Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Taking advantage of hotels' best rate guarantee

Most hotels have on their website words to the effect of a best price guarantee, being that if you find a rate for the same room and dates at the hotel via another website that they will beat that price.

Each of them of course come with terms and conditions as to how to make this work and it would seem from reading some of them that perhaps the guarantee is not as iron-clad as it may have originally seemed.

Starwood Best Rate Guarantee

That said, however, I have had some luck with the Starwood Best Rate Guarantee for a booking made last year. My sister was travelling to Europe and I had helped her book most of her travel and accommodation. She had fallen in love with the Hotel Bristol in Vienna, Austria and decided that was where she wanted to stay.

We looked online and saw that a hotel selling website had a double room with breakfast for the rate of 482 euros. We also noted that there was a 10 euro cancellation fee if the room was cancelled any time up to one week before the reserved dates.

We then looked at the Hotel Bristol website and saw that it had a rate of 310 euros per night (so 620 euros for the entire 2 night stay).

In order to secure the cheap rate in case it disappeared before the Best Rate Guarantee claim was assessed, I booked it on the website where we initially saw it.

The Best Rate Guarantee link at the Hotel Bristol website redirected me to the Starwood Best Rate Guarantee website which contains all the information you need about making a claim. It can be accessed at:

Claims have to be made either before making a booking or if you have already made a booking through the hotel itself then within 24 hours of that booking.

In the case of the Starwwood Best Rate Guarantee, if your claim is successful then you have the choice of either:
  1. an additional 10% off the Competing Rate per room per night; or
  2. 2000 Starwood Preferred Guests Starpoints per room per stay.
In this case, we elected for the 10% off the competing rate and we got exactly that. In order to secure the rate, once the claim was approved, all we had to do was book it via the Hotel Bristol's website and email the confirmation number. There was no need to pay all of it in advance or anything either.

So we managed to save money even factoring in the cancellation fee we had to pay to the initial website that we booked with and it didn't involve laborious paperwork either- just a simple form with contact details and the competing rate and site.

How about you? Have you taken advantage of any Best Rate Guarantees for hotel bookings either through the hotels themselves or through booking sites?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Priceline Name Your Own Price for beginners

As promised, I am going to give you a quick run-down of how to use Priceline's Name Your Own Price ("NYOP") feature.

Firstly, go to

On the "Hotels" tab, type in the city you are going to. In the example below, I've used Paris. As you will see - once you start typing the city, it will bring up a drop-down menu to select the city you are looking for.

Enter your dates and how many rooms and select "Search Hotels".

You will then be taken to a page which shows that the search is processing that looks something like this:

Once the search results are in, select the "Name Your Own Price" tab and you will see a page like the one below:

You will then need to select the area(s) of the city that you are interested in (by clicking in the tick-box). In this example, I have selected the first area shown, being Montparnasse. As you can see below:

Having done that, we see that there are no 5* properties available via Name Your Own Price - this is because the 5* option is greyed out and unable to be selected as you can see in the image above:

That being so, I will select 4* which means that it will only match my price with inventory matching
both the area of Montparnasse and being a 4* hotel. NOTE: if I were to select a 3* hotel it would look at both 3 and 4 * properties for a match. It will always look for a higher rated hotel but never for a lower rated one than you have selected.

I will then enter the price that I am bidding (note that this is not the total price that I would pay if I were successful as there are Priceline fees that are added on top. These will be shown on the following screen once I proceed and confirm the correctness of the details of the request). Here, I have gone for the extremely unrealistic US$40 per night.

Note that there is even a warning in red that the bid has very low chance of being successful - don't worry about this - even when you can be near the mark of the right bidding range you can see this. Don't let it deter you or make you bid higher than you intended to start out.

