The “Joy” of Booking Travel

We are all set to go to St. George. We spent this week searching airfares, hotels in Las Vegas, AirBnB’s in St. George, and rental cars. It always ends up being more complicated than it should be and there are way too many permutations that can’t be searched at once. Our plan is to fly to Las Vegas on Saturday, stay overnight, then drive to St. George in the morning. We will look around St. George from Sunday to Wednesday and then fly home from Las Vegas on Wednesday evening.

We started on the big search sites like Orbitz and Travelocity. The nice things about them is that we can search for a package of airfare, hotel, and car. The drawbacks: We could not exclude the basic economy flights from the search and so any pricing required us to separately search for airfare and add back any additional costs if the site allowed us to “upgrade” to regular economy. (I am sure Sue will use a blog post at some point to rant about the injustice of the multi-economy pricing model, but we will leave that for another time. You know it.) I will confine my whine to say that the option to upgrade–if available at all–is usually buried somewhere towards the end of the booking.

We also searched the airline websites, which also offer packages and while we are able to book the right airfare, the hotel booking option is limited–at least on American (and United as far as I could tell) –to a hotel in the city where you are flying and for the entire time you are there. Not what we are looking for, so strike two. We were able to book the flights and then a separate booking on the airline site for the hotel (which got us extra miles!), but it is the same price as booking the hotel from the hotel site. Both of those exclude the mandatory resort fee from the price of the room. I don’t mind if they exclude the costs of options that we may not use (breakfast, internet, parking, etc.) from the listed price of the room. I might not want those extras and so I shouldn’t have to pay for them. But the “resort fee” is mandatory so I don’t have any option but to pay it. Seems like that should be part of the room fee. What next? Mandatory check-in fee? Or perhaps an elevator use tax? Please, just add $35 to the price of the room and just be done with it.

Parking is another issue. Since we need a car, we will have to park at the hotel for one night. I thought it might be a better idea to pick up the car Sunday morning–one fewer day of rental and not paying for the parking would be offset by the cost of two taxi/Uber/Lyft rides from/to the airport. The taxi/Uber/Lyft ride would be $10 each way. When I searched the cars, it is somewhat counter-intuitively $10 less expensive to rent the car on Saturday rather than on Sunday. No idea why. Perhaps there is a sin tax for renting on Sunday, although not likely as it is Las Vegas and if they were going to tax sin, renting a car on Sunday would have to be pretty far down the list. Either way, we have now booked it for Saturday and will pay the $15 to park.

We booked an AirBnB in St. George and I have the same sort of issue with their pricing. he place was listed at about $70 per night but the total was about $350. Last time I checked, and I realize I have been out of school for a long time (although he is allegedly an accountant) 4 nights@$70 per night should be about $280 (for those of you following along with your calculators do this: press the 4, press the * key press the 7 and then press the 0. Now press Enter; you should see 280. I don’t mind paying $350 per 4 nights, but that is NOT $70 per night.

So, here is my recap for this post. 1. Please let me search your site for what I want. 2. Give me a break and allow me to define what options I want/don’t want up front 3. Please organize the prices in a reasonable and logical order and 4. (and finally) JUST TELL ME THE DAMN PRICE. NO MANDATORY FEES OR NO HIDDEN CHARGES.

How to Choose a Lodging

So many places to stay. How to choose? Steven and I have a very scientific method: a complicated algorithm that combines price, location, intuition, and search fatigue. We like to stay in off-beat or unique places (Mt. Peale Animal Sanctuary or Monument Valley Tipi Village). Sometimes we get a little practical. Here’s how we think about it:

We understand there’s a quality difference between the Baymont Inn and the Four Seasons, or even the Holiday Inn Express, but if we are arriving in North Platte, Neb., at 8:30 p.m. and leaving at 6 a.m., all we need is a clean place to sleep. So what if the shower fixture is pulling away from the wall as long as the water is hot? Do we care if we get a $3.50 breakfast credit to the diner across the parking lot? No! North Platte is a place that makes Starbucks look fabulous. We’d rather save the $60 or so. No frills, no worries.

The pond at Red Moon Lodge

If we’re planning a trip of longer than a week, we try to find a place with laundry and some privacy in the middle of the tour. That usually means AirB&B. If you’re staying at least a week, you can find many owners who give a discount. Plus, the cleaning fees are spread out over a longer time and you can do a bit of your own cooking. We like to have the whole place to ourselves and getting to do laundry mid-trip without spending time in a laundromat makes packing so much easier. Another benefit is that many are in neighborhoods, so you’re away from the most touristy areas and get a more realistic vision of the places you’re visiting. We’re not looking for new friends, but if you are, you may find some this way. Unless you find one that’s considerably cheaper than a motel, I wouldn’t stay in one for one night. The fees end up making it less than economical.

I am not a big fan of staying in motels on the main drag. I try to look for one or two unique features or experiences I can’t have at home. That’s how we ended up at Mt. Peale and Red Moon Lodge. Neither is within walking distance to the strip in Moab, but both were beautiful, contemplative, and full of friendly people. Monument Valley Tipi Village just seemed like someplace silly to stop for a night. I don’t know that I’d recommend it, mostly because the owners are very disorganized, but we got a strenuous and informative hike on Navajo land and got to talk to the young man (our guide) whose family owns the land plus several of the other folks staying there. I like to have at least a few lodging experiences that offer the opportunity to meet people I wouldn’t encounter in my daily life.

There’s nothing wrong with a regular motel or hotel room; I just find them confining. I would much rather relax on the beautiful grounds of a bed and breakfast, or have a two-bedroom home on a hill for just the two of us.

Most of the places we stayed, I found either through AirB&B or Googling it. George at Red Moon Lodge said that they are listed on AirB&B but also have their own website, where you can book without paying any extra fees. That’s a helpful hint: If you find a place that seems more lodging than true AirB&B (which I think of as more of a single space as opposed to a space with multiple rooms), find its website and look for a price differential.

We do our homework and haven’t had a bad experience, but some of that is our attitude about it all. It’s an adventure!