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Jan 18

Booking family trip to New York City

My birthday is coming up and we’ve decided to fly out East to meet with family and friends and also to to take a few days and visit New York City.  I love “the city” and used to spend many weekends there in my younger days, my wife also loves it there so it’s a perfect spot for both of us.

When it comes to planning and then eventually booking something in NYC it’s fairly difficult, as it’s probably one of the of the most expensive where you can stay and the quality of your commodations could also be drasticly different from what you’d expect and get in other cities — a lot of rooms even at very estabilished hotels could be tiny, think ~ 150sq. ft.  If you’re traveling with a child, or a few, you could quickly find yourself cramped and uncomfortable.

This is especially should be considered when you’re booking a hotel room through a 3rd party website such as Priceline or something similar.  Price should definitely not be your own screen as the lowest price rooms most likely won’t even have a king bed, you may have a queen bed to share, and most likely will be very small, if you want a larger bed or a larger room the price will significantly jump up and may no longer be such a good deal.

Typically I’m not a strong promoter of booking directly with hotels and am a big fan of discount websites, we’ve traveled the states and Europe utilizing them and I’d say 90% of the time it was a veryy favorable experience.  But, for me, the discount sites top out in value somewhere around $100 — if we know we can get a good, established, hotel for around there a night we’ll book with a discount site, if the price starts creeping above $120 we’ll start looking for hotel sites directly, there a few reasons:

  • a booking through a discount site gives you 0 award points with the hotel
  • you have very limited negotiation powers with the hotel if something goes wrong, you’re stuck trying to figure out liability between discount website and the hotel and it could be frustrating if you’re traveling with your little ones and need assistance right away
  • the room that you book will be exactly the room that you book, you will never be upgraded or bumped to something better
  • any extra requests could really be considered “extra” by the hotel and you will be charged for them.  This is specifically applicable with requesting a crib for your hotel, where Priceline for example completely washes their hands of the whole issue: “If you require a crib or other special bedding for your infant, you will need to call your hotel and arrange for these special needs prior to check-in. All bedding requests are based on hotel availability and are at the discretion of the hotel. Any charges incurred as a result of special bedding arrangements will be the responsibility of the customer.“.

But, non-the-less, as I mention we always look on a discount site to get our baseline for what’s available and at what cost.  A search in New York City listed hunders of hotels with a huge swing in costs.  So I tried looking through their express deals and after selecting the hotel rating (>4 stars) and location that we wanted I was only presented with 7-8 choices:

Priceline Express Deals Search

Priceline Express Deals Search

Priceline Express Deals NYC continued

Priceline Express Deals NYC continued

The average for these mystery properties is above $100 and considering that only 3 of the hotels (2 of them at aove $140) offer a bed choice I didn’t feel like my family would be getting a good and comfortable value of getting an unknown hotel with no room to negotiate bedding arangements, in this price threshold my search is moving towards hotels direclty through their websites.

I typically have no hotel loyalty, but I do happen to be sitting on some points in Marriott and SPG chains, so those typically begin as my starting points.  Your situation may vary, but that should be something you consider.  I also have SPG Gold, but only because of credit cards that I use, which allows me, if available, a one-class room upgrade, late checkout and if I stay at Sheraton property we also get lounge/club access which typically offers free breakfast for 2 adults.  So in the case of NYC I’m starting my search with a Sheraton property and looking through availability with SPG directly I’m finding the following:

Sheraton Direct

Sheraton Direct

Out of curiosity I went to priceline and found the exact same room and I got the following:

Sheration through Priceline

Sheration through Priceline

So in the end the Priceline is $9 more and with Sheration directly we’ll be able to check in at Noon, Check out at 4PM the next day (which almost gives us an extra full day in NYC for free), we’ll be able to get 2 free breakfasts in the morning which I value at $30 minimum, we’ll get a complimentary drink upon checkin, get some points for our stay (probably worth $15) and perhaps we’ll even get upgraded to a better class of a room.

Ultimately it’s not the cheapest reservation, but considering I have a piece of mind getting extactly what we want vs. trying our luck with the express deals and considering all the tangible benefits that we’re getting with this reservation I think this is the right choice.

 

 

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