Hotel selection Tips

Hotel selection Tips

Hotel star ratings constitute a system of ranking quality, to help consumers evaluate a hotel's amenities, luxury and overall hospitality. Such systems typically rate hotels on a five-star scale, with five indicating the best, and one (or zero) representing the worst. Five-star hotels, while usually expensive, offer sophisticate architecture and decor, excellent restaurants and lavishly sized rooms. As star rankings fall, room sizes, prices and amenities decrease.

About Hotel Star Ratings

Hotel star ratings constitute a system of ranking quality, to help consumers evaluate a hotel's amenities, luxury and overall hospitality. Such systems typically rate hotels on a five-star scale, with five indicating the best, and one (or zero) representing the worst. Five-star hotels, while usually expensive, offer sophisticate architecture and decor, excellent restaurants and lavishly sized rooms. As star rankings fall, room sizes, prices and amenities decrease.

The Rating Process

Hotels are given star ratings by independent groups such as the AAA, or travel websites like Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotwire. These groups send hotel reviewers to stay at the establishment to gauge the quality of services offered. Basic facts about the hotels, such as room sizes, bed sizes, pool size and restaurant quality and Internet access can also determine star ratings. Each organization has its own criteria for attributing a star rating. In foreign countries, hotels may be rated by government agencies or independent companies, and can vary significantly.

Star Rating Considerations

Star ratings serve as a general guideline, but shouldn't function as the sole determinant of deciding on a hotel. The location of the hotel, while vital to some visitors, might not factored in the star rating. A nice hotel in an inconvenient location can cause more headaches than a mediocre hotel right next to a bus line, train station or major attraction. Star ratings prove most useful in identifying very poor and very luxurious hotels. A five star-rated hotel will almost certainly have fabulous amenities, while a one-star hotel is almost guaranteed to be a dive with little more than a couple of beds to sleep on.

Types of Rooms in Hotels


Overview

Hotel rooms are classified by the number of beds in them, the size and the amenities that they offer, and their rates vary accordingly. There are three basic room categories for a hotel: the standard, family room and the suite. Even the live-in hotels offer the same basic rooms. Hotels like the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa create their own room categories by offering rooms adjacent to the spa (Spa Elite rooms) and "Pure" rooms created using hypoallergenic materials.

Standard Room

A standard room is the cheapest in the hotel. It comes as a single, which is one king-size bed, or as a double, with two queen beds. The standard room has the basic amenities, usually a television, coffee maker, telephone, desk, closet and private bathroom. Other offerings in the standard room depend on the hotel. For example, two-star hotels may offer little more than the basics. A five-star hotel’s standard room may have a Jacuzzi tub, flat-screen television, honor bar and designer interior decorating.

Triple or Family Rooms

A few hotels built to accommodate families will offer larger rooms with three or more beds. A triple room has three queen-size beds. Family rooms offer sitting areas that double as a sleeping space when the couch lets out into a bed. Some hotels, such as the Wilderness Lodge hotel chain, offer bunk beds for the kids. Triple or family rooms are more commonly found as suites than as one large room with several beds in it. It may be more practical to simply upgrade to a suite rather than take a triple room in a hotel that is not tailored toward families.

Suite

A suite is like a micro apartment inside the hotel. Also called a deluxe room, the suite is much larger than a standard. It has bedrooms, living area and may have a kitchenette. Suites are used by businesspeople and families looking to stay in the hotel for an extended period of time. The best type of suite is the executive or presidential suite. They are very spacious with the best views and amenities that that hotel has to offer. In many hotels, the presidential suite is on the top floor or penthouse. This suite is the most expensive room in the hotel. Standard suites are more expensive than a standard room of course but may cost only slightly more than the triple or family rooms. Hotels such as Embassy Suites have only suites available to customers.

Hotel selection

Faced with a list of room options with rates assigned by class, the choice of a standard or superior room could depend on your budget and whether you're just looking for a comfortable bed or full turn-down service. Since room definitions vary by property, start with a general baseline of expectations and check with the hotel to see just what's included for the price.

Standard Accommodations

The room rating of "standard" is entirely subjective, but you can generally deduce the establishment's meaning by the class and location of the hotel. A standard room at a budget motel in a one-horse town won't be as nice as a standard room at a posh Lake Tahoe resort. Anywhere you go, this base-line room should include clean sheets and towels, drinking cups and packaged soap or other toiletries. As your hotel climbs in rating, the sheets may get upgraded in thread count, down pillows may adorn the bed, a plush robe may hang in the bathroom and the shampoo may be a prestige brand. Location and view generally define a standard room, too. It may be on a lower floor, near a source of noise such as the elevator or facing the street while more expensive rooms face the beach.

