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If you want to start a heated debate here at InsideFlyer UK, simply mention that you book non-refundable hotel stays. “You will save money” is usually the reasoning behind locking oneself into a hotel reservation that cannot be changed or refunded. And some InsideFlyer contributors cannot resist the latest “sale” from the likes of IHG or Hilton…
I always argue against booking non-refundable hotel reservations. Life happens… and unless you have a really good travel insurance policy or your plans absolutely never ever change, that non-refundable hotel reservation can end up costing you dearly.
But perhaps even more importantly… hotel rates fluctuate… sometimes by quite a lot. And when a hotel isn’t selling enough rooms for a given night, they simply reduce the rate to try and fill up their hotel.
Now, I know that many people don’t have the time or inclination to regularly monitor room rates for hotels they’ve already booked. Which is why they should do what I do…
Step 1 – Book a Flexible Rate at your Preferred Hotel
Once you have decided that you are going to travel to a certain location, choose your preferred hotel and book a flexible rate that can be changed or cancelled. It can be a fully-flexible rate, or a “semi-flex” rate that allows you to cancel, provided you give more advance notice.
You probably won’t actually stay using this reservation, but you have locked in your maximum possible room rate.
Step 2 – Visit Hotelscombined.com
Visit the aggregator website Hotelscombined.com. Search for your chosen hotel for the dates you require.
Once you’ve found your hotel, click on the “Set Price Alert” button in the top right corner.
Repeat the process for any other hotel that might be suitable for your needs, especially those that currently fall outside of your budget, but would be a great choice if their price dropped…
Step 3 – Sit Back and Wait
Not always – depending on how far in the future your hotel stay is planned for – but you eventually should receive one or more emails that look like this…
Step 4 – Re-book Your Hotel and Cancel Your Existing Booking
Because your placeholder reservation is completely flexible, you can cancel it at no cost. So you should make a new reservation, taking advantage of the lower rate, and then cancel your existing reservation.
Step 4A – Make a Best Rate Guarantee Claim
Sometimes you will get really lucky. Instead of HotelsCombined emailing you because the hotel chain has dropped their rate, the email might arrive because the rate has dropped with one of the major Online Travel Agencies. In that situation, you can quite easily make a Best Rate Guarantee claim. Not only will the major chains match the competing rate, but they’ll add an additional bonus on top – 20-25% discount or a substantial number of points.
Step 5 – Wonder Why You Ever Booked Prepaid Hotel Rates
I suppose that it would be folly to suggest that 100% of my hotel stays have seen their price drop between booking and arrival, but I can certainly say that the vast majority of my hotel stays do benefit from a price drop (and probably a Best Rate Guarantee claim) at some stage between planning and arrival.
Even for those stays where the rate doesn’t drop (and might even increase) you are still fully protected with that flexible reservation you made as Step 1. Yes you might pay a bit more – some of the time – but you are also free to take advantage of every opportunity to save money or move to an even better hotel. It happens far more than you might expect.
So next time… book a flexible rate and set a rate alert on Hotelscombined, and see what happens…