Vote of the week: How do you book hotel rooms?
Published: July 22, 2011 at 8:22 AM
On the way across America, I experienced something I hadn't in years. As I was walking back to my car after checking in to the Hampton Inn in Van Horn, Texas (highly recommended, by the way), a woman pulled up behind my car and got out.
"Do they have any vacancies?" she asked me.
I had to tell her that I didn't know. I'd reserved my room online weeks ago.
Her question startled me, frankly. It's been 20 years since I drove up to a hotel cold and asked about "vacancies." (Here's an old-fogey moment, kids: Hotels and motels used to have neon signs under their marquees. The word "no" would light up in front of the word "vacancies" if the hotel was sold out for the night, so you wouldn't have to go through the hassle of pulling in to check if nothing was available.)
Of course, if you get lucky and pull up to a hotel with available rooms at 11 pm, you will get the rock-bottom lowest rate by negotiating with the front desk clerk then. He or she has no better chance at that hour to make money from one of those empty rooms than to give it to you for whatever you're willing to pay. The hotel chain's national call center or website won't cut you those deals.
While I might be willing to try that again if I wanted a room along the over-built 192 corridor outside Disney in Kissimmee, Florida, there's no way I'm taking that risk in the tiny town of Van Horn in west Texas. I didn't stick around to see if the woman got her room. But if she didn't, she was looking an another hour's drive to get to the next small town, which might be sold out for the night, too.
Which brings me to our vote of the week.
Please tell us in the comments about the best hotel deal you've gotten recently, and how you got it.