Superior Upgrade

Like taking the base model of a new car and adding on luxury options, an upgrade to a superior room means that whatever is being offered has advantages compared to the standard room. Perhaps the room offers complementary bottled water, coffee and tea or a minibar, or entrance to a hotel wine and cheese reception. You could simply be dwelling in more square feet in a room that adds a couch or plush chair in which you can spread out. You may be on a higher room with a better view and could even be eligible for special concierge attention.

More Room Categories

Terms used to describe the grade of a hotel room often extend beyond the standard and superior varieties. There could be a mid-level choice between the two, with moderate upgrades that don't meet the definition of superior. Maybe the floor is a little higher, the room is a little larger or the view gets a little better, but not to the extent of a superior room. Beyond a superior room, you'll likely move into the deluxe categories where complementary items such as flowers, cookies or fruit may be delivered. Executive rooms could have business conveniences such as a fax machine or more luxurious accouterments. Remember that hotels are free to name room levels as they wish; they may even brand a standard or superior room a "deluxe."

How to Get Hotel Discounts

Whether you're a personal traveler or a business travel planner, it's desirable to get the best discounts possible for a future hotel stay. Rate cuts during a stay are sometimes possible too. Discounted hotel rooms don't happen by accident; rather, the best prices go to consumers who do their homework and aren't afraid to drive a hard bargain. Christopher Elliot of Microsoft Small Business writes, "There are few travel agents in the business who talk glowingly about their best customers being educated customers. The industry credo is something more along the lines of, 'ignorance is bliss.'" Be a savvy consumer and use a few smart tips when reserving, staying in or checking out of your next hotel.
Step 1
Utilize memberships in professional or educational organizations to get hotel discounts. Some chains extend a price cut to government employees, postal workers, active duty military members and college students. Simply alert the reservation agent at the time of reservation, or ask the customer service representative about discounts when checking in or out. You'll need to show an ID to qualify. If you do, the hotel will price your room according to a reduced rate schedule.
Step 2
Search several online sources before booking to find the lowest rates. Major travel sites like Expedia and Orbitz are good starting points, but a price aggregator such at Kayak or Mobissimo will nab the best prices with its bigger result pool. As Sophie Butler of telegraph.co.uk states, "Time spent comparing prices on the web will almost always save money--sometimes a great deal of money, particularly where top-end hotels are concerned."
Step 3
Ensure your hotel delivers the stated level of service, cleanliness and amenities. If something falls short, don't hesitate to bring it to a manager's attention. If the manager wishes to make things right, ask for a discount at that time. This method is most useful for large-scale problems like dirty linens, smoky air in a nonsmoking room or rude customer service providers, not smaller problems like a missing towel or two.
Step 4
Build up a long history of stays with a particular hotel chain as a frequent traveler. These days, some hotel chains have loyalty programs for frequent customers that allow free nights or discounted accommodations. Look on the hotel chain's website to sign up, or ask to register at check-in or checkout.
Step 5
Cultivate a relationship with the hotel's management or group travel office if your company is a frequent client. Superpages.com says, "If you organize a conference or meeting at a hotel, they will usually offer you a discounted rate for your co-workers if you ask them about it. You'll be bringing a lot of business to the hotel and they should cut you a break for that reason." This method is not only useful for groups; it can also bring perks for leisure travelers who handle corporate accounts or arrangements. With a good enough relationship, it's possible that staff will swing a courtesy discount as a thank-you gesture, even if you're traveling alone.
Step 6
Scan the newspapers for the latest hotel deals. Even though many deals come through the Internet, other sources can prove to be just as good. Local free papers and regional magazines can also run ads with great hotel rates.
Step 7
Book directly through the hotel's website. A hotel chain "typically treats its direct-booking customers better than outsiders. Hotels will deny they do this when they're on the record. But off the record, they admit it happens," Elliot advises. Hotel sites also apply discounts for some membership organizations directly through their sites, making it possible to stack up even more savings.

Hotel Discounts for Group Travel

If you are planning a large event and need many rooms in a hotel, it is possible to negotiate a group discount. The amount of your discount will depend on how badly the hotel needs your business and the size of your group. Lydia Westbrook, research director for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, suggests you contact individual properties and show them you have done your research.

Why Hotels Offer Group Rates

Hotels make money by selling rooms, food and beverages, and services such as massages and dry-cleaning. The more people who stay in the building, the more money the hotel can make. It is therefore in its best interest to offer discounts for large groups; even if the hotel loses some profit, in the long run it gains more income, particularly if the competition is offering you a better deal. The more potential your group has for buying many services from the hotel, the more leeway you have for negotiating a good group rate.

What Constitutes a Group?

Policies for group rates vary from company to company, Westbrook said, and even from property to property -- that is, not every Hilton hotel will offer the same discounts for your group. She said hotels are less concerned with how many people are in your group and more interested in how many rooms you are booking; you can usually get a more generous discount for a group of 20 people who will stay in 20 separate rooms than for a group of 30 people who plan to share a set of eight rooms. The number of nights you will stay also makes a difference, with bigger discounts available if you are staying for several nights rather than just one.

