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Rates quoted for hotel rooms usually don't include all the taxes and fees and surcharges, which can vary surprisingly from one booking service to the next.

Be sure to accurately understand the complete total cost of the room you're booking and what you get included for your money.

 
 
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How to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate Part Three

What is Included and What is Extra
 

The same room in the same hotel might be offered by two travel services at different prices, but possibly the higher initially quoted price ends up being better value because there are fewer hidden extras and more inclusions, such as breakfasts or internet access.

Part 3 of a series on How to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate - please also visit

1.  Optimize the Dates of Your Stay

2.  When is the best (and worst) time to make your hotel reservation

3.  What is Included and What is Extra

4.  Hidden extra fees and how to resolve them

5.  Who to Speak/Book With and What to Say

 

 

We are used to discovering that the final price we pay for a car rental is much greater than the daily rate first offered to us, due to all the surcharges and fees added to the base rate.

The same often applies to hotel rooms as well.  And because some of the fees and surcharges are not formal fixed government type taxes, but rather are extra profit and commission by the booking service or the hotel, these extra sums vary widely from hotel to hotel, and from booking service to booking service.

When deciding which hotel to stay at and which booking service to use, be sure you're accurately comparing the same total costs with the same inclusions.

Comparing Apples with Apples

So you've decided on the hotel you want to stay at, and you have your dates determined, and now you're simply choosing which website offers the best rate for your stay.

Beware.

The room rates you see on most hotel booking sites do not include taxes and perhaps various other hotel fees as well (hotel 'energy' or 'resort' surcharges, for example).  In addition, the booking site may add its own fees to the initially shown rate as well.

It is not uncommon to see two of the 'big name' travel websites offering the same hotel room for a slight difference in price; perhaps site A sells the room for $140/nt and site B sells it for $150/nt.  But, when you work your way through the complete booking, usually on the last screen before you commit to actually buying the hotel nights, you'll be shown the real cost of the booking, and maybe it ends up that the advertised $140/nt rate will cost you $175 but the $150/nt rate only costs you $170.  The rate which looked higher to start with ends up costing you less.

These 'fine print' hidden extra costs can be substantial, and sometimes add more than 50% to the initially advertised rate.

This problem extends to meta-search sites such as kayak.com too which only show the initial starting price, not the final complete price.  You can never be sure exactly what the rate is until you've almost completed the booking request at the quoting site.

And, of course, if you're calling a reservation (800) number, be sure to get the full complete cost, inclusive of all taxes, service fees, surcharges, etc, for your room from that source, too.

Typical extra costs to consider

In addition to the hotel room rate, there are a number of extra costs that might be added, including things such as :

  • City and State taxes

  • City and State surcharges and other fees

  • Booking service fees (often disguised as hotel charges even when they're not)

  • Hotel energy surcharge

  • Hotel resort fee

  • Mandatory phone or internet availability fee

  • Short stay surcharge or room cleaning fee

  • Parking

  • Credit card surcharge (yes, some smaller hotels even charge you extra for using a credit card)

What is and is not included

If you're choosing between two hotels and it is down to which is the better value, keep in mind what is and is not included at each hotel to calculate the total cost of your stay.

For example, and looking at the above list, if you're traveling by car, be sensitive to the cost (and availability) of parking at the hotel you choose.  You should never assume that a hotel offers parking, and you should doubly never assume that it is free.

Some hotels have limited or no parking, other hotels have free parking, and then there are the hotels that seem to be more profitably selling parking spaces than guest rooms.  Perhaps the most insidious issue with parking are the hotels with limited parking - if you don't get there early enough in the afternoon, you'll be unable to find a car park; and if you do find a car park, you'll resent driving out of it due to the fear of not having a park available when you return!

