Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Luxury for Less - Book Ahead

The Prescott Hotel, Post Street, San Francisco

When I first started planning this trip to Northern California back in June one of the first offers I spotted was for the 4 star Prescott Hotel. Travelzoo was offering a rate of just $119 plus taxes for a Deluxe Queen room. Unlike most offers like this the room could be cancelled at 24 hours notice without penalty, and it booked directly through the Kimpton chain's own website, so I went ahead and booked the two blocks of nights I needed. In 8 subsequent weeks of research I never found a deal to come close, the standard rate for the Prescott is usually between $229 and $269. The tip is definitely if you see a good deal, grab it. The hotel is located within minutes of Union Square and while the rooms are not enormous I knew that thanks to reading all the reviews posted on Tripadvisor.

I also joined Kimpton's In Touch loyalty programme ahead of checking-in and emailed the hotel with my membership number. Some reviewers had commented that they had been slipped passes for the club level lounge which offers complimentary breakfast and snacks. When we arrived the clerk's first comment was that they had added my membership to the reservation. As she issued the plastic keys I asked which floor we were on - the third. I asked if there was a higher floor (other Tripadvisor reviewers noted it was quieter higher above the street) and she moved us to a corner room on the sixth. I don't know for sure whether joining the Kimpton loyalty scheme helped, but it sure didn't hurt. So thanks for the wisdom of all the previous Prescott guests and for sharing their views with me.

Today we're picking up a car from the Dollar office around the corner. I didn't book with Dollar, checking their website yesterday the rate for my 11 days was $485. I booked through autoeurope.com. They are an online broker, so you don't know who your reservation is with until you complete the booking (but you can cancel without penalty). Autoeurope's rate yesterday for the intermediate size car I've booked, with a tank of fuel and 3 additional drivers, full insurance and zero excess was $516. Logging in as though I was in the UK the rate shown in pounds was £243. I booked back at the beginning of the month, while still in the UK, when the rate was just £189. But before I finalised the booking I discovered that by clicking through from the Travelsupermarket site it was £5 less (bizarre given that Autoeurope has a best rate guarantee). I can cancel the booking up to 24 hours ahead without penalty. So by planning ahead the saving is at least £58. Of course if the rate had dropped I could have cancelled the booking and made a new one.

The tip for the trip so far is that planning ahead is paying off, and shared tips are invaluable.

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