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Thoughts on advance purchase rates for hotel rooms?

Thoughts on advance purchase rates for hotel rooms?

Feb 1st, 2013, 07:27 PM
  #1  
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Thoughts on advance purchase rates for hotel rooms?

I'm sure this could go in some other forum on Fodors, but considering I want the advice of those I know best, I'm keeping it here in the Asia forum (and also because it relates to my upcoming trip to Japan.)

What are your general thoughts on doing advance purchase rates for hotel rooms? It seems that in Japan there aren't a lot of options for any sort of big discounts outside of a direct booking (as there is, say, in SE Asia with discount booking engines.) So I'm finding that the "best" rates at hotels in Japan (and I use quotes because none of these rates are anything I'd particularly classify as a deal) are the advance purchase rates.

I've avoided these like the plague in the past, as my biggest fear is the 'what if' factor: you need to cancel the trip, etc--which luckily we've never had to do--but there's always that question mark in the back of your head.

Is travel insurance (which we'll have anyway) a first-line defense against the 'what if' factor? I'm assuming that money would theoretically be reimbursable via an insurance claim if you had to cancel for a covered reason.

I always see these rates and think no one ever books them ... but I guess some of you out there have. Or maybe I'm just more gun-shy than the average Joe.
filmwill is offline  
Feb 1st, 2013, 07:58 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
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I try to book only those rooms that have cancellation options clearly described.
Usually a 100% refund if cancelled 5 days out.
Advance booking feels chancy but if you want to stay in a nice place in a nice area you almost have to book far in advance
Another factor to consider is what card you use and the foreign transaction fee charged by that card. Some are better than others, call the company and ask what the fees are and write it on the back of the card to remember which is which.
I recently booked $1000. for two stays in Kyushu this May through Japanican and my cc company charged roughly $25 each for the dollar/yen conversion toward the ryokan/hotel.
Some other contributors may know the best strategy for minimizing these fees.
kalihiwai2 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2013, 08:06 PM
  #3  
 
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Hyatt advance purchase rates are often the best rates but as you note, you can neither change nor cancel. For other hotels that are Japanese the best rates are usually found online on their Japanese language website and do not require payment in advance. Booking sites in English, in my experience, are more expensive and have unforgiving change and cancellation policies.

Insurance may cover - or not. Read the fine print carefully of the policy to be sure. Many, for example, were not covered for cancellation in 2011 because natural disaster was excluded.
KimJapan is offline  
Feb 1st, 2013, 08:43 PM
  #4  
 
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It would have to be a BIG discount for me to do it 10+ months in advance.

A few years ago, I took that same advice from KimJapan and was able to book the Rihga Royal in Hiroshima. Got a great rate via their Japanese page that wasn't available on the English page.

You could do some insurance shopping online to see what the coverage is.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 12:33 AM
  #5  
 
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We book villas every year in Mexico with two other families. Full payment is usually due 2-3 months prior. We have not had to use our travel insurance (knock wood), but both other families have been able to get illness-related full refunds with relatively little bureaucracy. Not sure if the "cancel anytime" or "cancel for work reasons" work as well.

With hotels I would never pay 10 months in advance, unless as mrwunrfl says, it was absolutely the deal of the century. I like to remain flexible because better deals or cooler options often show up at the last minute. But I have paid in full 1-2 months in advance, which is usually when I book big trips anyway.
crosscheck is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 10:28 AM
  #6  
 
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I don't normally have that problem as I tend to plan trips about one month in advance. On my last trip to Japan, we started planning about 2 weeks beforehand. Heck, I only had one reservation set when we arrived! The rest were arranged at the traveler info centers across from the train stations, and our first night we got at the info counter at Narita Airport. I had lists of places that looked good. They called for me and got even better than the Internet rates. If you stick to Japanese lodging, they usually have you pay as you check out.

I know you like to plan far in advance, though, so it might be different. Travel insurance will cover you if you get sick, have a death or illness in your family, have a work related issue or "for any reason" if you buy that kind of policy. I've had very good luck with claims through Chartis' Travel Guard's gold policy, which has the "any reason" optional rider.
lcuy is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 10:48 AM
  #7  
 
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I very rarely book non-refundable rates, and I carry travel insurance even less often. On my last trip I booked one hotel (in Buenos Aires) on a non-refundable rate because I thought the saving was too good to pass up, but I was prepared to eat the cost if necessary.