More Services, More Leverage

The more you need to buy from the hotel, the more leverage you have. For example, if your group will be using meeting rooms -- which usually also involves drinks and snacks from the hotel's caterer -- you have more space to negotiate. If your group will be eating all meals at the hotel's dining room and restaurants, say so. If you are hosting a large wedding or convention at the hotel, you can usually get lower rates on rooms or a few free rooms added to your banquet package.

Repeat Business

If you have the potential to offer lots of repeat business to the hotel, the reservations manager will be more inclined to sweeten your deal. For example, if you are looking for a hotel where you can throw your daughter's wedding, it helps to mention that you have four other single children after her (if that's true). If you are the program director for a large corporation, explain that your company plans to hold an annual convention in the area. Or find a travel agent or event planner to negotiate on your behalf; the money you pay the agent will be more than made up for by their negotiating skills and ability to provide more business to the hotel.

Obstacles to Group Discounts

If a hotel will be able to fill its rooms whether your group comes or not, you probably won't be able to get a group rate. This means you are less likely to get a group discount if you are traveling during the hotel's high season. Check with local convention centers and arenas to find out whether there are any major events in the area; if your group must travel the same weekend as a region's annual festival or a major sporting event, you aren't likely to get a discount. Conversely, you can negotiate a good deal if you travel during low season, during a time when not much else is going on.

How to Find the Best Hotel Deals

Nightly hotel rates often absorb a large portion of a travel budget. A standard nightly rate is usually published by the hotel for guests reserving a room either by phone or via the hotel's private website. Most hotels offer special rates, however, for visitors willing to do some searching. These special rates often come with terms and conditions that limit cancellations, room types or travel dates, but guests who take advantage of them will see significant savings over the standard nightly rate.
step 1
Call the local visitor's center of your travel destination to inquire about hotel discounts. Most major travel cities have a visitor's center that offers discounts to local attractions, restaurants and hotels. For example, the San Diego Visitor Information Center can provide up to a 50 percent discount on local hotels and motels. Orlando and Branson have similar tourism centers, each of which offers steep discounts and hotel recommendations with bookings available via the Internet.
step 2
Go online to discount travel websites and search for a hotel deal. Hotels are constantly competing for business and generally wish to sell unused rooms -- often at a discount. Websites like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity and Hotwire offer competitive rates with nightly room discounts that take off up to 50 percent or more of the standard nightly rate. Additionally, some hotel chains offer seasonal discounts on their websites.
step 3
Consult with a travel agent for the best rates and specials. Travel agents have consistent relationships with hotels and are often offered a commission for referring new guests. Some agents will pass these savings on to you, the customer. They can also give tips based on experience and mitigate if a conflict occurs during the trip. Find an agent who is a member of the American Society of Travel Agents, as they are subject to a code of ethics.
step 4
Take advantage of your affiliations. Some hotels offer special rates for teachers, military and AARP members. Be prepared to show proof of your affiliation upon check-in. If you are retired, some hotels may offer a senior citizen's discount. Bring a driver's license or other identification to show proof of age if needed.

How to Get a Lower Hotel Room Price

When you’re on vacation, you shouldn’t have to spend all of your money on necessities, but as travel and lodging costs add up, your vacation mad money goes plummeting. That can mean visiting fewer area attractions, enjoying fewer sumptuous meals and bringing home fewer souvenirs. One way to spend a little less is to limit what you're paying for hotels.
step 1
Make your hotel reservations online. The lowest room price is almost always the one listed on the hotel’s website. If you walk into a hotel without a reservation and get quoted a $300 per night room rate, use the hotel’s free Wi-Fi or pop into a nearby coffee shop with free Wi-Fi and pull up the hotel’s website. You can often book the room online and get it at half the quoted price.
step 2
Use a discount online booking system. While many hotel chains have started price-matching popular discount sites like Expedia.com and Hotwire.com, you can often still get a deal. Priceline.com, for instance, allows you to bid on a hotel room. If the hotel accepts the bid, you pay the price you would like to pay for the room instead of the going rate. step 3
Prepay for your hotel rooms. Nearly all online booking systems, including hotel booking systems and discount booking sites, offer the option of prepaying for the room. The rate when prepaying for a room can be anywhere from $10 to $50 less per night than if you do not prepay. The downfall of prepaid rooms is that they cannot be canceled.
step 4
Find out if you get hotel discounts through your membership in an organization. Travel groups such as AAA offer discounts at thousands of hotels. Federal employees and veterans are often eligible for discount rates, and some large companies are given discounts with specific hotel chains. If you work for a well-known company, check with someone in human resources to find out if employees are eligible for discounts at any hotels.
step 5
Book with a specific credit card. Some hotel chains have credit card companies with whom they are associated or even have credit cards that are linked with their reward programs, such as Holiday Inn’s Priority Club credit card. Using a credit card associated with the hotel can often score you a small discount.