Category Archives: Hotels

Hyatt Card Free Night Annually – Category 1 – 4 only

Recently Hyatt Visa announced that their credit card would come with a free night (Categories 1 – 4 only) annually.  This matches what a lot of other hotel credit cards already do.  Hyatt has 6 categories for their hotels.  There are a relatively few number (32 in the US) which land into categories 5 and 6.  Those are the higher end, resort type hotels.  The card comes with a $75 annual fee, so the free night might make it worth it to keep the card.  That will help your credit age, which should help with your credit score.  You can check out their list of hotels by category using this link.  There’s a drop-down box in the upper right of the main section where you can filter for each category level.

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Instant Hilton HHonors Gold Membership

If you have a Visa Signature card, you can get instand gold status with Hilton HHonors through August 31, 2011.  And if you stay 3 times at Hilton before August 31 and use that Visa Signature card to pay for it, you will get gold status through March 2013.  Sign up here.  (It normally takes 16 stays, 36 nights or 60,000 Base Points earned to get gold status.)

What are the benefits to having gold status?

  • Earn 25% more points on your stays
  • Complimentary High-Speed Internet Access (personally I can’t believe hotels still charge for this)
  • At Hilton, Conrad, and Doubletree: a space-available room upgrade, including breakfast (this also includes access to the Executive lounge if you’re upgraded to the Executive floor) or 1,000 bonus points
  • At Embassy Suites: Pick two options from the following: sweet tooth (2 candy bars), 2 bottles of water, 2 regular colas, 2 diet colas, 2 regular lemon-lime sodas, 2 pieces of fruit, or salty snack (popcorn, pretzels, etc) or 500 bonus points
  • At Hampton Inns or Hampton Inn Suites: one bottle of water or 250 bonus points
  • At Hilton Garden: complimentary full American breakfast for you and a guest or 750 bonus points
  • At Hilton Grand Vacations: early check-in/late check-out, upon request, complimentary weekday newspaper, 2 bottles of water per stay, and 1,000 bonus points
  • At Homewood Suites: 2 bottles of water per stay or 250 bonus points
  • At Home2 Suites: bottle of water and a snack or 100 bonus points
  • At Waldorf Astoria: expedited check-in desk, late check-out based on availability, complimentary weekday newspaper, 2 bottles of water per stay, complimentary health club access, welcome beverage, one category room upgrade and then one of the following: an in-room movie or 1,000 bonus points

Note: There are also other items specific to the Maldives that I didn’t cover.  You can check out the full list here.

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Best Price Guarantees

There is a simple way to make money for future trips that takes little effort from you.  Most of the major travel sites have best price guarantees.  This means if you find a better price on another site for the exact same item, they will match the price and give you a credit for a future booking.  You can use this strategy on airfare, hotels, and car rentals.  I’ve used it both for airfare and hotels on Travelocity and Expedia.

It takes a little effort, but not much.  You just need to search multiple travel sites for any of your bookings (something I would suggest anyway, since you always want to get the best price).  The fun begins when you find something you want to book and you have a site that it priced higher than another (on a site that has a best price guarantee).  You make note of which site had the lower price, but you book the item on the higher priced site.  You then follow the best price guarantee procedure for that site.  That usually means submitting an on-line form or calling a customer service representative.  You tell them what you booked and where the lower price can be found.

I’ve used this for our flights between Oahu and Maui on our last Hawaiian vacation.  It took almost no time and I got a $50 credit towards a future booking.  I’ve also used it on a hotel booking for a trip to Maine.  They matched the lower price and I got a $50 credit towards a future booking.  Each of these probably took me about 10 minutes to submit the documentation.

A few important points:

  • Make sure the site you’re booking with has a best price guarantee
  • Make sure that the lower price site item is for EXACTLY the same item as the higher price site
  • Submit your best price guarantee documentation as soon as possible (no more than 24 hours later) since prices can change fast
  • There is a blog called The Best Rate Guarantee Blog that talks about how to use the best price guarantee on hotel bookings
  • As stated on The Best Rate Guarantee Blog, Hotels Combined is a great starting point for hotel bookings.
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Priceline Hotel Bidding Strategy

I rarely book a hotel through traditional sites.  I have had great success with Priceline.  I use the sites that I described in yesterday’s post to help me figure out where to start my bidding.  Priceline allows you to name your own price for a hotel stay.  You enter the star level of hotel you want and the area.  You are told the hotel you won after the bid is accepted.  If your bid is not accepted, you either need to wait a day to bid again, or you need to change either the level of hotel you’re looking for or the location.  However, if you implement the following bidding strategy, you can essentially perform the same search multiple times in one day.

