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Disrespect a hotel reservationist and you may find yourself in the tiniest room in the joint, right next to the noisy elevator with a great view of the dumpster in the back parking lot. That is if you are able to score a room at all! The flipside of this is that most people who work in reservations really do appreciate a little kindness and will go out of their way to help you. I’ve had really good luck with the latter approach. Here’s what you do if you know the place you want to stay but can only afford the bare minimum.
Check internet rates first. Sometimes the best offers are web-based only. Before you book, try also calling the hotel directly and cross check rates they offer. This will also give you the opportunity to ask questions and get a feel for whether it is a busy time for them. Perhaps your dates are flexible and you can switch plans accordingly. Use your politest voice, be honest and tell them you must book for the lowest price but be sure to mention whether you are celebrating anything in particular. If booking online, sometimes just a nice e-mail in the special request box will do. The agent will make a note of this and it will sometimes get you little extras. Just by doing this I have gotten free wine, cake, special views and big room upgrades.
Sign up for any special hotel clubs. Sign up is free and usually involves just a couple of minutes to fill out an online form but it can get you special attention if you are a member. This could be anything from free internet access to express check in privileges. It could get you parking discounts in big cities, free travel kits, free passes to the gym, etc.
Once you have booked, follow up with a call just a few days before you arrive. Talk about how excited you are about your visit and ask if they expect the hotel to be booked during your stay. If the answer is no, request a complimentary upgrade if at all available. Tell the agent you are traveling with a little one and explain that even a little bit of extra space would make all the difference to you and your family. This has almost always worked for me, whether it is the Holiday Inn or the Westin. God bless those reservation agents, they really do want you to enjoy yourself and spread the good word about your stay! Don’t forget to leave a positive comment card praising the name of the person who helped you. Happy travels!