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Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike!

July 29, 2008 

I can remember waking up with a nearly paralyzing crick in 
my neck, surrounded by the frost-covered windows of my 
family's panel van. 

My legs were wedged under the steering wheel and my father 
was snoring in the back seat. My mother and my sister were 
huddled beneath blankets in the back. 

We weren't homeless.

My dad just wasn't a big believer in making hotel 

This week's edition includes:




P.S. If you're interested you can now post comments on this 
and recent issues on our forum at... Travel Tips Forum 


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Until recently, my father - now in his late 70s - was still 
inclined to wing it. He'd simply decide on a place to go, 
hit the road, and find a motel with a vacancy sign once he 
got there.

He liked the flexibility. He liked the variety. And, as a 
kid, it made every family vacation more of an adventure.

Of course, things didn't always work out. Many times, we'd 
slog - dead tired - from motel to motel, searching for an 
empty room amid a forest of glowing, red "No Vacancy" signs.

And occasionally, we'd end up bedding down in the family 
vehicle for the night. 

That never bothered me. I figured it was the price you paid 
for not locking yourself into a set itinerary or vacation 

But during the peak summer travel season, even obsessive 
planners can find themselves desperate to find lodging .

Ed Hewitt, writer of the Travelers Ed feature on the 
Independent Traveler Website,  
(http://www.independenttraveler.com) recently posted an 
article on tips for finding hotel rooms when there are no 
apparent vacancies. Many of them are worth sharing. 

So, here they are, morphed and mixed with my own 
observations, experiences and insight:

* Call direct

Calling a hotel directly, rather than using the chain's main 
number, might get you a room at the last minute or during 
peak travel times. 

National reservations desks often have a cap on the number 
of rooms they can fill at any given hotel, with the rest 
left to the specific hotel staff. Those working at the front 
desk have a better sense of the hotel's capacity and will be 
more likely to check for cancellations or no-shows.

They can also often offer you better rates than you'll find 
online, and you can make specific requests such as a nice 
view, a cot or crib.

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* Check the consolidators

Third-party consolidators such as Priceline.com, Expedia.com 
or CheapTickets.com are basically wholesalers often commit 
far in advance to buying a block of hotel rooms at a set 
price that they mark-up and re-sell later. Because of that, 
they are not only a good place to find discounted rooms, but 
a great place to look when you're having trouble finding a 
hotel room during a busy period. 

Even if a hotel in Orlando has a "no vacancy" sign on it, a 
consolidator may well have a room available.

* Ask the attraction

If you are traveling for a meeting, or to go to a local 
attraction, one of the best calls you can make is to the 
organization or attraction itself. 

It's probably not the first time their preferred or partner 
hotels have been sold out, and they may be able to tell you 
"unpublished" alternatives. I find that sob stories often 
work, especially if they're genuine, filled with detail, and 
presented with desperation - not anger - in your voice.

* Get referred to a competitor

As the sold-out hotels for alternatives. Call the direct 
hotel number for the hotel and simply ask if they could 
recommend another nearby hotel that might have vacancies. 

Chances are good that they will suggest a comparable hotel, 
and might even know which of those hotels have rooms. After 
all, if there's a convention or something in town, you can 
probably bet that your call is not the first of its kind 
that they've received.

It makes sense for them to help you. They can't make money 
off of you on this trip anyway, so why not invest in a 
little no-cost goodwill that could leave a positive 
impression for the next time you blow through town?

Do yourself and your neighbors a favor...

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* Call the local experts

Sometimes, calling the local chamber of commerce or tourist 
bureau ends up being your salvation. They have an overview 
of the local situation, and it's in their interest to make 
sure all visitors have a pleasant stay, spend lots of money, 
and come back again.

Other times, the call is useless. It all really depends on 
the quality of the local business organizations. I would 
definitely say it's worth a shot.

* Look past words that end with "otel"

If all the hotels and motels on the booking engines seem to 
be sold out, but you may want to try finding a room in a bed 
& breakfast, a hostel, a campground or a small, independent 
hotel that isn't found on the big sites.

* Language matters

When looking for rooms in tight markets, don't let 
desperation blind you to red flags.

Look and listen for key phrases that could tip you off to a 
clone of the Bates Motel or, more likely, a place that is 
waaay to far from where you want to be.

Hewitt, the Independent Traveler columnist describes them as 
phrases that "Sound a lot like a pilot on a delayed plane 
soft-peddling your time on the tarmac."

Tip-off phrases include: "Just a few minutes from", "A short 
drive to", "A quick ride by car or train". Watch also for 
"slash" locations. You know, like the Orlando/Miami area.

If they are using vague language to describe proximity to 
attractions, there's a good chance it is farther than you'd 
like.  ALWAYS use Mapquest before you book.

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   



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