Here’s how it works.  Let’s say you want to take a trip to San Francisco and stay at a 4-star hotel in Nob Hill.  The first thing you do is go to the Name Your Own Price section of site.  Enter in San Francisco, CA as your location and the dates you want to travel.  After that you’ll be taken to a page that shows a map of San Francisco with all the different areas.  The first thing you need to do is figure out which level of hotels exist in each section.  Here’s what is was when I searched:

  1. Civic Center South – 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  2. Financial District – 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  3. Fisherman’s Wharf – 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2
  4. Japan Town – 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  5. Marina – 1, 2
  6. SFO North - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  7. SFO International Airport - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  8. SOMA - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  9. San Mateo - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  10. South San Francisco - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  11. Union Square East - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  12. Union Square West – Nob Hill - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4

Notice that many of the areas do not have 4-star hotels (Civic Center South, Fisherman’s Wharf, Japan Town, Marina, SFO North, South San Francisco).  These are the areas that we’re going to use to get us free rebids.  Since they don’t have any of the star level we want, we can add them in to our search when our bid isn’t accepted, and that will allow us to rebid.  And we know there’s no way we could end up with a hotel in that area because they don’t have any 4-star hotels.

Priceline requires that you change the combination that you’re searching every time you rebid.  So here’s what you would do (until you get a win):

  • Bid 1 – bid on your preferred location of Nob Hill
  • Bid 2 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Civic Center South
  • Bid 3 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Bid 4 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Japan Town
  • Bid 5 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Marina
  • Bid 6 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and SFO North
  • Bid 7 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and South San Francisco

Now we’ve exhausted all the first combinations.  If you still haven’t received a winning bid, continue on including 2 locations.

  • Bid 8 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill, Civic Center South, and Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Bid 9 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill, Civic Center South, and Japan Town
  • Bid 10 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill, Civic Center South, and Marina

I think you get the idea.  You just keep adding in locations and changing the combinations of locations until you get a winning bid.  If you don’t win the first day, wait 24 hours, and try the strategy again.

Here’s a good site that talks about the strategy in more detail:

Up tomorrow: My favorite non-travel deal sites

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Priceline, Hotwire, and Last Minute Travel

I understand that many people will not want to play the credit card game.  Also it’s hard to cover all travel expenses through credit card sign up bonuses.  So I want to talk about some of the other ways that I save money when booking travel.

First, I almost never book hotels or rental cars through the main travel sites.  I generally use Priceline, Hotwire or Last Minute Travel.  Priceline allows you to name your own price, while Hotwire and Last Minute Travel give you discounted prices, but you don’t know the company you’re booking with until after you book.  Both of those methods may have people nervous – 1) because you don’t know which company you’re going to end up with 2) with Priceline, you may not know where to start bidding.

Luckily, there are ways around these concerns.  There are forum sites where people post winning Priceline bids and Hotwire bookings.  They also have information about which hotels participate in the programs.  They do not have Last Minute Travel information, but you can use similar techniques to Hotwire on Last Minute Travel.  My 2 favorite forum sites are Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel.

Rental cars are really straight forward.  I really just use the sites to know where to start bidding.

For hotels, each of the forum sites gives you a list of hotels that participate in the Priceline and Hotwire programs by level of hotel.  The Hotwire list gives you a list of amenities to help you figure out which hotel you might get.  Better Bidding also has a feature I love.  It’s the Priceline and Hotwire Calendar of Wins.  It allows you to easily search winning bids for a given time period for a location.  It’s a great feature to help you gauge what you should bid since hotel prices vary based on the time of year.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll cover bidding strategies so you don’t have to wait a day between bids if your first bid is not accepted.

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