Once the desired price and the traveller's name have been entered, click on "Preview Offer" to see what the total cost would be if the offer is accepted:

On the same page, you are also able to choose whether you would like travel insurance and are asked to initial that you understand the T&Cs:

Once you have done that you will be asked to provide credit card details. "We're Ready To Get Your Hotel Room" and the request for payment information does not mean that your offer has been accepted. Priceline takes the credit card details before checking your offer against its inventory so that it can charge you immediately if you are successful:

Once you have done that and clicked on "Book Now" you will see a screen that looks something like this:

If your offer is rejected, as this one was (I changed it to $10 per night to be absolutely sure it would be so I didn't get charged but so that I could show you the process), you will see a screen like this:

If your bid is accepted you will see a screen and receive an email to the email address you provided to Priceline with the confirmation of both your successful bid and the name and address of your hotel.
So that's a quick run-down of how to use Priceline. There are more tips and tricks to it, which I will provide to you in another post.

Have any of you used Priceline Name Your Own Price? Have you had any success? What sorts of deals did you get?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Booking hotels - How to get the cheapest rate

There are several methods for booking hotel rooms. Most of these are well-known, however some are lesser known but can save you lots of money.

The traditional methods are:
The less traditional methods and the ones that I have come to use more often than the traditional methods are:

Priceline's hotel booking website is split into three parts:
  1. the traditional hotel booking method where the names and prices of hotels are displayed;
  2. the "Express deals" section, which involves an unnamed hotel which is defined by certain amenities and the area of the city; and
  3. the Name Your Own Price section, in which you bid on an unnamed hotel by area of the city and star rating.
Name Your Own Price ("NYOP")

This is the way to save up to 60% off the hotel rate - all by taking a risk and not knowing the hotel name before booking.

The NYOP section is the one that I want to focus on because I think it is the most novel and best way of saving on a hotel room. If you don't mind which hotel you end up in (so long as it is within a certain star rating), this is a fantastic way of getting a great deal.

I have usually tried bidding far in advance because I am someone who likes to be organised months in advance. It is possible, in fact probable, that I would have been able to get even better deals had I been willing to try bidding closer to the time of stay. In any event, I have still managed to get some great deals by naming my own price.

Priceline claims that you can save up to 60% off the usual rate by using the NYOP method. On my first successful use of NYOP this rung true. I managed to get the Marriott Rive Gauche in Paris for a total of US$230 whereas all the traditional hotel booking websites had this hotel for $570 for the 2 night stay. Perhaps the best discount was also because this one was booked only one month before my stay.

So, do I have your attention now? I thought so.

It wasn't just a fluke either. I have managed to get the Moevenpick Ibn Battuta Gate in Dubai for US$145 per night as opposed to $180 per night. This wasn't as much of a saving as the Paris one but I did book it some 6 months in advance so that might have had something to do with it.

Another deal I was able to get, this time for my sister and her husband, was for the beautiful Hotel Westminster in the heart of Paris. We managed to secure this beautiful 4* hotel at a total price for our 7 night stay of $1674.96, as compared with the rate on the retail part of Priceline of $1962.00 so a saving of $220 for the entire stay. This was a saving of 15% so not as large as my last Paris win but still a great rate for such a beautiful and well located property and good considering this was some 6 months in advance.

I will do another post on how to get your best price on NYOP later.


Hotwire ( is a website which has two parts:
  1. the retail part - like traditional hotel booking sites which identifies hotels by name, area, star-rating and price; and
  2. the secret hot rate part - hotels are unnamed but identified by the area, amenities and price.
Secret Hot Rate

Hotwire advertises the secret hot rate as being able to give you 4-star rooms at 2-star prices up to
50% off.
I was lucky enough to get a 5* hotel in Milan, The Westin for 49% off the price on the retail part of Hotwire.
For a 2 night stay coming up at the beginning of April, which was booked 7 months in advance we paid $228.25 as opposed to $447.30. This for a premium hotel, which is highly recommended and for the price of staying in a much lesser quality hotel.
As with Priceline's NYOP, I will do another post on how to take advantage of the Secret Hot Rates later. 

How about you dear readers, have you ever managed to get a fantastic hotel deal? Tell me about it below.

How to get the best fare

With so many travel tools available to us now, the best way to get the best airfare to suit your needs is to do your research.

