Is it the same hotel room?

 

I had the opportunity to answer a great question at work today.

“If Air Canada and WestJet and the other travel companies are selling the same hotel at different prices is it the same hotel room or different rooms?

My answer came in the form of an analogy. If you were buying a jar of Kraft peanut butter from Safeway or Sobeys, No Frills or Giant Tiger  it would be exactly the same Kraft peanut butter from the same Kraft factory. So it is also quite likely the same hotel room just being sold by two different vacation retailers.

Of course, different companies will feature or advertise that jar of peanut butter using different words (marketing descriptions). And each grocery store will put it on sale at different times or in different ways that suit their marketing agenda. But it would still be the same jar of peanut butter.

For example, a $1 off coupon, or buy 3 get 1 free promotion. Same peanut butter, and essentially the same savings, just presented to the consumer differently.

However there are some cases where hotels will block off a certain section of rooms and give them to one company to sell, exclusively.  Those rooms might have a unique view or exclusive proximity to the pool or entertainment area or something like that.  A privilege of this exclusivity is the airline/vacation provider can claim they have something to sell/feature that no other company has. So, yes, it absolutely could be a (slightly) different hotel room.

Ultimately the more buying power a company has the better deal they can negotiate with the hotel provider. So it does pay to shop around and focus on your own personal needs and situation when buying a vacation package. Prices can vary for exactly the same room. Or rooms could vary based on exclusivity rights.

To sum up with the analogy….you may not need four jars of peanut butter, even thought the deal seems attractive. The better deal for you personally, might be $1  off ONE jar of peanut butter.

So my advice is to not get hung up on the marketing words in the hotel description, but in fact analyze the description based on amenities and compare that way. “600 sq feet, balcony, king bed, mini fridge, and garden view.” That tells me what I am getting in the hotel room.

Whereas “modern, island oasis, perfect for your family, sleeps 4 and features unique herbal rainforest shower products” does NOT allow me the same insight. Yet both could be describing the exact same room.

Marketing and price are two ways that retailers can differentiate themselves in an attempt to earn your business. What YOU can do is to research, fact check, and enlist the help of an experience travel agent in order to wade through the marketing and online verbiage to get to the vacation best suited to you, at the best price.

How to take advantage of Black Friday travel deals with very little cash.

Don’t you wish you had a couple thousand dollars sitting in your account that you could use to grab some of these fabulous Black Friday and Cyber Monday travel deals? Yeah, me too.

Here are 3 ways that you can take advantage of the great deals without putting a lot of cash down.

  1. Hotel deals. Book flights and hotels separate. You can book almost any hotel with just paying a 1 night deposit and holding the reservation with your credit card. So, book 7 nights at a great rate, and just pay for 1 night upfront, and the rest when you arrive whether it’s in a month or 8 months from now. But you are locking in today’s discount price.
  2. Think long term, not short term. If you are travelling within 60 days you will be asked to pay the whole package price. It you are booking 3-11 months in advance, you are only asked for a deposit when you book through a travel agent. It’s almost like paying your autopac insurance in monthly instalments. There is an upfront booking fee (about 40 dollars) and a deposit (most often $250-$500  per person.) but then you can pay the rest on monthly instalments or however you choose so that it’s paid in full typically 60 days before you depart. So, if you want to grab the sale price for an Easter or Summer holiday, do it now. Then you’ll pay the vast majority in 2019 after you get your tax refund or Christmas bonus. But again, you lock in today’s sale price. (Yes, you can literally sign up for a $3000 vacation package with under $300 per person upfront cost. Now this deposit is non-refundable and you will lose it if you cannot pay the rest of the commitment, but if you CAN make payments, this is the easiest way to do it. No loan or interest charges from a bank.)
  3. Collect points. Sign up for Air Miles, or Westjet Rewards, or Aeroplan programs. They are free programs. Or get the Westjet World Elite MasterCard (perks like no charge for checked bags) and start collecting points that you can use towards future travel. Even if all you ever accumulate is a free hotel night, or a short haul flight, it is something that you can use to bring more travel into your life without a cost.

Bonus tip: If you collect Westjet Rewards, you can keep accumulating them and “cash them in” with your final payment on your holiday. And yes, you can still redeem these reward dollars when using a travel agent.

 

Breaking up with your bad hotel

Book with the hotel…

So you can cut & run if you need to.

Here’s what I mean. We booked a modestly priced hotel, with excellent Trip Advisor ratings, in Honolulu. (No… not the cheapest hotel out there. Not by a long shot. Don’t think I’m using “modest” as a polite way of saying cheap!) Everything about Honolulu is quite expensive, so we wanted to get as much value as we could from our accommodations. It was an honest mistake.

Here were the deciding factors in the reviews that made us book.

Free breakfast: people said things like “more than just a continental breakfast.” “Fresh eggs and waffles.”

