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Every fan of baseball aspires to attend all 30 MLB stadiums. We all have a running checklist of every stadium we want to watch a game at and all have our bucket list of must-see stadiums in our lifetime. For those that have had the opportunity to check out multiple stadiums, you will agree that even if you aren’t there to watch your home team play, it is always a great experience to take in a new ballpark. The food, the history, the in-between inning activities, the seventh inning stretch and all the sights and sounds around these amazing MLB stadiums make it so fun to experience new stadiums.
At Memorabilia Displays, we have an in-house travel industry expert, Jeff, who has been in the travel industry the last 15+ years who wanted to share his advice on how to help our readers save money on hotel rooms for upcoming away baseball, football or any sporting events.
Every travel site, travel agent and hotel chain’s site will give you the best rate guarantee, so you are confident booking with them, not a competitor. Rate parity has come a long ways these days, where hotels are contractually obligated to give their same public rates to all sites they partner with.
Before we begin, I want to put you in the head of a hotel revenue manager. The biggest misconceptions travelers have these days are thinking the further they book out, the better the deal they will find. Airlines really have trained us to thing this way. But there are far more accommodation options than flights so hotels are competing more for your business.
While rates will stay steady over big sporting events with huge demand (ie. Super Bowl) revenue managers who set rates at hotels will stay aggressive with their rates 30 days out as they have a daily rate target to hit which have been set for the year. But when the hotel (or competitor hotels) isn’t selling as many hotel rooms as they expected, revenue managers will drop rates to sell their perishable inventory.
A hotel is like a grocery store, if you don’t sell the food, it will spoil, so might as well get some revenue right. The absolute best time to get the lowest rate is to book the day of arrival. If you can’t book same day or even 3 days out, the soonest I recommend shopping for rooms is 30 days within the check-in date as that is when hotels will start adjusting rates if they don’t sell as many rooms as they anticipated.
Here are 4 easy ways to help you find the best the best hotel rates. If you follow these steps, you can assure you are getting the best rates possible.
Meta Search, or a search aggregator, shops all online travel agencies for you. Instead of going to every site individually, going to one such as kayak.com, Trivago.com and now Tripadvisor.com will do all the work for you. Some of these online travel agencies will pay to be listed as the featured site, so make sure you check out all the rates listed, not just the featured site.
Not every travel site has the same rates as most hotels (excluding chains) don’t have the technical capabilities to manage all travel sites rates and availability and will often not adjust rates/availability on another site, causing rate parity. Going with a Meta search engine will ensure you are getting the best rates and availability for all room types.
It’s also very important to know that there are only two hotel booking platforms in North America today - Expedia and Booking.com. All brands under the Expedia umbrella all have the same rates and availability including Hotels.com, Travelocity and Orbitz. For Booking.com, they run Priceline as well. Save yourself the time from shopping each site and book only one. My personal preference would be hotels.com as they have the best loyalty program at book 10 nights, get 1 free.
Check out this one meta search provider that has been around the longest, Hotels Combined.
If you aren’t getting a screaming deal, make sure to book your hotel room with a refundable cancellation policy. Most cancellation policies will be refundable unless you cancel within 48 hours. Rates are changing all the time, especially closer to the arrival date. As I explained earlier, revenue managers will drop rates closer to the arrival date if their hotel isn’t filling up as expected. I personally would book a non-refundable room, and then check rates the week or arrival (or day of arrival if you don’t have a cancellation penalty) to rebook at a lower rate.
If you are looking to get a little more creative to help you find the lowest hotel rates, you have to start looking at non-published rates. Here is where I would search to find even lower rates. Hotels have opaque channels (rates that are hidden until a special circumstance such as see rates after booking, combined with a flight purchase, a loyalty member which you must be signed in to their site to access.)
OTA (online travel agency) like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity solicit special package rates from hotels to offer a deeper discount on package rates. In North America, this discount is about an 18% off public rates. If you need to book a flight and hotel room, you will more than likely not find cheaper rates than through this vacation package. Hotels love offering these non-published, opaque rates because these package customers are booking further out and staying twice as long compared to a “regular” hotel customer, an excellent way for hotels to build a “base” of business.
Check out rates for yourself:
Believe it or not, the “mobile channel” is considered a “closed channel” and many hotels will offer lower rates only on mobile sites (both apps and mobile web). Mobile customers tend to book more last minute, so that is why you will find most of the mobile deals within 3 days of arrival. The good news is Meta search engines will shop for mobile rates if you are shopping through a mobile device.
Opaque bookings sites such as Hotwire and Priceline will always have the lowest rates from hotels. The trick is you won’t know your rates or hotel until after you book and they are always non-refundable bookings. The good news is you can select your star rating (which are very accurate) and neighborhood. So you truly will get what you pay for. It’s also important to know these rooms are non-refundable and you won’t know which room you get put in. So if you are very price sensitive and ok with sleeping next to the elevator or ice machine, this is a great way to go.
Betterbidding.com is a great forum which customers, like yourself, will post what rates they won and from which hotels over specific dates. If you are going to go with the opaque sites, this site is highly recommended to help educate yourself.
With rate parity being monitored so closely these days, many sites and hotel chains are focusing on loyalty programs even more to get you to book with them. Chains such as Hilton and Marriott now offer free Wi-Fi if you are a rewards members. It is free to join, and in many cases, you can un-lock even lower rates if you are signed in as a rewards member. Since you are signed-in, their sites are now considered a “closed channel” which hotels can offer lower rates through.
If this was all over-whelming, don’t worry, because I am sure this post will be outdated in 5 years from now with how fast travel technology is evolving.
That’s all – Have fun checking out new stadiums and feel free to message us if you have any questions. If you want tips on how to get autographs at the games, make sure to check out our blog on how to get autographs.
About the author, Jeff. He has had various sales roles with some of the biggest hotel chains, Hilton and Marriott and has spent the last 6 years with one of the largest Online Travel Agency today based in Seattle, WA.