Making the Most of Your Hotel Stay

By Kathy Chin Leong


Over the course of writing for this web site, we at BAFT have travelled throughout the state, visiting hotels and inns, reviewing the décor, amenities, service, bed comfort, towels and linens and overall ambience of the properties. We’ve learned a lot about the hospitality industry. Here’s a list of what you can do to maximize your stay and get the most bang for your hard-earned buck.

PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME


When you know what the hotel or resort offers to guests in advance, you won’t be saying, "Darn, I wish I knew that!" So, be sure to find out the following before you hit your destination.

*Does the room have a CD player?
*Does the room have a DVD?
*Does the hotel have complimentary DVDs and CDs available for checkout?
*What type of recreational facilities does the place have? Whirlpool spa, tennis courts, spa, gym, golf, indoor or outdoor pool?
*What type of eating establishments are at the hotel and locally? Are they formal or casual? Is there a restaurant that is particularly famous or noted for a particular cuisine?
*What events are happening in town when I arrive?
*What type of weather is expected?
*Do you have a frequent-visitor program?
*What complimentary amenities can I request ahead of time?
*Can I upgrade my room with an extra bed or view if you have available rooms at no extra charge?
*Can I arrive early? Is there late checkout?

HIDDEN COSTS


Many times, when people book a hotel, they mainly look at the rock bottom hotel fee. Be forewarned, there are extraneous fees that are involved, and they vary from place to place. Find out about these ahead of time, and adjust your budget accordingly.

*Parking costs (valet versus self-park). Is there street parking at no charge?
*Internet
*Resort fees (usually covers the gym, parking, etc.) Usually, these cannot be waived. Expect to pay between $10 and $20.
*Clearing out the mini bar. One hotel that shall not be named said it charges $20 just to have someone empty it out for me ahead of time.
*Mini bar (If you move around items, you may be charged. Double check your bill upon checkout).
*Microwave options.
*Gym fees – not all hotels include workout room access for free. The Anaheim Hilton, for example, charges $12 per day.

COMPARE PRICES AND NEGOTIATE RATES


Savvy shoppers go by this commandment: Thou shalt not book retail! Take the time to compare rates, ask the hotel about package deals with local attractions or golf/spa treatments. Go online to various web sites, and if you are booking more than one room, see if the sales manager is willing to cut you a deal.

Rates will go down during off-season. If school is not an issue, do travel between September and May, outside of the major holidays. There are less crowds, and rooms are anywhere from 10 to 20 percent cheaper. Sometimes they are willing to offer a free night when you stay for two or three consecutive days.

You can also go to travel shows which often have hoteliers who offer discount coupons for their properties. Be sure to snap these up if you can.

SAVING MONEY


On a budget? Most of us are. Costs add up on the road, so here’s what you can do to keep more dollars in your wallet while having a great time.

*If you want to be near an attraction such as Disneyland, be willing to lodge on the outskirts of town where you can save big bucks. My sister booked a Hilton hotel in Costa Mesa for only $75 using Priceline.com instead of staying at the Hilton Anaheim closer to Disneyland where she would have paid double the price.
*Get the smallest room there is, and get a rollaway bed for the kids or a sleeper couch.
*Bring your own beverages food to the hotel. Bring a cooler or ask for a mini refrigerator. Find out ahead of time if microwaves are available.
*Decline help with luggage or parking, and do it yourself.
*Enjoy the amenities your hotel has to offer instead of hitting costly attractions.
*Go to the concierge desk and ask if the hotel offers discount coupons to local eateries, shopping malls, or attractions.
*If there is a hotel or resort you really want to visit, find out when its low season is. Talk to the sales rep to find out what deals are available to local travellers or to AAA members or Entertainment cardholders. Pull out the stops. If the property offers a timeshare presentation in exchange for a discount, you may want to sit through one if you don't mind spending the time or enduring sales pressure.
*Look into non-hotel options. There are also campsites or RV centers where you can spend the night in your van without actually pitching a tent. State parks in California usually charge less than $30 a night, but you have to book at least 9 months in advance.
* Youth hostels are another way to save money. These charge on a per head basis, and costs vary from one hostel to another. Usually, you can get away for less than $80 for a family of four. Some hostels feature family rooms, so you have privacy.

These are just a few tips culled from our roadside journeys. If you have more, just email us at editors@bayareafamilytravel.com .

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