Looking for a nice
place to stay on vacation? Sit in front of your computer
and let your fingers do the walking.
Web sites are a great way to get information
on accommodations and pricing, according to top travel
experts. But if you really want to get the best deals,
always follow up with the human touch. That way, you
know what you're getting and you're assured of a good
value and a great time.
"There's a two-word concept we've
lost in this country: human being," says Peter
Greenberg, author of "The
Travel Detective: How to Get the Best Service and the
Best Deals from Airlines, Hotels, Cruise Ships, and
Car Rental Agencies." He likes to call the
hotel first, and then do a little Web crawling.
“What everyone wants is a magic URL where everything is cheaper.”
If you find a better price, you can usually
cancel your original reservation within 24 hours with
no penalty, he says. You're also in a good position
to bargain with the facility manager for a matching
But, "the Internet is not always
your friend," says Greenberg. Too many times, it
"pushes you to buy something before you know what
But the combination of the human touch
and electronic surfing can net you a great deal.
It also pays to be realistic. "What
everyone wants is a magic URL where everything is cheaper,"
says Edward Hasbrouck, author of "The
Practical Nomad" travel series. "But that
What makes things very confusing: Sites
may be a hybrid of several types. They might not make
their business model clear to the casual observer.
Hasbrouck recommends checking out different
types of sites and making sure that the information
you receive doesn't come from the same source.
For example, many hotels have their own
Web sites. Ditto the chains or hotel families to which
they belong. In addition, aggregators, which often get
their information from the hotels, will post rates.
Another type of site is run by hotel brokers
or consolidators who purchase blocks of rooms in hotels
and sell them to the public. Sometimes the prices are
better than the market rate, sometimes not. But brokers
also can be a good resource for reasons that have nothing
to do with price. "At peak time, they may be the
only ones who have any rooms left," says Hasbrouck.
Some sites will offer great prices, but
you're buying sight unseen and may not know which hotel
or resort you're actually reserving. "There's usually
a reason," he says. Some of the most common: The
facility is undergoing (or has just completed) renovations
or has changed brand names.
Hasbrouck's advice: Save those sites
for occasions such as business trips, when the actual
facility plays a less important role in your trip. But
if you're treating yourself or taking the family for
a getaway, and the accommodations and amenities could
make a big difference, know exactly what you're purchasing
before you buy.