In Japan I mostly stayed in places like the Toyoko Inns, or small independent places, which allowed cancellation. Hyatts are above my pay grade...
thursdaysd is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 11:32 AM
  #8  
 
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I like non-refundable rates but have found that I can wait until the last minute (say a month before) to book them. My strategy is to book a refundable rate to "hold" the reservation and to book the non-refundable rate later. Also, we booked the Hyatt in Kyoto with Kim at a rate that was very competitive and included breakfast and other amenities. We will not be invoiced until just before we arrive. You might want to take a look at that.
Craig is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 11:37 AM
  #9  
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Kim, I'm all ears!

We have a rate there but I wouldn't call it competitive.
filmwill is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 12:01 PM
  #10  
 
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Kim found that for our dates we could get a better rate on the Hyatt site. So it depends on exactly when you are traveling. The rate on the Hyatt site needed no pre-payment and is cancelable up to 24 hours in advance without penalty (we had to give a credit card guarantee).
Kathie is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 12:41 PM
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Anyone who is planning on/thinking of staying at any of the Hyatts and has not ever had the Hyatt Visa card, please listen up: this card offers 2 nights free at a Hyatt hotel after you've spent $1000 on the card. However, if you just Google the card, the free night offer is for category 1-4 Hyatt, but all of the Japan Hyatts are category 5 & 6. To get the offer that includes category 5 & 6, you have to use a few more keystrokes, and I'd rather no go into those details here. You can get those details on Flyertalk, or send me a note - don at dontopaz dot com.

A few more details about the card: When you get the card, you also get immediate Platinum status at Hyatt. (If you're already Platinum, you get bumped to Diamond, I believe.) The card costs $95/year, but you get a $100 statement credit, so that's a wash. Besides, the value of 2 nights at, say, the Park Hyatt in Tokyo is around $7-800, anyway. Award nights at Hyatt are usually easy to score, except for a few properties like the Park Hyatt Paris. If you ever had the card before with the 2 free nights, you cannot get the 2 free nights a 2nd time round.

Credit where it's due: Bob Kimball first brought this card to the board's attention about 3 years ago.
DonTopaz is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 12:49 PM
  #12  
 
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FW - you can email me. Like kathie said though I was unable to get better rates for her peak season stay at the Hyatt. But we can book anything almost always without prepayment or even deposit.
KimJapan is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 01:03 PM
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Don, I am emailing you.
Shelley
shelleyk is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 01:06 PM
  #14  
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Kim, I don't think I have your email addy
filmwill is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 01:07 PM
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K dot keefe at theartoftravel dot net.
KimJapan is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2013, 02:16 PM
  #16  
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Emailing you now
filmwill is offline  
Feb 9th, 2013, 11:06 PM
  #17  
 
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I booked some of my October 2012 trip using Agoda, a discount site. As above, I only booked where I had free cancellation option on the room and indeed an itinerary change meant I cancelled a booking (and it was refunded to my card without problem) and made a new booking.

Downside is that you pay upfront, rather than on checking out.

Upside is that the site seems to be much clearer on the room types (and the actual differences) than many of the hotels' own sites are.

Dormy Inn is already a budget chain, but the discounted rate meant we were able to book a large Japanese Western combination room which gave us a lot more floor space. Still the normal tiny bathroom but that was acceptable to us.

We also used Agoda for Hotel Granvia in Kyoto and Hotel Century Southern Tower in Shinjuku, Tokyo (which was just a few days ahead of departure, as we had to swap some of our itinerary around after late discovery of a national holiday).

For the rest, we used Japanese Guest Houses and direct bookings.

I do remember being advised (possibly here on Fodors or on another travel chat site) that some hotels give a discount for JR Pass holders, but the Agoda price I booked was less anyway.
Kavey is offline  
Feb 10th, 2013, 01:31 PM
  #18  
 
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i do something similar to craig.

we do not carry any trip insurance, but rather self insure, except for med-evac insurance. this we get from DAN, which kathie suggested many years ago.. $55 annually covers us both.

i often buy pre-paid hotels, even months in advance. Of course i prefer not to but sometimes i can't avoid it and the "deals" are pretty impressive (incl breakfast, sometimes airport transport, meals). Most often these are for non-chain hotels.

craig's suggestion of making a "safe" res now and buying a pre-pay within a month of departure works very well and i have often done that. BUT, it only works if the pre-pay is still being offered, which sometimes it is not.

Like with the airlines, I find that personal contact directly with the hotel often enhances your chances of finding better pricing. I do not negioate with them as some have suggested here, I simply ask if there are any in-house specials, etc.

Search for friends and family rates too. they often are excellent.
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