For travellers, one of the most important and and costly aspects of your adventure is resort and hotel accommodations. Unless you have friends or relatives willing to put you up when you arrive at your destination, accommodation is either going to be your most significant expense while on the road, of second just behind air transportation.
Assuming that no two people reading this have identical financial capabilities, I'll focus on the value offered by a specific accommodation, not price. One thing I have learned over many years as a lifestlye traveller is that ne can find incredibly inexpensive accommodations but still be over grossly paying. On the other hand, travellers can spend a few dollars extra, or select less convenient locations for the same cost, and find accommodations that are a huge bonus when it comes to realizing the biggest bang for your buck.
The accommodation selection process I personally employ is based on my goa always being to travel for as long as possible each time I depart. To select my travel desitination I first research the availability of decen accommodation at the most affordable price. list all of the places I 've yet to visit, or that I want to revisit, then search to find which offers the least expensive accommodation available when I want to travel.
Of course the availability of afforable flights to get me to where I find a great value on accommodation is a deciding factor, but airfares are a topic I will discuss elsewbere. But, for the purpose of this article, you can trust that as a vagabond traveller, I can usually get himself to a destination for a fraction of the cost of the guy or gal sitting next to me.
Following are some research tips on how to find the best values on accommodations anywhere in the world... and what hotel booking traps to avoid because they will cost you money.
All in one travel sites like Hotwire.com offer really good deals on most everything a vacationer, business traveller, or lifestyle traveller needs. However, there's a catch, and depending on your needs it may pose a significant problem. Using any online booking service specializing in discounts relating to accommodation is great if the destination is your primary interest, followed immediately by finding an inexpensive hotel room. This is so because with most websites offering discounted hotel accommodations you don't know which hotel you're getting until you buy. Depending on the paramaters of my travel, I find buying blind an affordable option unless it is important that I know where a hotel is located, or that it provides specific amenities.
As a lifestlyle traveller in my late 50s I appreciate a well appointed gym, especially if I intend to stay for an extended period of time as I often do. I enjoy experiencing all a destination has to offer, and food is way up there on my list of enjoyable experiences. If I want to enjoy the culinary delights a desination has to offer, I need to work out to burn off the calories. If I'm traveling on behalf of or in representation of a client, I have to have internet access in the room, cell phone reception, and if not a land line available, a fax machine I can use, etc. Ideally I try book myself into a hotel with a business centre offering work stations, courier pick up, fax, intenet, photocopiers, etc. Usually hotels that cater to business travellers aren't listed with discount vacation websites, so to seach such sites for suitable accommodation is usually a waste of time.
Another criteria for me is that I perfer not driving in foreign countries. Therefore, I don't want to be booked into hotels far from local attractions and amenities. If I'm on business and prebooked accommodation isn't included in my compensation package, I choose to be located in or close to the business centre.
So, if your travel is purely for personal enjoyment, and your destination is your primary interest, I recommend checking out what is available through online travel sites that are focused on discounted hotels, airfare, etc. There are some amazing deals to be had, especially if you are date and dentination flexible. If you need specific amenities, discount travel sites may not be your best choice. In such cases I recommend a personal approach...
All hotels pay commissions and/or discounts to travel agents, tour operators, tour wholesalers, travel clubs, etc. and offer significant corporate discounts. In short, there is money on the table to be negotiated for. Calling a toll free reservation line will connect you with a low level employee in a hotel, or with a call centre employee in the case of most larger hotel chains. Forget asking for a deal from either of these groups because if they have any authority to discount accommodations it will be minimal. Instead, email the hotel management office or the marketing manager or sales manager. Explain that you are being tasked with finding accommodation for X number of people, even if it is one, for the dates you need. Indicate what amenities you require, and ask what the cost will be for your entire stay, amenities included. You will receive back an email 90+% of the time with a cost that is much less than the price advertised on the hotel's website, quoted by travel agents, or given by whomever answers calls on the reservation line.
It takes a bit of work, but believe me it is nowhere near what was involved in organizing accommodation back in the day. I refer to when the only other option to calling a reservation line was to use snail mail to make enquiries and then wait. Back then, the replies to posted requests for pricing were disappointing, and it cost about CAN$20 to post a dozen or so letters of enquiry to overseas hotels. Fax was better once it came along, but nothing beats email for organizing travel.
I know some people are hesitant to negotiate on their own and therefore allow a travel agent to book their accommodations, regardless of the fact it is costing as much as 50% extra. Yes, that's right... you can end up paying as much as double for short duration or overnight stays. In fact, the amount you can save can be even greater if you're going to stay at a destination for an extended period.
I have literally traveled for months on end, years at two points in my life, and did so on a budget most people could not stay within when booking a two week, all inclusive vacation for two at a popular resort. I generally stay in 3 and 4 star hotels, rather than 5 stars, but always in poplular tourist destinations. For a 6 months stay in Quito, Ecuador, I paid less for a beautiful, city centre hotel room in the quaint, old quarter, than the cost of a two nights, weekend get-away deal offered by well known American hotel chains. Ironically, such weekend offers are made because the hotel's vacancy rate sours with the exodus of business bookings, so they really aren't such a great deal. The reality of my life is that I live more cheaply, while enjoying a better quality of life by traveling nonstop than I did living a rooted existance. If you want to be a full time vagabond treaveller, register to receive my newsletter. It's free!