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01-06-2010 03:42 PM
I've found that when I walk into a hotel without a reservation, the AAA discount offered is not as good as when I book the room in advance. (In fact, more than once I've gotten a "manager special" that was better than the offered AAA rate at the counter--but still not better had I booked online.)
About a year ago, an independent study found that AAA online hotels had the same or better rates than AARP, Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia.
When you plan out a trip, it pays to reserve your room in advance.
05-23-2010 02:34 PM
There are lots of benefits for booking a hotel room in advance, if not to guarantee a room is available upon arrival and to check on the availability of specific amenities like a working pool, 1st floor or higher room, working equipment in a gym, Wi-Fi in rooms, etc. I use AAA tourbooks regularly - they are excellent as well as my Magellan GPS with AAA tourbook and list of additional hotels in it, and various websites in locating hotels including on occasion AAA's.
In the last year, I have have made over 30 different hotel reservations ranging from 1-4 nights, always first finding out what the AAA rate was and in almost every situation was able to get a better rate (excluding AARP because I am not that old yet) then what is provided by AAA members. I can't dispute the survey quoted, but can share with you my personal expereinces. Manager's specials are one of the best way to save money but you need to call the individual property directly to find out if one is offered at the time of your stay and to get it. Sometimes they are offered at the spur of the moment and sometimes for a very limited time that can be less then a week, such as mid-week or over an extended weekend - they simply vary but should always be inquired about.
Anytime you stay at a property, keep a record of it in your address book or notepad in your cell phone as well as your computer. Record the dates, amout you paid, days of the week, person who made the reservation, front desk clerks name, Manager or even the GM's name, housekeepers name, etc - any and all information they will know that you have stayed there before. Hotel properties LOVE reviting guests who have enjoyed staying there in the past who come back again. Get to know the Manager's of each property, even if to write their name down on the comment card when filling it out for each stay and/or to let know during your stay or at check-out of your satisfaction and will return if you have an opportunity - THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO GET THE LOWEST RATE AVAILABLE AT ANY PROPERTY! In most cases, hotels will offer the same rate if better then what they are currently offer even during peak holidays, always in my case lower then the AAA rate I use as a base discount. A hotel property with a Manager's approval if needed can ALWAYS make an adjustment to your rate - if the person you are speaking to says it is not possible as to speak first with the the GM if avaiblable, Front Desk Manager (not supervisor), and if you already know the name of this person, use it. Hotels are generally franchises and have considerable flexibility when a property is making their own reservation for a customer then going through a website or even the chains own call center - fees they often pay additionaly for each individual reservation.
One of the best ways to save money is if you are going to stay more then 10-nights during any year, is to use a booking service like Hotels.com or any other in which they reward repeat customers who travel more then the normal person or family. After each tenth night with Hotels.com, you earn a free night, now averaging what you paid over your last 10 nights - this year alone I have earned two free nights, that is twenty plus visits. In these situations, sometimes I have found that AAA may offer a rate that is $5-$7 cheaper per night, but often where I stay is considerable higher then $50 per night and over 10 nights, the savings is better with the frequent hotel service like Hotels.com then in using my AAA rate. In almost every case when I need to extend my stay beyond what my on-line rate was, I will go down to the front desk or call them from my room and ask if they can offer me a better rate then what I am paying currently if I extend my stay. Most of the time what I will be offered is cheaper, beyond what I pay and/or the AAA rate. When hotels have empty rooms, they don't want them to be vacant as long as it does not conflict with a booking for a special event that sell out their rooms, so they will often offer you a lower rate rather then see you leave or provide you with complementary services like free delux breakfast or dollar discount in their restaurant or bar. In every situation, a hotel property has always been able to extend a discount beyond what I can obtain on-line or by showing my AAA card for an extended stay.
I value all the info AAA provides regarding their approved hotels whether in a tourbook or digital format, this is part of what I pay for as a member, but if you are looking to get the best rate or free night stays - look beyond simply what the rate is for being a AAA member, most of the time you can do better but at least you will know what the discounted rate is over the full rate that many hotel customers pay still. Even if you pay a lower rate then the AAA rate, if you ever have a problem with the hotel that can not be resolved at the property, I would recommend you letting AAA know about it because after all you are still a AAA member staying in a AAA approved hotel. If the hotel belongs to a chain, also contact their national call center to login a complaint, often upper management at the property will be informed of your complaint and can and will often make some sort of compensation to your bill if you have not checked out yet or on a future stay if your complaint is reasonable and/or justafiable.
Sometimes I don't know where I am staying till I arrive in a city or get off a highway exit. I will find the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot, like at a McDonalds, Wendy's, coffee or book store, and even in the parking lot of a hotel and start my search there on where I will stay that night and possibly beyond. Use AAA to obtain your discount rate, but often you can and will get a better disount if you put in the time and effort.