Travel Talk: When booking rooms, ask the right people the right questions
We’re back! After a winter of snowbirding with our pooches Maggie and Millie, we’re settled in at home in Bow. But more about what we learned on the road in another column.
This column has to be about thinking outside the box when it comes to booking lodging for family events or vacations – as I’ve done the past week. I have found out repeatedly that clicking that “Book now!” button rarely gets the best deal.
Going to the top: You will often get the best price by contacting the lodging directly.
This means exploring a page or two into the “Contact Us” tab on the business’s website and looking for the name, phone number and/or email of the manager or owner. They will be in a position to cut you a deal – perhaps by reducing the price, including breakfast or some other amenity, or amending a policy. The key is to get to the right person.
Before you call or email, though, check out discount and third-party websites, such as hotels.com or expedia.com, and get a benchmark price (along with key restrictions, cancellation policies and inclusions, of course).
Asking the question: It helps to have some idea of what you’d like, but also to phrase your request in an open-ended fashion.
“I’ll be needing several rooms in the area for my nephew’s graduation and wonder what you might be able to do for us.”
This wording got two higher-end B&Bs in a tony New England town to suspend their two-night-minimum policy. Huge – a $300-plus price point turned into a $150-plus rate!
In another case, I needed several rooms for a milestone event and found the hotel’s own price was higher than a third-party website. When I asked why I should book directly with the hotel when I could get a better price online, the manager said she would match the online price, throw in a breakfast and allow us to cancel without penalty 48 hours before arrival. That works for me! What did it cost me? A bit of time and persistence.
In the case of one of the B&Bs, when I tried to book one night on the lodging’s website, it came up “no availability.” However, a call to the manager got them to tweak the website, suspend the policy and allow us to book. Remember that price isn’t always the deciding factor.
Airbnb.com: This week the networks are abuzz about airbnb.com, a website that matches “hosts” in cities and towns around the world with “guests” – people looking for lodging, but outside of (and usually at a better price than) the ordinary hotel room.
Airbnb.com’s origins harken back to 2008 or so and the concept of guests sleeping on air mattresses (hence airbnb.com) in private homes when no hotel rooms were available. A cool idea that morphed into a successful community marketplace – try 600,000 rooms, apartments, houses and more in 34,000 cities and 192 countries worldwide.
Offerings include rooms in private homes (try rooms in 600-plus castles!) – or you might want an apartment in Prague for a few nights or even a villa in Provence.
Trust and safety are key aspects of the process, which requires registration and meticulous verification of identity. As is my habit with a new site, I searched Concord to see what popped up and found a lovely room at the “Majority Leader’s House” on Rumford Street for $75 a night, hosted by none other than Arnie Arnesen! And the review? Raves all!