Off the beach, but close: “just 3 blocks to Waikiki Beach, but half the beach hotel price!” “Hotel offers free towel & chair rentals for the beach.”

View of the city and the canal. “Great views and they give you free ear plugs for the noise if it bothers you.”

Here were the deciding factors that made us leave:

Wow. That noise was ridiculous. Nothing like the view of a 4 lane highway to enhance your “beach vacation.” We actually heard (from the 10th floor) a screeching near accident, which resulted in 8 seconds of car horn and another 20 seconds of angry screaming profanity. We could do nothing but laugh. And BTW, we had the window closed at the time.

3 blocks from the beach? Are you kidding? It’s more like 2 kilometres!! And you want me to carry a free (folding metal) beach chair…. like the ones from grandma’s house in the 80’s? Pass.

Now, think about that 2km walk from the beach with a tired, hot, cranky child who’s hungry. Or think about being 2 hot cranky kilometres from a life saving cocktail.  #momlife  You’ll agree saving $30 a night is NOT worth the walk.

There was a pool. A cess pool. The size of a big hot tub. Hard pass on that. I’d rather eat the stale, sticky Fruit Loops off the floor in the breakfast room.

That’s how our 7 night booking turned into a 1 night “experience.”

How did I get out of it, without losing all my money? I had booked directly with the hotel. Not Hotwire, not a discounted or non-refundable offer. Booking with the hotel is exactly what got me out of the hotel without a massive financial kick in the face. All we did was ask to change the check out date.

How did I get out of it gracefully at the front desk? Standard breakup conversation. “It’s not you, it’s me. You’re amazing. I’m just not right for you. It’s me, I should leave.”

In this case…. I literally said, “I’m just overwhelmed by the big city & tall building. It’s all making me so anxious, I need to find someplace quiet. You have a beautiful hotel, I just can’t handle the city life. I have to move on, ASAP.”

They moved my checkout date to the next morning & politely processed the bill.

We headed 2kms, or “3 blocks” towards the beach and checked into the Hilton. Re-started the vacation. Chain hotels are like ex-boyfriends. They might not be new or exciting, but they are consistent, comfortable and quite willing to take you in when you call sounding lost and desperate.

So, I blame the rosy people of Trip Advisor for failing to hook me up with a great hotel. I also blame myself thinking I could compromise location for price, because of the extra benefits. Smarten up Cathie! You KNOW location is key!

I’m also proud of myself for quickly shifting to Plan B and salvaging 6 days of precious vacation time. (I’ll make up the $30 by skipping souvenirs and lattes.)

Like life, each day on vacation counts. Be happy or move on.

Better view. Ahhh

Westjet Roundtrip $192

Where to for this bargain?

Winnipeg to Hamilton! Lots of dates available. This sample is February 2nd to 5th. Paired with a hotel, through Expedia.ca you could have flight and hotel under $400 per person (2).

Screenshot at Westjet.com, January 2nd.

Or what about Edmonton at Spring Break?  Fly out March 26th and back on the 30th. You can’t even drive there that cheap. $177 tax in, and with Westjet, from Winnipeg.

What about renting a car or grabbing the train and making this a ski vacation in Jasper? Remember, Canada’s National Parks are FREE to see in 2017.

Screenshot, Westjet.com January 2nd. Prices subject to change without notice. For holidays and popular dates, it pays to book early!

Flight Deals from Winnipeg

Two reasons to book your flight and hotel separately. There are some hot bargains on flights and hot bargains on hotels for Black Friday. Get the best of both.

Marriott Hotels offering rates as low as $79.  Booking Nov 25th to 28th only.

Are you interested in Abbotsford or Edmonton? Flight prices around the $200 mark, return and taxes included with Westjet. Even dates over Spring Break 2017.  For example:  $187 to Edmonton March 26-30th.

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Or what about Nashville, Tennessee? Flights from Winnipeg are on sale for $314 taxes included, with Air Canada. March 1st to 7th. OR, if you’d like to catch a Winnipeg Jets hockey game, (13th of March) fly from the 9th to 16th for $356 and make a holiday of it.

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Other flights and dates available. Aircanada.com

 

$65 Hotel for Black Friday

Planning to do any Black Friday shopping in Minot, ND this year? Time to think and act if you want the best deals. If you are a Hyatt (loyalty club) member you can book at $65 per night for November 24th and 25th.

If you are a CAA member, there are offers for you as well, $70 per night.

I have personally stayed at this hotel in 2016 and have nothing but compliments for the hotel. A hot breakfast buffet is included in your stay, with omelettes made to order.

A mere 7 or so minutes from the Minot airport and on the north west side of the city, you are conveniently located to shopping and amenities as long as you have a car.

Book directly off their website for most flexibility. Important in our winter weather.  Hyatt House Minot

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