Monday, January 17, 2011

The art of the deal

While doing an ordinary task that most people probably don't think twice about--or even dislike--I realized that I get a real charge out of it. The activity: making hotel reservations.

Mostly the appeal is in finding a great rate at the right location. Usually I'm not staying anywhere remotely fancy, but for whatever reason, I have a knack for identifying inexpensive hotels with just enough amenities for my minimal needs that are in good-to-perfect spots.

It helps that I have a couple preferred chains that reward repeated stays, thus thinning the search field. Two spring film festivals are among my usual destinations. For the event in Illinois I've stayed at the same hotel eight out of the ten years I've attended. This year will make it nine out of eleven. Incredibly, I think I'm staying for about half the cost of the room I had at a different place in 2001, the first year I went. Granted, I wasn't as familiar with the area then, and I don't remember pricing information being as readily available online. Anyway, it was a point of pride and a rush of adrenaline to check the online prices this year, call the reservation number, and land a rate lower than what was listed on the website.

I'll be going to the Cleveland event for the seventh consecutive year, but the first place I found is still the best in terms of economical lodging. (The only time I haven't stayed there was when blizzard-like conditions coincided with the festival's start and I switched my first few nights to a hotel much closer.) I'd prefer if my usual hotel were closer, but I can't beat the price, especially for somewhere that I'm lucky to return to for six or seven hours of sleep. Booking it again for slightly less than the usual price felt like another win.

So while I was on a roll, I thought I'd consider getting a hotel in Dayton when I'm there back-to-back days for the NCAA Tournament's First Four basketball games. Sure, it's close enough that a hotel isn't necessary, but if I can get a room for around the price of a tank of gas, I decided I'd go ahead and make it an overnight trip. I'd rather spend the money on a hotel than fuel. Plus, it would give me a full day to spend in Dayton or to run down the road to IKEA.

The website listed some intriguingly low prices but didn't explain the codes attached to them. The telephone representative wasn't sure what they were and then eventually tracked down an answer that they weren't supposed to be posted. I wasn't able to reserve with those prices, but I have an idea as to what the rates may drop to when the listing is corrected. So we'll see.

I guess all this rambling essentially boils down to a tip for reserving hotel rooms. Check prices online, but call to make the reservation. As I found in this set of bookings, lower rates may be available for the taking.

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