You will also be able to better compare hotel prices by knowing what is offered at each individual hotel. Also, make sure you have the correct hotel address and location. Nothing is worse than arriving at a sold out hotel at midnight only to find out you accidentally made a reservation for the Hotel 30 minutes away.
2) Stay at the Right Hotel Chain/Brand for your Needs.
There are many different hotel chains out there. For example, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, & Holiday Inn. Within those Chains, there are different brands. There are SO many to choose from but they each offer something a little different.
Hilton Brands for Example (These are just a few of the different brands Hilton offers):
Hampton Inn- Cheaper, Complementary Breakfast, Smaller Hotel
Hilton Garden Inn- On site Restaurant, More Expensive than Hampton Inn but less expensive than Doubletree
Doubletree- On site Restaurant, Ritzier feel than Hilton Garden Inn, Cookies are offered to guests at check-in.
Homewood Suites- All rooms are Suites (Mixture of Studio & Bedroom Suites), Rooms include a kitchenette and are designed for longer stays. Breakfast is included. Cheaper than Embassy Suites.
Embassy Suites- All rooms are Suites (Mixture of Studio & Bedroom Suites), Rooms include a kitchenette and are designed for longer stays. On site Restaurant. More Expensive and Ritzier feel than Homewood suites.
*Contact hotels directly to verify what they offer.
3) Join the Loyalty Program!
Many Hotel Chains offer Loyalty Programs. Loyalty programs differ by hotel chain. By Joining the Loyalty program, you have the possibility to get discounts on Hotel rooms, free breakfast, complimentary upgrades, & even free night stays. The more you stay at that specific hotel Chain the more you will get back from their Loyalty Program. Many Hotel Loyalty Programs also offer Credit Cards so if you travel often it might be worth opening one because it can give you automatic points and discounts.
Do research on the Chain loyalty program you would like to join. Examples: Hilton = Hilton Honors; Marriott = Marriott Rewards. Once you have a Loyalty card make sure that when you make your reservation you give them your loyalty number. Your Loyalty Number will save time during the reservation process because all your information and preferences will be linked to your Loyalty account.
4) Stay at the Same Hotel
Although being part of a Loyalty Program makes it easier for multiple hotels to know your preferences and save you money, staying at the same hotel can save you even more money. If you visit family or you go to a specific venue a couple of times a year staying at the same hotel when you travel gives you and the management/hotel staff a chance to get to know each other. This will come in handy when you are looking for discounts, upgrades, or last minute reservations. Most of the time the front desk staff recognizes these returning travelers on the arrival list and knows exactly what room they prefer.
5) Always ask for a Complimentary Upgrade
There is no harm in asking for a complimentary upgrade but asking for a complimentary upgrade does not guarantee that you will be able to get one. If the hotel has no chance of being sold out of suites for the night and someone asks for a Complimentary suite the front desk agents are normally more than happy to accommodate. There are certain circumstances where even if suites are not sold out complimentary suites are not given. If a front desk agent is able to give you one they certainly will so do not try to pressure them into it!
6) Mention in the Comments of your Reservation or at Check-in Why you are Traveling
If you are traveling for your birthday or anniversary the Front Desk Agents might be able to do something special for you. They might NOT be able to do anything. Do not get angry or pressure them. Also, make sure not to lie. Sooner or later they might catch on that you have had a birthday 4 times in one year…
If the Desk Agents know why you are in the area they will be able to give you better advice on what to do in the area. If you are traveling for your sons 12th birthday they can inform you of the water parks in the area instead of giving you directions to the local wineries. Help them help you.
7) Understand Hotel Pricing
If the hotel you are staying at is located near a business park they probably make their money during the weekdays with business travelers so their rates might be cheaper on the weekends. Certain hotels will be more expensive during school vacation weeks whereas Hotels near casinos are more expensive Fri-Sun. Depending on where in the country you are traveling the weather and seasons might come into play. If the hotel is near a ski resort their pricing will probably be cheaper in the summer.
8) Book Directly through the Hotel
I do NOT recommend third party sites like Hotel.com and Priceline. If you book through a third party the hotel employee’s hands are tied if something goes wrong with your reservation or stay. You won’t be able to use your Hotel Loyalty perks and won’t gain any more points for your loyalty membership. Employees at the hotel will not be able to offer you any discounts. You are also less likely to receive complimentary upgrades.
A lot of times third party sites do not get the hotel information correct. I have witnessed multiple times when a third-party site has told guests that a specific hotel offered complimentary breakfast or smoking rooms when it had not! Certain times you are unable to specify which room type you prefer so you end up with the leftover rooms. By calling the Hotel directly or visiting their actual website to book the reservation you will be given the correct information about the hotel you wish to stay at.
Although I do not recommend booking with a third party there are times when it might work out in your favor. If you do not travel often and are saving over $30 by booking through a third party then it might be worth it for you. If you need a bundle with airfare and a car rental booking with a third party might be necessary for you. I do believe that Priceline and Hotel.com offer loyalty programs also so make sure to look into that if you decide to book through them.
9) Work at a Hotel Part Time to get Travel Discounts
If you travel often it might be worth it to pick up part time shifts at a local hotel. A lot of Hotel chains offer amazing discounts to stay at their other properties. For example, The Hilton Chain offers the Team Member Travel Program when you are an employee of theirs. They have an employee website you can go to book your discounted reservations at one of the 4,982 Hilton locations. When I worked for a hotel I was personally able to stay at Hampton Inns around the East Coast for $29 a night!!!
10) Most Importantly be nice to the employees if you want them to be nice to you!
Customer Service is a tough and most of the time unrewarding job. Some things that go wrong are out of their control. If you are nice to the employees they are more likely to go out of their way to make your stay amazing.
If at any point you are unhappy with your stay you should always inform a hotel staff member, management if possible. They may surprise you, I have witnessed management dedicating themselves and going above and beyond to fix problems & give guests an even better experience than originally expected.