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Contacting tour hotel not always cheaper

I’m booked on a tour later this year and arriving two days early. I contacted the first hotel by email to reserve a room. The first response was for a double room at €232 per night. I then asked for a single room and they responded that one would cost €154 per night. So a single for the 2 nights including taxes would cost $328.

I checked prices on booking.com and was able to book the same room for $268. It pays to shop around.

Posted by
8489 posts

Philip, that is true that shopping around can pay off. One thing to keep in mind is that the hotel will quote you for the same type of room that the tour has reserved. Often, that is one step up from the lowest category. You may find yourself changing rooms after your first two days, but that may not be an issue for you. You may also find yourself in a single room instead of a double because you are in one already.

I have also found that going through the tour hotel can have its advantages as well. One tour I reserved a balcony room overlooking the river for my pre-tour arrival days. I was allowed to stay in the same room for the tour. Now, I might have received that type of room anyway as some of my tour mates did get balcony rooms. However, some of my tour mates also got smaller rooms facing away from the river. It is the luck of the draw. I was glad to have that room with its fabulous view.

Posted by
18477 posts

I haven't taken an organized tour in years and I was surprised by a few I have talked to here that were on Viking Cruises. Their extra nights were crazy expensive. We found a way to cut the cost nearly in half with no loss in quality. Actually, with the added benefit of knowing exactly where they would be staying, then finding similar in better locations.

Posted by
8582 posts

Philip, I think the main reason to contact the hotel directly is for availability. That is, they often set aside a block of rooms for RS, knowing that there will be some people wanting to come early or staying on. So we've seen "no rooms available" through booking sites (even their own), whereas they responded positively when contacted be email. But your point is well taken. Worth checking.

Yeah, the cruise extra stay packages are crazy expensive. We three couples transferred and stayed in Luzern for three nights for what the cost of one couple's stay would have been through the cruise company. Some people are just willing to pay for the convenience.

Posted by
3196 posts

The upcoming tour is my 15th with Rick Steves and on most of my trips, I arrive a few days early. Rick has advised through the years to contact the hotel directly, avoiding the middle man, to get the best prices and any possible discounts as a tour member. I always check prices and this is the first time in memory that an independent booking site was so much less expensive than dealing directly with the property.

As far as occupying the same room as you would during the remainder of the tour stay, that might happen half the time.

Posted by
7377 posts

We have checked the price by contacting them and comparing it to the on-line booking options. One time we did the direct email contact, and we ended up not needing to change hotel rooms. They had given us a nice view room of the river at St. Goar.

Other times, the price for the hotel from all options has been more than we wanted to pay. In those cases, I took the opportunity to stay in a different hotel in a different neighborhood than the RS hotel. Since the RS tour begins late afternoon, it’s been easy to switch hotels. For example, the RS hotel in Paris was near Rue Cler. The first nights, I stayed in a cheaper basic room near the Luxembourg Garden. We liked experiencing a different neighborhood, too.

Posted by
8200 posts

I've been using Booking.com for many, many years. Sometimes rooms are reasonably priced. But I've also found times when room prices were ridiculously expensive--both domestically and international.

When they're expensive, I'll often check some other websites for comparison in the area.

But I'm glad they're there because they've always got a room for you in every market I've ever needed to be at.

Posted by
2712 posts

If you just need a place to rest your head get the best price. I do not want to begin my tour by changing hotels. That wastes part of a usable day in Europe. I’ve always looked at the tour hotel website and zero’d in on a type of room I’d really like knowing that it would likely not be the room I’d get on the tour. Then I contact the hotel, ask if I can get that room type and stay in that room for the tour. The answer has always been yes. Maybe not the most cost efficient way of starting off, but we love having a better (roomier, view) room for what is usually 4 nights and not having to pack up and move, either rooms or hotels.

Posted by
97 posts

We had a good experience booking our pre-day hotel in Rome and our post-stay in Paris for early May. Both hotels were contacted directly and I received a discounted rate off the published rate and they stated we would not have to change rooms for the tour. Was it the best I could do, probably not, but I didn't want to spend time packing and moving for a few euros. I also didn't want the lousiest room in the hotel.

