Hi all, as I have posted before, my husband and I are coming to Toronto in July. This thread is intended for those new or not very experienced to buying hotel rooms.
Being a cheap Yankee New Englander (there is no point in trying to pretend I am "frugal' or some other such fancy euphemism) I like to stay at 4* hotels on a 2* budget whenever possible. So here are some of my tips and how I searched for my hotel.
1. Started hotel search on kayak.com. Plugged in travel dates and destination. Kayak scours the Internet to find the top listed prices for hotels. Clicked boxes at the top of the search to re-arrange the results (such as star quality or price high to low). This saves hours on an initial search, and gives a lay of the land of what prices are out there.
2. Now I have some base prices to work with. I checked out hotwire.com to see what 4* hotels they are offering for my dates. Because hotwire lists star quality, neighborhood, and amenities without revealing the hotel's name before purchase, I take that information to betterbidding.com. They have a pinned hotwire list of hotels, plus a chat board where I can post any questions and get help. I was intrigued by the Renaissance, Sheraton Centre, and SoHo Metropolitan on kayak. I found a hotel on hotwire which matches the Sheraton Centre, so now I can compare the two pricewise.
3. If you don't mind even more of a gamble you can try bidding on priceline. It's usually the cheapest out there but it takes some knowledge. If you post your information on betterbidding.com on the priceline board they can walk you through it. At this point I don't want to go the priceline route.
4. Now that I have three hotels targeted, I check out their Web sites for any special offers. Although I love the SoHo Metropolitan's appearance from reviews and such, it's expensive and none of the packages offer a significant discount. So I called the hotel directly and they can't do any better for me either. So for now I rule that one out.
5. The Renaissance is in a good location for the ballgames we are going to, but because it is baseball season they aren't offering any deals, so again I am ruling this one out for now.
6. The Sheraton is offering some nice specials online. I also happen to be a Starwood member (the hotel's preferred guest program, which by the way is FREE to join). One of the specials is a birth year special where if you are staying over a three day weekend you pay $199 for the first night and the last two digits of your birth year for the other two nights. This would get me a three-night stay for $315. So how old am I? You do the math. Compared to the hotel's regular rate of $504 for the same dates, I am loving this birth year special.
7. I compare the birth rate special to hotwire. On the left hand side of the hotwire offering (after you click 'proceed') it tells you the total amount with taxes and fees. The $315 Sheraton rate is cheaper than hotwire. I called and booked it through a Starwoods Preferred Guest Member agent who let me choose bed type and put in a request to stay in the hotel's newer tower. At check in I am eligible for a room upgrade subject to availability. This cost me no star points. The reservation is fully cancellable up until 48 hours of our stay, so if a better deal comes along I can cancel.
8. I continue to bargain hunt...the only thing that comes up is a lower rate for what I believe is the Sheraton on hotwire. The price is now down to the same level as my reservation. However, there is a big difference. Reading the Trip Advisor reviews, there were complaints by hotwire purchasers that the Sheraton would only give them a room with a double bed, even if they were Starwood customers. An upgrade to a king room was $20 a night extra. Also, some complained they were given a room in the older tower which needs renovation. So comparing apples to apples, my reservation is still the cheapest, I mean best, deal I can find for a 4* hotel in downtown Toronto. Occasionally I will also take a peak at Travelzoo.com to see if they have deals too.
So that's where things stand for now. I am paying around $105 a night for the Sheraton Centre. I will continue to look, but I'm pretty happy overall.