Good Times

After my bumpy weekend, I need to concentrate on something positive in my next couple of posts.  I do not want to scare readers (and myself) from trips with too many traveling bumps stories with me having to find alternative solutions that aren’t the best, i.e. sleeping on the floor.  There are a lot of good things in the world to see, either for business, pleasure, or mandatory family excursions.

One has many options to book hotels (Airbnb is in a different category in itself, with good and very bad points).  Today, I am briefly covering my personal first choice, booking directly with the hotel.

This is my first option for 2 main reasons.   Loyalty reward programs points/perks and Customer Service. These are two key areas which can turn a negative travel experience into a positive one.

I belong to a few programs, but my main two are Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guests.  I like the hotel properties, and most importantly, have had positive stays in otherwise bad conditions.  Now people will say, that it’s not the least expensive and not a viable option for many, and I would have to disagree.

Last December, the week before Christmas, I was with three family members in Connecticut.  When one of them got ill, we had to cut our trip short.  It was turning out to be a nightmare.  We had to book new flights, but had to stay over in NYC.  Well, that time of year it isn’t the easiest to get affordable rooms.  We already had to spend money on new flights, and were restricted on funds to spend.

My first instinct was to do a blind deal on a third-party site.  It was only for one night.  But, if you had read in an earlier post, my sister isn’t a fan of surprises. Especially bad surprises, and she was with me, so that was out.  So we started calling hotels directly.  We contacted Marriott and Starwood hotels.  All the hotels were very helpful, but many were sold out.  We finally found rooms at the Sheraton (Starwood hotel)  in Times Square, and we were able to get a good deal for 2 rooms.  (I know this because I was checking rates on the internet.  We got the lowest, even on third-party sites.  Always keeping my options open).

We were given early check in and lounge access. The woman at the front desk was very helpful.  The rooms were nice.  It made a stressful situation much better, and 3 of us ended up having a nice time.  (The sick one didn’t look so bad either after he woke up).

I was having another horrendous trip in May.  I booked directly with the Courtyard Marriott in Hong Kong.  (Marriott  has a lowest price guarantee on their website).  I think if I wasn’t staying there, I would have had a meltdown.  The service there was really good.  The front desk was very helpful with a few issues I was having.   The rooms and beds are really nice, way nicer than their star rating level.  I find it to be better than all the hotels in Hong Kong with the same star level.  The service, perks, rooms, and price – you can’t beat.

Booking direct with the hotel still allowed me to get a good deal, but I also received reward points, which accumulate, so I can get future rooms free.  The perks also improve the experience.  But the main thing is the customer service.

Hotels have to pay fees to third-party sites, and so yes, they don’t make as much money.  At the same time, the third-party sites are doing them a favor, by selling unused rooms.  But I think it is the hassle of dealing with them, that the Hotel employees have issues with.

I have seen many times when irate guests have arrived, and there has been no record of their reservation.  There is a delay in hotel receiving reservations from sites.  Guests blame the hotel, when in fact, they just have not received it.

So by booking with the hotel directly, it saves the employees the stress of being yelled at.  In turn, many appreciate it with better than average customer service.

Yes, it is helpful to research rooms on the internet, and to even book.  But don’t discount booking direct.

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