The Most Frustrating Hotel Rate Changes

In the past I’ve written about how I’ll always only book flexible hotel rates. I should modify that statement, since I now live in hotels full time and have changed my policy slightly — now I’ll only book flexible rates, except within a few days of arrival. If I’m booking only a couple of days in advance and there’s still a non-refundable rate, I’ll often lock that in if the rate difference is substantial.

Why I book flexible hotel rates

But in general, why do I avoid non-refundable rates?

  • Sometimes my plans do change, even when I don’t foresee it, and it sucks to basically forfeit the cost of the hotel stay
  • The bigger reason is that rates often drop as the stay date approaches — if a hotel has lots of rooms left to sell, they might drop the price

And that’s the beauty of flexible rates. I can lock in my rate way in advance, and then keep monitoring as my arrival date approaches. In the event the rate drops further I can always cancel and rebook.

In the past I learned this the hard way. I booked a non-refundable stay way in advance, and closer to my stay date a substantially cheaper flexible rate became available.

Can flexible rates be frustrating as well?

But here’s a situation that’s perhaps even more frustrating. I booked a stay at the brand new Hyatt Herald Square, which is Hyatt’s newest property in New York City (their footprint in NYC has exploded over the past year). This comes after they’ve opened the Park Hyatt New York, Hyatt Times Square, and Hyatt Union Square, all within the past year.

I booked the “My Elite Rate” of $159 — that’s pretty damn good for New York City! I did notice that even the flexible rate required canceling 48 hours in advance. Usually hotels only make you cancel one day prior, or sometimes even day of arrival.

Hyatt-Herald-Square-Rate-1

Anyway, on Sunday afternoon, a day before arrival, I checked hyatt.com as I usually do to see what the rate was… and it had dropped to $120 (which is crazy cheap for New York City).

Hyatt-Herald-Square-Rate

Of course at this point I was within the cancellation deadline for my stay. For me it was the first time I’ve booked a flexible rate and seen the rate drop even further within the cancellation deadline.

So I guess that even booking a flexible rate isn’t a guaranteed way to get the lowest flexible, publicly available rate…

First impressions of Hyatt Herald Square

In terms of first impressions of this property. The rooms are the smallest of any Hyatt in New York City, at under 200 square feet. I knew that coming in, though. And having known that and adjusted my expectations accordingly, I quite like the hotel — it feels very boutiquey. At $120-160 per night it’s an amazing value, but I certainly wouldn’t pay the same for this property as other Hyatt properties in NYC, given the room size.

Hyatt-Herald-Square

What’s your strategy when it comes to booking hotels? Under what circumstances do you book non-refundable rooms?

Comments

  1. If the deal is fantastic for a stay that I know is incredibly unlikely to change, I’ll book a nonrefundable rate. Example from a couple of years ago: prepaid $99 a night to stay at the Conrad in Chicago right before Christmas — could’ve prepaid for over Christmas as well, but this was a stop during the middle of other travel.

    I’ll also do prepaid if I know it’s a situation where I need to be in that particular place over very specific dates, like for conventions or for ticketed events like Broadway shows.

  2. Lucky, if I see a room rate lower than what I was quoted for the same benefits and room type, I would ask the front desk agent to change the rate if possible. I know they’re not obligated to give you a rate lower than what’s already agreed upon, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

  3. I find that, though it is not 100%, Starwood Platinum Concierge can often arrange to have the rules broken on nonrefundable rates, and hotels are pretty reasonable if there are things like weather causing flight cancellations and a missed trip, or other similar excuses. “Nonrefundable” is certainly a much less ironclad idea in hotels than it tends to be in airline tickets.

  4. I book non-refundable rates if the deal is too good. Got a 4-star hotel in Bali for $11 per night thru an OTA promo some weeks back, and snagged the Westin Las Vegas thru another OTA recently for a very good price (price on Westin was showing more than double what I paid to the OTA, and there was no comparable package to file a BRG).

  5. If you are staying multiple nights, could you continue with your primary reservation for the first night, and the cancel the remainder and book with the lower rate for the subsequent nights?

  6. If that rate requires 48hrs notice to cancel then booking it as a flexible rate at the last minute is kind of pointless, since it would have already passed the deadline. So the $120 rate is not really “flexible” and therefore not directly equivalent, I would have thought.

  7. I’m checking into that hotel tomorrow. My Elite Rate is $304 though. That’s an insanely cheap rate (both are actually). I stayed at the hotel its opening week and it serves it’s purpose. The rooms are small but functional and the staff is friendly.

  8. @Ben, if you called Hyatt even outside of your cancellation window they should have been able to adjust your rate downward. I’ve done that before and it’s never involved a cancellation — Hyatt is usually excellent about honoring the lowest rate for any particular room.

  9. Hi Ben,

    This post is very timely. I just saw the rate for our stay at Park Hyatt Vienna go down from 465 Euro to 352 Euro. I want to change to this lower rate, but I have a Suite already confirmed with the original rate using my Diamond Suite upgrade. How do I change to this lower rate?

    Thanks.

  10. @John — This happened to me a few times and each time I was able to call the Diamond line where they courteously agreed to reduce the rate and keep my Diamond Suite Upgrade intact. So I would urge you to call.

  11. @ Sean — Depends on the hotel/rate rules, I’d think. In this case was only staying for a single night though.

  12. @ John — Based on the above comments it seems like the Diamond line might be able to do that for you.

  13. @KP
    I’m looking at staying in Bali for a couple of weeks in 10 months, and would love to know the details on notice and methods for setting up your hotel stay. Whatever information you could provide would be great.
    @Ben
    In Chicago, you said that Bali was one of your favorite places and that you’d been there something like 10 times, so if you have any specific suggestions, please don’t hesitate to mention any hotel thoughts.

  14. I estimate that 25% of the time I change or cancel a hotel reservation, and another chunk of times the rate drops as it gets closer by either at that hotel or a secondary one. If a hotel has a long cancellation period I simply don’t book it (with the only exception of a steal around an event with low probability of cancellstion, which is a rasrity) and find another one.

  15. Just to clarify to everyone reading this thread, having Hyatt honor the lower rate is not a Diamond perk. I’m a lowly Platinum and the Hyatt folks have done this for me twice, now, and I suspect would even if I had no status. It didn’t involve canceling a room, merely adjusting the price.

    I don’t see hotel rates as at all similar to airfares. There is a great deal more negotiation and consumer leverage with a hotel rate, and you should feel free to use a hotel’s 1-800 number liberally to honor the best available rate.

    Ben, I’m surprised you just accepted the higher rate without even trying to ask for a match!

  16. When requesting an exception, it often pays to call the property directly. The local on-site res agents often have a lot more authority than the central 1-800 res number.

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