Travel Deals

Travel Question: What is the best way to book hotels?

There are many different ways that travel experts purchase their hotel rooms. Many of the big travel bloggers advocate hotel elite programs and the perks that go with them. I have hotel mid-tier status with a couple of hotels thanks to credit cards I have applied for, but do not get hotel status based on stays. I do not end up staying in enough hotels in the space of a year to qualify for elite status and prefer to stay at the cheapest hotel options vs the same hotel chains.
Each person needs to determine what avenue is best for them and their travel needs. For most non-business travelers, the best option would tend to be the non-elite status. Elite status can provide some decent perks when staying at properties that recognize your status, but I find I can obtain more value for stays when I utilize coupons, promos,and Hotwire. When I tell people that I use Hotwire, especially for marathons, they wonder why I do that when you don’t know which property you are going to get. In a mid-size city or larger, your fantastic hotel deal can place you a good 45 minute drive from the starting line. If you are like me, you want to have no part of the stress of a drive like that with the traffic that be expected.

But, you CAN KNOW which hotel you are getting on Hotwire! In all of my Hotwire purchases, I have been able to accurately predict the hotel I was going to receive before I purchased it about 98% of the time. How is that possible? There is a great website called that uses other peoples’ selections to compile lists of the known hotels. Obviously, not every hotel that Hotwire makes available is on the list, but there is a fair number.

The way it works is Hotwire gives you potential buyer an idea of what the hotel has to offer by showing you the amenities and the percent of approval from previous dwellers. Using that information and the zones of the city shown by Hotwire, it is possible to compare those selections with previous successful purchases. So, when you look at the hotel list by city/zone breakdown and compare the hotel you are considering with the star rating and amenities, you can have a great idea (if not exact) of which hotel you are getting. This is the perfect tool for a runner that needs to get a hotel in somewhat close proximity to the race start.

Here is another reason to use Hotwire – most marathons work with hotels to have at least one hosted hotel for the event. Once they do that, the hotel blocks out the majority of the rooms for the marathon rate. As much as I would like to take advantage of those special rates, they are often not as low as I need to look for. Not only that, but the minimum nights at those special rates are not conducive for me. Since they block off those rooms, it is normally not possible to use award nights or points at host hotels or any of the hotels in close proximity to the race happenings.

It is a great convenience to stay at a marathon hotel as the expo is easily accessible, the race atmosphere lends to an increase of event adrenaline, and you can walk from your front door to the race. It is incredible! 🙂 One time I did utilize a marathon hotel deal was in Richmond. The rate they offered was very good and the nights required for the stay worked out perfectly for me. It was great to be able to park and not have to drive again during our visit, to be able to walk from our hotel room to the conference room that hosted the expo, and to walk out and down the road 30 yards to the starting line on race morning. It was an excellent experience!

On another race trip, however, the minimum night thing was messing with my schedule (Kansas City Marathon). There were two race hotels there and I really wanted to stay at one of them. So, I started looking on Hotwire and comparing the hotels on there with BetterBidding and after a few days of searches I finally found a description that seemed to work with one of two hotels – and both of them were the race hotels! The rate was over 50% less than the marathon rate. We went ahead and booked and found out after that it was indeed one of the hotels – the Westin @ $59 a night! This was perfect as it was linked to the expo by a pedestrian bridge as well as being able to spot the start/finish line from our bedroom window. Thanks to Hotwire and BetterBidding, I was able to take advantage of a great location at a hotel that supposedly had the rooms all blocked out at more than twice the price.

These are just a couple of instances, but as you can see, it is possible to stay in wonderful hotels at race locations without having either hotel elite status or paying published rates. Let me know if you need any help pinpointing certain hotels at your next destination.

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

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