Holiday-Booking Hacks From The Experts
Whether you want to score a room upgrade or avoid the crowds, our favourite industry insiders share their 12 top travel tips.
Marrakech or Mykonos? Design hotel in Chicago or chalet in Verbier? Even frequent flyers deliberate when it comes to planning a well-earned getaway, whether you’re trying to balance price with quality or convenience with curiosity, there are many variables to weigh up. But booking is something of an art form. Like painting, or playing the flute – to take two completely random examples – you can do it very well or very badly. And however you approach it, it always helps to have a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, especially if you’re working a little in advance. So, for all those planning their next getaway, we at MR PORTER thought we would enlist some timely advice from a range of travel experts. Scroll down for top holiday-booking tips from architect Mr André Fu and hotel MD Mr Guillaume Marly, who opine alongside travel editors, jetsetting PR gurus and, yes, your humble author. Call upon these tips to make better decisions and get the most out of your stay when you arrive. Bon voyage!
A few tips from Ms Southan
01. Look at the data
When planning a holiday, check out Kayak’s Travel Trends portal, which uses data from 1.5 billion annual searches to show which places are most popular and when, and provides expected price forecasts for destinations across each month. For example, if you are thinking about going from London to Bangkok, you can easily see that December is the most expensive time, while Auckland in May is cheapest.
02. Combine your hotel and flight booking
If you are looking for a good deal, it may be worth booking your hotel and flight through the same provider. British Airways, for example, doesn’t just sell flights. It also allows you to add on accommodation, and even car rental and experiences, all in one go. Normally, you need to include a Saturday-night stay, otherwise the airline will treat you as a midweek business traveller and charge you more, but searching for packages (through British Airways Holidays or Virgin Vacations, for instance) means you can get around this.
03. Search according to your mood
If you’re looking for inspiration when it comes to choosing your hotel, try AccorHotels’ Mood Match service. Select whether you’re looking for romance, quiet or luxury, for example, what interior design style you prefer (classic or vintage, maybe) and what kind of location you are looking for (downtown or beachfront, perhaps). A list of properties across various destinations will then be presented based on what you have chosen, ready for you too book.
04. Stay in a palatial residence
For groups of friends, Parisian startup Le Collectionist offers a high-end alternative to Airbnb. From four-bedroom chalets in Courchevel to seven-bedroom villas in Mykonos, the properties are expensive but they can work out to be good value when split between guests.
05. Be spontaneous
A new app called One Night, created by Standard International, the parent company of Standard Hotels, offers a savvy way to nab cheap same-day stays at boutique hotels in US cities such as Austin, Boston and Chicago, as well as London. (A European expansion is planned.) Just log on any time after 3.00pm on the day you want to stay and see what is available.
And a few more expert hacks
06. Never book the cheapest room category
“Go up one or two levels and your chance of an upgrade will increase dramatically.”
_Mr Philippe Kjellgren, founder of PK’s List – Subjective Travel Intelligence
07. Enlist the help of a travel agent
“A hotel general manager once told me that people who book stays through online travel agents such as Expedia and Travelocity will generally not get the best room, because there is no incentive for management to build loyalty with that price-driven customer. However, if you book via a human travel agent, creating a positive experience suddenly becomes paramount, as the hotel will want to ensure the agent continues to send high-value customers its way. Agents will be able to guarantee special requests and access better amenities such as champagne on arrival, and late check-outs or early check-ins.”
_Mr Uwern Jong, editor-in-chief of OutThere magazine
08. Look at hotel collections
“I’m a big fan of hotel collections. Gay travellers, for example, are keen to know about hotels around the world that will be welcoming. To make this easy, Preferred Hotels and Resorts has a collection called Preferred Pride. These properties have all made a point of highlighting that they are LGBT-friendly and have undertaken sensitivity training. Plus, there are specific amenities tailored to the traveller type should they decide to book via the Preferred Pride portal (champagne tends to feature heavily).”
Mr Uwern Jong, editor-in-chief of OutThere magazine
09. Speak to a human
“If you’re new to a property and you’re looking for special treatment, call the hotel direct and speak to a human being. Tell them it’s your first time, that it’s a special occasion and that you would be grateful for anything that can be done to make the experience more memorable. Be polite. Top-quality hotels such as mine are unlikely to offer discounts, but late check-outs, upgrades and extra amenities in the room are pretty common occurrences. How we decide is a bit of an art, but, as I say, be nice.”
Mr Guillaume Marly, managing director of Hotel Café Royal, London
10. Book during soft openings
“Most hotels will go through a soft-opening period for anything from a couple of weeks to three months, and it is likely they will offer significantly reduced rates or special deals such as three nights for the price of two. It’s possible that not all the facilities will be open during this period, and the staff might still be getting to grips with all the systems, but the savings will be worth it.”
Mr Guillaume Marly, managing director of Hotel Café Royal, London
11. Request a humidifier
“I always request a humidifier for my room as the air in hotels can be so dry. I also turn off the air conditioning. This aids sleep and means I feel better in the morning. If the windows open, this can help, too.”
Ms Jo Vickers, managing director of JV Public Relations International
12. Look for smaller hotels
“Check the number of rooms the hotel has before you book. I am a strong believer in staying in small to mid-size properties that have a more personal approach to hospitality and would generally avoid hotels with more than 300 rooms (something that is typical in the Asian market).”
_Mr André Fu, founder of design studio AFSO
Illustrations by Mr Ale Giorgini