The Travel Detective: How to Book Group Travel
Whether you’re planning a wedding, a family reunion, or a girlfriend getaway, planning group travel can be confusing and stressful. I’m here to share some tips to help you get the best deal possible and avoid hidden fees.
Never ever try to negotiate with the reservations department. It doesn’t have the power to negotiate. Make sure you call the hotel sales department and ask for a sales manager, not a coordinator.
The first thing to know is that if you’re planning an event where you want your friends and family to pay for their rooms like a wedding, what you want is a social block contract.
If you tell a hotel “social block,” it understands you’re not guaranteeing any rooms and it will not require a credit card. What you can do is negotiate a discounted group rate that you share with all your friends and family, have them call and book it by a cutoff date, and they get the discount and you’re not stuck holding the bag for any rooms.
If, however, you are going to be paying for the rooms, the word to know is “attrition.” That’s the term hotels will use to guarantee that they get paid for a minimum number of rooms whether or not you use them. It’s so important for you to negotiate low attrition. Or what’s going to end up happening? Your credit card is going to get charged when your friend doesn’t show up on the trip.
The next thing to look out for is concessions. Concessions are what you can negotiate above and beyond the rate of the room. It’s very important that you address concessions before you sign a contract.
After the fact, a great concession is known as a “hidden fee.” So here you think you have a fantastic room rate of $99. But what if the parking is $40 for the valet and there is no self-parking lot that’s cheaper nearby? What if breakfast is $20 a pop? What if you are charged $15 to deliver a $5 gift bag to a friend’s room? If you don’t look out for these types of fees, you can get charged.
Remember, you’re in control because you have strength in numbers when you have a group. So if you use the terms social block, attrition and concessions, you’ll show the hotel you know what you’re talking about. Then, you get a great event with your friends and you don’t have to mortgage your house in the process.
By Lisa Morris for Peter Greenberg.com