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
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.
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
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
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
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
Booking service fees (often
disguised as hotel charges even when they're not)
Hotel energy surcharge
Hotel resort fee
Mandatory phone or internet
Short stay surcharge or room
Credit card surcharge (yes,
some smaller hotels even charge you extra for using a credit
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
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
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
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'hôte 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
In room kitchen/cooking
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
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
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
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
Read more in the rest of this
This is part 3 of a series on How
to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate - please
also visit :
Optimize the Dates of Your
When is the best (and
worst) time to make your hotel reservation
What is Included and What is Extra
Hidden extra fees and how
to resolve them
Who to Speak/Book With
and What to Say
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19 Sep 2008, last update
09 Feb 2012
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.