How question 2 plays into your hotel booking plan: Some hotels offer lower rates on off peak day. If you’re traveling to high traffic business area the peak days would be Tuesday and Wednesday (as a rule) if you’re traveling to a resort area the peak days are usually Friday and Saturday unless there is a convention in town with a large block of hotel rooms.
How question 3 plays into your hotel booking plan: If you live and die by loyalty points you just need to focus on finding the best rate.
How question 4 plays into your hotel booking plan: In most cases it is a combination of all of them but take time to rank them so you don’t drive yourself crazy.
Now that you know what your reservations are being driven by you can start. If you are booking a national chain (Choice Hotels, Hilton, Marriot… etc.) there are two primary ways to book your hotel; they are “Opaque” and “Transparent”. Opaque is when the buyer (you) bids on a room not knowing the specific hotel. You can choose the number of stars, general location, amenities but not the brand or specific hotel. Transparent is when you book a specific hotel and the rate is published.
Booking your hotel through an Opaque site such as Priceline (my favorite) will usually get you the best rate but you can forget about points and flexibility. National chains offer a “best price guarantee” on their parent web site, so if a hotel lists its self on a site where you know the brand/specific hotel the rate can never be lower than the brand web site. We hoteliers understand that our product has a 24 hour shelf-life so how do we fill a room and not let it expire… in many cases through opaque sites .
Although 3rd party hotel booking companies have deep pockets to advertise convincing Joe Public that they offer the best rates; the fact is they don’t if it’s a national chain. You end up paying more due to the booking fees and you have more restrictions such as, no cancellations, paying up front, not being able to choose room type or location of room and usually a hotel will not give you points if you book through these guys. Most hotels (although they will not admit it) block there reward members first, then groups, then reservations through the franchise web site and 800 number and then lastly the guests who book through 3rd parties. So why do hotels list with 3rd parties…we have to… you keep using them and they keep running ads. If you are driven by points, brand or you must be in a specific hotel; book through the hotels web site if you’re in a hurry. If you have time to negotiate call the hotel. The best time to make that call is 9:30am to 11:30am or 1pm to 2:30pm. Why did I choose this time frame? The hotel check out is over and there is someone usually there who can approve a lower rate.
Reviews – Use them to get the best hotel deal for you.