Another potential 'gotcha' with parking is whether the parking allows 'in and out' privileges or not.  If this privilege is extended, you can - as the phrase implies - go in and out of the parking building as you wish for a flat daily fee.  If this 'privilege' isn't extended, you'll be charged from scratch every time you go out and back in to the parking, which might end up costing substantially more.  Some hotels, particularly in downtown city locations, don't give you in and out privileges.

When comparing the cost of two different hotels, be sure to factor in the different parking fees.

Another point of imprecision is when a hotel might offer a breakfast inclusive rate.  Is this a cooked or a continental breakfast?  And, if you are the type who prefers breakfast in your room, does the inclusion allow for room service breakfast, or do you have to go to the dining room to get your free breakfast?

Sometimes you'll see the same hotel being sold by three different travel websites, and when you drill down carefully, you might find that one website is quoting a rate with no food included, the second offers a continental breakfast rate, and the third gives a full cooked breakfast.  With the outrageous prices many hotels set on their breakfasts, this can represent a big difference in overall cost (assuming you eat breakfasts in the morning, of course).

Another inclusion of increasing importance to many guests is internet access, and you'll find prices all across the board for internet access, ranging from free up to $30 or more a day.

Some hotels will offer free transfers to/from a nearby major airport.  This can be a great convenience and saving, but if you plan to take advantage of these, make sure that the transfer service will be operating at suitable times to connect with your arriving and departing flights.

Some hotels also offer shuttle services to the downtown area or to local attractions and amusements.  If this is truly convenient, it can save you the cost and hassle of a rental car.

How to find out what is included and/or available

Most hotel booking sites will list the amenities and facilities available at a hotel and in the rooms.

But these lists are notoriously unreliable.  Just because something is shown or not shown on the list in no way guarantees it will be available or not available when you actually get to the hotel.  You might be pleasantly surprised to find internet in a hotel that didn't list it as being provided, but you might also be disappointed to find a hotel that claimed it had internet but which only provides it in their business center or perhaps in their reception area, not in the rooms.  And then there are the hotels which shamelessly define providing internet as having a phone jack/data port for you to plug your computer modem into.

If there's a feature that you must have, the only way to be certain is to phone the hotel directly and ask.  Note also - after getting your answer, be sure to keep a note about who you spoke to, at what time on what day, and their commitment to you about the availability of the feature you requested.

Bonus extra inclusions

Now, switch to a different approach.  You'll already have identified if you're getting a rate with breakfasts included.  If there is no breakfast included, ask 'could you throw in our breakfasts as well'.  And if they are offering continental breakfast for free, ask 'how about you make it a full cooked breakfast instead and we'll call it a fair deal for us both' or words to that effect.

Sometimes hotels that are close to major tourist attractions might offer deals that include tickets to the attraction.  These are not necessarily always great deals, so don't automatically accept them, but do ask about them.

Simply ask the hotel if they have other special rates on offer with other inclusions.

Playing with Food

Well, not literally, but maybe the hotel offers special rates inclusive of some meals as well as standard rates without food.  These are sometimes - but not always - good deals and you need to carefully evaluate them before choosing.  For example, will you be typically eating the included meals at the hotel, or will you be eating elsewhere (or not eating at all).  And if you're a light eater, maybe there's no extra value in being offered a three course table d'hte dinner for a discounted rate if you're only going to eat one or two courses anyway.  Or perhaps you have special dietary preferences that are unlikely to be provided as part of a standard meal inclusion package.

Sometimes hotels (more commonly in other countries than in the US) will offer a DBB rate - dinner, bed and breakfast, and sometimes that rate is a better price than buying dinner a la carte in their restaurant.  If you expect to eat in the hotel, then this might be a good rate to negotiate.  But it isn't necessarily the lowest cost approach - sometimes hotels that offer DBB rates do so because they have both a low priced and a higher priced restaurant - pub meals in their bar or coffee shop/deli type service at low price, and higher priced food in a more formal restaurant, and so by offering a DBB rate that may have savings off the formal restaurant a la carte prices, they are also encouraging you to spend more in their formal restaurant than you'd spend buying food at the lower priced option (and of course, it ensures you buy your food with them rather than with another restaurant in the town).

