As the hotelier's wife, I'm privy to a few inside whispers...and you'll be pleased to know, over the years, I've been secretly stashing them in the vault, otherwise known as my 'hotel file.' (Shhh...don't tell the hotelier.)
As an expat for almost five years, we've been ultra privileged to travel around Asia and beyond, a significant number of times, as a single couple - but mostly with the 'Small Person.'
From city to the beach stays, I've collected a few worthy pieces of info along the way.
And the small but handy fact, that we now live in a hotel, has also served me well on the advice front.
With that in mind, I thought it was high time I shared my two cents worth, (for what it's worth)! A few sneaky tips to think about next time you're planning your holiday and want to book a hotel.
#1 GET LUCKY IN THE LOW SEASON
When you book your holiday, if it's possible (and I know, often it's not with school holidays, work etc) DO pick the low season - even holidaying just before or just after a major holiday will get you a better deal and a higher possibility of a room upgrade.
#2 THE HOTEL WEBSITE IS YOUR BEST BET
With the big chain hotels, in theory, you shouldn't be able to find a cheaper rate on a third-party website; most big players have 'best rate guarantee' where they guarantee the lowest rate through their own channels.
Booking with a third party can mean you're provided with a less impressive room and receive less recognition as a guest.
Tip: It pays to challenge the rate you see on the website.
#3 PRE-PAY FOR LESS
If you pre-pay your booking in advance, you should generally get a better room rate...anything between ten and 50 per cent cheaper than the going rate is possible.
Ask if they have a pre-paid rate or check the website.
#4 INVESTIGATE YOUR DESTINATION
When booking a hotel, be sure to check off the dates you're going, with the local calendar. For example, religious holidays could mean everything's closed down for the day/week; public holidays (especially in China) might mean your hotel is inundated with a plethora of frenzied guests. Check the weather and try to avoid typhoon season or the wet season.
Tip: Typhoon season doesn't have to mean bad weather and can mean lower rates.
Check whether you need a visa for your port of call as well, as often these can take time to process.
#5 RESEARCH REAPS REWARDS
If you haven't heard about your hotel of choice through word of mouth, it pays to research your preferred destination on line with reputable travel sites like Trip Advisor or Ctrip. Get the lowdown warts and all. See what other travellers think.
#6 FRIENDLY FLIGHTS
Before you fall in love with a holiday destination and start dreaming of long walks on the pristine beach, check flights including any connecting flights to make sure it's doable and won't cost the earth. Sometimes the hotel's dirt cheap but just getting there costs a small fortune. If you're only going for a few days, budget flights can be at more unsociable hours, making it a marathon effort to get there. Is it worth it for just a few days?
#7 RESORT VERSUS CITY
Be clear in your mind about what you need. If you have kids, resorts are more inclined to have a 'Kid's Club'.....less so an 'Executive Club.' Look for brands that have kid's programs and remember not all will have a baby sitting agency. A lot of hotels have a policy where they can't recommend baby sitters for fear of liability.
Be aware if you do choose a resort holiday...it may well be a beautiful resort in the middle of nowhere, but this will also mean your dining options are limited. The hotel knows this all too well and the cost is likely to reflect this.
#8 EXCHANGE RATE EXPECTATIONS
It pays to check the exchange rate before you travel so you know whether eating out and activities are going to be more expensive than you expected.
#9 A HEALTHY START AT A HEALTHY RATE
Ordering breakfast daily in advance, so it's included in your room rate, will be more cost effective than paying at the restaurant door or at check in. If you haven't, on your check in, it's well worth asking if there's a special rate given if you sign up for daily breakfast then and there.
#10 EXECUTIVE CLUB ENTRY
If you plan on spending quite a bit of time in the hotel, eating breakfast and indulging in a few evening beverages, paying the extra to be part of the Executive Club is worth it. It includes free breakfast and a drink or two plus snacks in the evening. Note: Many hotels don't allow children in their executive clubs.
#11 FAMILY FACTS
Bigger families often need interconnecting rooms and a lot of hotels simply don't have the right configuration for an average family. If you book a 'Twin Room' the 'single' beds in 'higher level', newer hotels are bigger than average and usually fit two of you.
Tip: Sometimes it's cheaper to purchase a suite rather than two interconnecting rooms.
#12 ROLL-AWAY BEDS AREN'T FREE
If you have kids, it pays to ask whether the room has a sofa bed. You will more often than not be charged for an extra roll-away bed - which is surprisingly not always cheap. Alternatively, check if the room has enough space for a blow up bed...otherwise if there's a king sized bed, perhaps there's no need for that extra sleeping space. Some hotels (if they know you have additional people in the room) will try to charge for extra linen.
#13 NEW BABY IN TOW
Often you're better paying that bit extra for a higher standard hotel. They will have baby bottle sterilisers, cots, high chairs, and can bring microwave ovens to the room for heating food.
#14 A BALCONY WITH BENEFITS
If you have children, it's often good to have a balcony...even a little one. At least you've got somewhere to go when you've put the kids to bed instead of sitting in the dark, barely breathing in case junior wakes up! If you've got a little one, still sleeping in a cot you can always wheel them into the walk-in-wardrobe until you go to sleep so it's quieter for them and you can at least watch TV. (Naturally I'm not condoning locking them in for the night!)
#15 SWIMMING CHECK
In Asia, in particular, a lot of swimming pools are indoors, so if you plan on a relaxing holiday in the sun....check first. If you're in a resort make sure the hotel has free towels and kid's toys.
#16 MINI BAR MISHAPS
Watch out! A lot of mini bars in big hotels these days are automated. This means if you remove anything from it - you will be automatically charged. Checking out the local brew could prove to be a costly exercise.
If it's not automated, why not stock the bar with your own beverages. Stop off in duty free and grab a couple of your favourite bottles. A lot of country's high import taxes mean alcohol can be notoriously expensive in a hotel.
#17 WATER WOES
Just because a hotel has a 5-Star rating doesn't mean their water is 5-star quality. Hygiene standards differ greatly depending on the country you're in and some sewerage systems are more antiquated than others making the water unsafe to drink or even brush your teeth. Do your research.
#18 COMPLIMENTARY STUFF
At most big brand hotels, kids between three and 12 years old eat for free at the hotel buffet restaurant.
Most big hotels have complimentary bottles of water, but be careful - there is often a mix of complimentary and charged mineral water in the room. The charged for bottles usually have a tag displaying the charge.
(You didn't hear this from me, but if you hide the water bottles, you'll get more delivered.) ;)
Many hotels will have a free shuttle bus to take you to and from town or into the hub of your surroundings.
Make sure you know in advance whether the internet is free or not. Many luxury hotels still charge and this can sting you financially if you're unaware. Some of the big players include free wifi if you book through their own website
#20 LOYALTY COUNTS
It's well worth signing up to the hotel's loyalty program, if they have one. Why? Lots of perks including the chance to get a better room, a discount off your food and beverage, potentially free internet and less chance of getting moved if the hotel overbooks!
Happy Holidays from Mint Mocha Musings: The Hotelier's Wife, An Expat Affair in Asia