Help me find a hotel room when there aren't any.
March 3, 2009 9:22 PM   Subscribe

What are some tips/tricks one can use to find a hotel room when the city you need one in is booked solid?

I'm perennially late to the party and it's just happened again. I forgot to book a hotel room for a city we need to be in and now they are all booked. You'd think my husband's complaints would be enough to get me to remember but... Anyway does anyone know any tricks to secure a room when all the hotels say they are sold out? I've tried all the websites. I've tried leaving my name with the hotels in case of cancellation but that never seems to work. Once, after a friend told me they always save a few rooms, I even tried to claim I had made a reservation and that they'd better find me a room (I know I'm going to hell) but even that didn't work. So does anyone have any tips?
posted by tr45vbyt to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Call and do the website thing at the same hotel. Some websites reserve a few hotel rooms and they are marked "reserved" on the local computer (accessible when you call them)...and vice versa.

If you want specific advice, why not tell us what city you are currently in. Locals can definitely refer you to smaller hotels that don't have websites or aren't on expedia-like websites.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:42 PM on March 3, 2009

idea #1: this one is probably last resort, since it involves finding a room on the day of your arrival. Find out how long the hotel typically holds rooms that aren't guaranteed with a credit card (the one I worked at, it was 6 p.m. The hotel was red, and it had a roof.) Anyhow, our policy there was to wait 15 minutes, and then cancel any no shows. So, even on sold out nights, we'd have rooms available for an hour or two if there were any cancellations. So, in theory, if you call around during this "sweet spot" you might get lucky.

idea #2: If you're desperate, try monkeying around with the dates a bit on the websites. Hotels don't always rent open rooms. The room availability is controlled by revenue software. I doubt I could explain how it works, but the software won't rent you a room if it thinks it can sell it to someone else the day before and make more revenue for a longer length of stay. It sounds stupid, but it must work. The downside is that you might have to carry and extra day before to fool the computer into letting you in. If it requires a day or two after, just check out early and stymy their software.

idea #3: Check in the day before, for one night, and then call to the front desk in the morning before checkout to request that you stay over another night. This will not endear you to the hotel staff, but you were going to hell already for the made-up reservation...

idea #4: See if you can get any recommendations for any local hotels (not National chains), since they may still have availability. just check it out online, so you don't end up at the Bates Motel. Also look for the lesser-known national chains.

#idea #5: Try for the extended-stay places that rent mini studio apartments on weekly and monthly rates. If they have the room available, they'll rent it to you for a couple of nights.

(on preview, i agree with hal_c_on... the hotel and the reservation line may different allotments of rooms available to rent. )
posted by mattybonez at 9:47 PM on March 3, 2009

If you work for a large company, they almost certainly have a discount deal with a few major hotel chains. It is possible that they also have a deal to set aside rooms (minor digression - I've never tried this with hotels, but once when I was stuck at an airport and every car was rented out, I presented my corp. discount code and, like magic, they had some cars.)

If you book the room as an employee of that company (with the correct company discount code, and possibly with the requirement of presenting company ID to the desk at checkin) you may be able to get a room.
posted by zippy at 9:55 PM on March 3, 2009

If you or your husband has any frequent-visitor status with any hotel chain, call the frequent visitor number and book that way, making sure the system knows your status. This can make a huge difference in availability.

Look for hotels in outlying suburbs and neighboring towns.

Check Craigslist's "Vacation Rentals" section for that city.

Similar to mattybonez' suggestion of local hotels, also try Bed & Breakfasts. Depending on the city, Tripadvisor and/or Yelp may have good information.

Try contacting the city's tourism and convention board.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 9:58 PM on March 3, 2009

Where I'm staying at the moment, the landlord has two properties, she rents-out most of the rooms on a nightly basis. It's a common bathroom, but there's also a common full kitchen. I'm here monthly, but she charges $35 nightly for the others. They call it a homestay. It may be somewhat local, there's a significant east indian influence here, they build houses with tons of rooms then sell them or rent-out the spare rooms. Still, it might be an option to look into.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:11 PM on March 3, 2009

To clarify, since I'm half asleep, you can look for people renting-out spare bedrooms on a nightly basis. Craigslist and Kijiji should dig-up some results.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:14 PM on March 3, 2009

You might get lucky using the "name your own price" feature at Priceline (but best used after reviewing a site such as biddingfortravel), or hotwire.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 10:32 PM on March 3, 2009

Craigslist short-term or vacation rentals. If there is something that's booking the entire city, there are definitely going to be locals willing to give up their pad for cash.
posted by barnone at 10:37 PM on March 3, 2009

try different sites, rooms that the hotel has already released to or hotwire show up as "sold" in their system until those sites release them back to the hotel. Call the hotel directly and not the corporate 800#, sometimes the local place has a better handle on their rooms than the national reservations system.
posted by legotech at 11:10 PM on March 3, 2009

I'll second calling that town's tourism board - it's worked for me in the past. We've also stayed in close to the real thing (eg. Vancouver, Wa instead of Portland). Or couch surf!
posted by bellbellbell at 12:35 AM on March 4, 2009

I imagine you're trying to go someplace like Austin during SXSW. A good place to try might be off the internet -- or at least off hotel booking sites. Get a yellow pages for your destination city and start looking for smaller, crappier hotels and motels and bed and breakfast type places, that may not be part of national chains or have significant internet presence. If they were hard for you to find, they'll have been hard for other people to find, too. This will likely lead you to some really bad places, though, so keep that in mind. If you know anyone local to where you're going, ask them about the place -- whether it's really a tourist motel or more of a drug den or a no-tell motel.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:55 AM on March 4, 2009

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