If you own or work for an independent winery, chances are you spend a fair amount of time on the road. This time of year, I spend an inordinate amount of time mapping out my year and figuring out where I’m going. After traveling regularly for years and racking up lots of miles (sometimes on a weekly basis for months at a time), I have a few quick tips for travel.
Some people I know have certain hotel chains they like to stay at to get award points, but I get so tired of the monotony and sterility of corporate hotel rooms, and I also feel like as a small winery employee, I should try to support independent hotels, or at the very least, smaller chains.
But, I also LOVE a bargain and I also don’t like spending more than $150/night on a hotel (unless it’s in a market like New York or Boston, where it seems you can’t avoid it). If you travel like I do, you can spend upwards of $60k in travel every year! Ridic! So with that in mind, I always shop around and I pretty much always get a good deal on a hotel room. I wanted to share some of the places I go to get them.
It’s always good to start with your distributor; sometimes they have insane corporate rates at cool hotels. I just came back from a trip to Southern California, and my distributor hooked me up with a $99/night rate and one of the nicest hotels in his area. I checked online for comparison and the rack rate was $239/night. Holla!
If the distributor is no help—and believe me, a lot of times they’re not!—go online.*(I have had so many dudes—no offense to dudes—point me in the horribly wrong direction and try to get me to stay at sh*tty, run-down crapholes in the middle of nowhere because it was close to their office or house, which meant they could skip the added 5 minute drive to pick me up the next day. Sorry, dude, but I like staying somewhere where Arby’s and a gas station are not my only food choices…)
I always start at Kayak.com. This is an aggregator that lists hotels, airfare and car rentals by price (and with hotels, star rating, area and other amenities) and seems to be relatively less-affected by advertising dollars promoting hotels you really don’t want to stay at. Cut the crap and just highlight 4 stars and up. You WILL be able to find a hotel in this category for $150 or less. Additionally, if you don’t go straight to your preferred air carrier (you DO have MVP frequent-flier status on one carrier at least by now, right?!), Kayak will map out the best route based on the times you punch in, and, if you’re like me, the non-stops (I HATE multiple connections. Hate.).
I then cross-reference with my favorite hotel website, Tablethotels.com. Sometimes you can find pretty good deals on this website, but at the very least, it has the best list of cool, trendy and boutique hotels for most major metropolitan areas. Sadly, places like Cleveland haven’t made it on here yet, but for most big markets, they have a great selection. Between Tablet and Kayak you should be able to find your hotel and the right price. It’s also been useful to me to sign up for their private sales…
If all else fails or I am going to a ridiculously expensive city, I use Priceline.com. Those Shatner ads really annoy the sh*t out of me, but this website has some amazing deals. Again, only click on 4* and up. I have tried Hotwire, but I seem to find the quality to price ratio is higher on Priceline.
And always, ALWAYS cross reference your hotel choice on Tripadvisor. Something can look awesome on a travel website, but the most telling thing for me is the user-submitted pictures on Tripadvisor. If those look kosher and the reviews are decent, you’re probably good to go!