There's another aspect to a rate that includes some meals.  If you're traveling alone, clearly you're only going to be eating one meal rather than two - see if you can get the meal inclusive rate reduced due to being one rather than two diners.  Alternatively, if the meal is offered at a discounted rate, maybe it doesn't make as much sense to choose the meal inclusive option when traveling alone.

In room kitchen/cooking facilities

One more food thought.  If you're staying at a hotel for more than a night or two, you might find it convenient to stay at a hotel that, at the very least, provides a fridge, and even better, has basic kitchen/cooking facilities to allow you to eat some meals in your hotel room.  Maybe spending an extra $25/nt to get a room with basic cooking facilities will save you more than that in food.

This can not only save you money, but can allow you to sample local fresh fruit and other food specialties, and perhaps to eat food items that you particularly prefer, and/or to adopt a more healthy diet than that offered in the restaurant downstairs.

'Club' or 'Executive' Floors - Are They Worth it?

Some hotels - typically multi-national well known major brand hotels - have some of their upper floors designated as 'club' or 'executive' level floors.  Rooms on these floors are more expensive, and/or are offered to the more elite members of their frequent guest programs.

If you have a chance to stay in one of these type rooms, is it a good deal?  The answer depends, of course, on how much extra you have to pay for the room, and what type of valuable extras are included.

Commonly you may find that such rooms have a special lounge that may give you free breakfasts in the morning (usually only light breakfasts with limited menu choices), possibly snacks later in the day, and maybe free drinks, too.

Another possible inclusion is free internet access.

The rooms themselves are generally furnished to a slightly higher standard, and being on an upper floor, may offer better views.  The rooms are usually no larger, but sometimes they might be - you'd have to ask to confirm.

Find out exactly what extra you get when staying in such a room.  If the inclusions have value to you, then maybe it makes sense to upgrade and pay more for such a room.

Beware of Bad Value Packages

We all reasonably expect a travel package to be a better value than purchasing the individual items separately.  But that is not always the case, either for reasons of greed, or for business reasons.

The main business reason why a package might be a bad deal occurs when a hotel puts together a package including its own rooms, plus some other services from other suppliers, and then sells the package through websites, travel wholesalers, and so on.  The hotel has to be sure there is enough margin in the package price to be able to pay perhaps 20% or maybe even more commission when selling the package through wholesalers and on through retail travel outlets.  But sometimes some inclusions do not have any commission or discount for the hotel to start with, so if the hotel buys at full retail something that costs $100 (for example) and wants to include it in a package that offers a 20% discount to wholesalers, it will need to set the value of the $100 item at $125 in the package.

The other consideration with hotel package deals is that maybe there is something in the package that you don't want or need or wouldn't buy.  Who cares if admission to some bizarre museum on the other side of town is included for free, saving you $10 each, if you have no plans to visit the museum and no desire to do so?

For some strange reason, 'honeymoon' type packages seem to be almost invariably a worse deal than if you buy the package in separate pieces.

As for the greed issue, I remember one time asking a travel company why its Sydney package - three nights of hotel, two tours, and airport transfers - was more expensive than buying the items, one by one, from their brochure.  I'd expected the package to be cheaper, not more expensive.  The answer 'we've added extra value and gone to more work to create this package, so it is fair that we sell it for more'.  I'm not sure if this is greed or stupidity, and probably it is a large measure of both!

Bottom line - don't assume that buying a package is better value than buying the components separately.

Read more in the rest of this series

This is part 3 of a series on How to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate - please also visit :

1.  Optimize the Dates of Your Hotel Stay

2.  When is the best (and worst) time to make your hotel reservation

3.  What is Included and What is Extra

4.  Hidden extra fees and how to resolve them

5.  Who to Speak/Book With and What to Say

 

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Originally published 19 Sep 2008, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 

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