Research various airlines

Personally, I like to use websites that show all of the different airlines' fares on the one page but seldom actually use them for my booking. The reason for that is that they will all add their own booking fees so that airfare that you thought was really cheap will end up more expensive.

So, tip number one would be to use comparison websites to do your research but don't book with them.

Be flexible with your dates

Also, if you are able to do so, be flexible with your dates - try playing around with mid-week dates instead of weekends. This sounds silly but fares will differ dramatically if you are able to leave and return on a Tuesday or a Wednesday as opposed to leaving on a Friday night and coming back on a Sunday night (or even in some cases Monday morning).

Sign-up to airlines' mailing lists

If you are planning a trip, I can't stress highly enough how important it is to be on different airlines' mailing lists. This way, you will be the first to know about any promotions that they may have. These promotions sometimes only last a few days so it's best to know about it as it launches so you can take advantage.

Happy-hour specials

Virgin Australia, when it was known as Virgin Blue, was the first airline in the Australian market to introduce the happy hour special concept. Basically, between certain hours each day, certain routes with a specified travel period would be reduced. In the case of Virgin Blue, you had to book within that one or two hour window, otherwise the fares reverted back to the original pre-happy hour fare.

The Virgin Australia Happy Hour is on from 4pm - 6pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) on weekdays.

Jetstar have a similar promotion, known as Friday Frenzy which is every Friday afternoon (as the name would suggest). If you sign up to its mailing list, Jetstar will notify you of the Friday Frenzy fares (wow, there are a lot of Fs there) by email each Friday.

Be flexible with your cities

This obviously applies for international rather than domestic travel. In the past, I have been able to take advantage of ridiculously cheap airfares to Europe by being flexible with my cities. When Qatar Airways launched its Brussels, Belgium route, I was able to fly from Melbourne to Brussels return for A$793. Even though I was living in Sydney and not in Melbourne, I still managed to fly to Europe return for under A$1,000 on a premium airline (Qatar Airways won the award as Skytrax World's Best Airline for 2011 (the year I flew) and 2012).

Similarly, even though I was actually overjoyed to be able to fly straight into Brussels as it meant I could go down memory lane (I lived there for a year in 2002), many who were on the flight with me told me that they were using it as a launching pad into all of the other cities on the doorstep. From there, some were able to take the Eurostar directly into the heart of London.

Become the rope in a tug of war for your business

About 10 years ago when I was looking for fares to go to Germany with about one month's notice (and back when it wasn't quite as easy to look at all the different airlines' fares as it is now), I asked two different travel agencies for quotes. Travel Agency A ("A") was an online only travel agency and Travel Agency B ("B") was an agency from a chain with many stores. I didn't act on either of the quotes straight away and within a few days I had A emailing me asking if I was going to take the fare. I replied and told them that B had quoted a better fare. They then asked to see the quote and proceeded to offer me a better price. Then B asked me if I was going to take the fare they had quoted me and I told them that A had bettered their fare. B then said that they would better A's fare. Inadvertently, I had become the customer that both A and B wanted to win. I ended up going with B in the end and they told me that they were actually only making $1 on the fare by the time it had been bettered by A then B then A again and finally B.

Flight Centre is an example of an airline that has a best price guarantee. It will better the fares by $1 but unfortunately no longer gives you a $20 voucher for use on domestic bookings. This might not sound like much but if you end up in a bidding war like I did, it may work to your advantage.

About me

I guess the best place to start with a blog is to explain who I am.
I am an Aussie girl in her 30s who has been travelling the world since she was 7. I have been lucky enough to travel to four of the seven continents (yes, there are seven as we were taught in primary school here in Australia, not five as some would have you believe!)
I have even been fortunate enough to have lived in Europe three times.
My father passed on his infectious love of travel to me at a young age and I am thankful to him for sharing it with me, even if it is an expensive hobby to have!
I have started this blog after much encouragement and suggestion from family and friends. Whereas most travel blogs are about the travels people have been on, this, at least at first, will be about travel tips.