Posted by
121 posts

My last few tours, I booked my 4-5 days prior-to-tour start in an Airbnb. It has really enhanced my vacation experience, and sometimes it’s not too much more expensive than the hotel. I’ve found Rick Steve’s hotels mediocre, and so I typically chose an Airbnb somewhere special in “old town” when possible (like Bilbao, Porto and Salzburg). I enjoy stocking my own fridge, and living like a local, while shaking off pre-tour jet lag.

Posted by
9429 posts

Good for you Philip checking booking.com, smart. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by
2712 posts

I see a lot of shade thrown toward Viator on this site, a tour consolidator. But kudos to Booking.com, a hotel consolidator. In both cases the true provider loses money. Help me understand the difference?

Posted by
27328 posts

I have often found booking.com to be less expensive than a direct booking. It may be that I'm getting a less-choice room on booking.com, but I'm a low-price shopper, not a best-value shopper, so that result works just fine for me. If a hotel chooses not to beat, or at least match, the rate I can find on booking.com, I don't see why I should feel guilty about using booking.com.

My major concern with recommendations for Viator here is that the posters almost never acknowledge that Viator is a third-party that doesn't actually operate any of the tours. They say they were happy with a Viator tour in one city as if that is a recommendation for a tour booked through Viator in a different city. That is potentially confusing to less-experienced travelers, who may think Viator runs all the tours on its website. I don't think anyone believes booking.com runs the hotels it lists, or that being happy with one hotel found on booking.com means all the other hotels listed there are equally good.

I have no solid information on this, but I believe someone posted a year or two ago that booking.com's commission is about 15%. Someone else (in a good position to know) has said Viator charges 25% (or maybe it was "at least 25%"). So there may be that difference as well.

Posted by
18477 posts

Booking.com
I havent yet found them to be cheaper for the same room description. But it may happen. I do keep checking with that hope and I have used them more out of laziness than anything else. So its worth the look. The only drawback might be different treatment since they lost 15 or 25% on the deal. But I dont know that to actually be true, just a concern I would have.

Viator
Yes, they are a consolidator and again the provider looses something on the transaction. Again out of laziness i have used them with good results. But more often I have pulled out a few key phrases from the listing and googled them to get to the provider and booked there. But Viator is a great source for "what there is to do" research.

More to the point the "tour hotel" often isnt the best hotel for the trip. I know the ones Viking uses in Budapest can be less than ideal. By booking separately you can shop around a bit based on a lot of criteria. But, yes, you do have to move and that can be a hassle.

Posted by
1224 posts

It is always worth checking. We are only doing 1 extra night before our BOEE tour in Prague and the price wasn't outrageous so we are just sticking with the tour hotel.

Posted by
22 posts

We have 2 nights before, Southern Italy tour 2 nights after. Tour hotels, were, much more expensive. Hotel Museum by the vatican for 2 nights, a great Airbnb in Naples, not far from last hotel, I try to stay at tour hotels. Not this time

Posted by
418 posts

I just returned from the Heart of Belgium and Holland tour 3 weeks ago. As soon as I signed up I contacted the first hotel to get a room. There were none available. I booked the closest hotel that I could find that fit my price range. I wanted a short walk from my hotel to the starting hotel since I would be moving luggage from one spot to the other. It was a Marriott with a great location right on the canal. We flew to Belgium a week before our tour started. Four days before the tour I received and URGENT email from the Rick Steves office stating that the first hotel made a mistake and didn’t have enough rooms for the group. There were 5 of us that were moved to a different hotel for our first 2 nights on the tour. Our new hotel was the best room we had on the tour, so we were quite happy with our new room. So we would have had to move to a different hotel anyway. We had to stay flexible.

Posted by
638 posts

We are headed to our tour hotel today two days early. I am hoping our room is considerably better than our first hotel room on our Village Italy tour.

Posted by
2712 posts

just returned from the Heart of Belgium and Holland tour 3 weeks ago. As soon as I signed up I contacted the first hotel to get a room. There were none available.

After many RS tours I’ve never seen this happen. We are scheduled for a Tauck tour in the fall and have already had two hotel changes. One very nice hotel simply has not reopened. I’ve got to think these are COVID related struggles. All you can do is be flexible as this poster was.