Hotels (Motels and Inns) are inevitably any travelers “home away from home” when on the road. Unless you plan on navigating the country in an RV or prepped to stay in a campground, hotels are undoubtedly the best means of adequately fulfilling one of the basic (or not so basic) needs: shelter. The easiest, yet costliest, way to check in to a hotel is fairly self explanatory; show up at the first hotel you see with a credit or debit card and a form of ID, as the most cost-effective way is to conduct a little research about hotels in the area and possibly make a 3rd party reservation. Since I’ve worked at a few different hotels over the past few years, and fulfilled the role as a traveler, I’m familiar with what goes on behind and in front of the desk.
With this knowledge, I hope to enlighten you with everything I’ve learned to ensure a firm understanding of the check-in procedures, how to get the best rates, and any other relevant information that will make checking-in the least of your worries.
How to Select a Property that Suits your Needs (and your Budget)
The two most important questions to ask yourself before deciding which hotel to stay at is location and cost. The best way to get an overview of properties in the vicinity of where your traveling is conduct a simple search online. One way is to select a search engine such as Yahoo! and type in “hotels” plus the city and state. This is a great way to start because Yahoo! pulls up most hotels in the area, average rates, and a list of unbiased reviews.
Another approach is typing in a particular hotel name or the property brand (Wyndham, Choice, Hilton, etc.) and searching the particular hotel brand’s website (also a plus if your part of their rewards program). Some brands offer special discounts if you book several days in advance, or reserve for more than one night (for example if you book three nights at a Howard Johnson, you can save 25 percent off your entire stay).
Some cities, such as Maggie Valley, NC actually have a homepage for the entire city, with a link to all the hotels in the area and includes rates and reviews. If you are unfamiliar with the area in which your traveling, and don’t have a computer, stop at the next hotel you see. If the clerk is not busy, ask some general questions such as “where the cleanest hotels are” and “who has best rates.” 75 percent of the time you’ll get an honest answer since your bringing revenue into their city even if their accommodations are not within your price range.
3rd Party Reservation Tips
A 3rd party reservation is simply an online reservation made through a company such as Hotwire or Travelocity. The idea is to book a room at a rate lower than the the particular hotel’s RACK (or rate of the day) rate. You pay the the 3rd party, then they in turn keep about 15 percent as commission and pay the hotel using their own credit card. Even though you are aware of the rate you payed the 3rd party, you will never know how much commission they actually received (even though the clerk knows yet can’t tell you).
Although this is one of the cheapest ways to book, consequences may arrise if your not careful. The most common problem is 3rd party reservations are non-refundable. Always make sure you select the correct date, and are certain you can make the trip. I get countless calls from potential guests and 3rd party representatives attempting to cancel noncancelable reservations because they “booked the wrong date, their flight got canceled, the rock band’s lead singer got sick, etc.” The only way someone can cancel a 3rd party reservation is if a medical emergency arises, and the customer can fax actual proof to the hotel.
Another precaution to be aware of when making 3rd party reservations is the websites advertising certain properties sometimes are not 100 percent accurate. When our pool was closed, The Orbitz site claimed we had a pool, and that all our rooms have refridgerators. Upon arrival, the guest practically threw a fit when they discovered the lack of amenities in their room. So, even before booking the room, call the hotel first and ask if they actually have all the amenities listed on the online site. Also, another savvy tactic is, after you make the 3rd party reservation, call the hotel and make sure everything went through as you specified. I’ve witnessed numerous times reservations that came through our system for smoking rooms, when the guest really wanted a non smoking room.
The Check-in Process Revealed
Another way to receive a potential discount for your stay if you haven’t previously made an online reservation is ask for a AAA/AARP/military/government discount. These are usually good for around 10 percent off the RACK rate. If you don’t have any of these discounts, just be really nice to the clerk and chances are you will receive the discount anyway (I know I give the discount to customers that are exceptionally pleasent). The saying “attract more flies with honey than vinegar” undoubtedly applies. Another way to keep the cost down if traveling with three or more adults is tell the clerk you only have two adults, and keep everyone else in the car. Any room occupied by more than two adults results in approximately an extra $8.00 per night. If I don’t know a party has over two adults, I applaud their craftiness and don’t charge them for extra people.
After settling on a rate, you must present a credit/debit card and a form of picture identification. Even if you are paying cash, you must have a credit/debit card just to hold the room for incidentals. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve had to turn away because they didn’t have a card to hold the room for incidentals.
Another bit of advice I would offer is ask the front desk clerk which room they would prefer if they were the guest. Since we have standard king rooms and executive (larger) king rooms with a courtyard view at the same price, I put the people who ask for a good room in the nicer, larger rooms with a better view. And since only about 20 of our 70 rooms have refrigerators, people who ask for a refrigerator receive one at no additional charge.