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Perchance where I'm travelling to has really crappy availability in terms of vacancies for when I'm going. All of the hotels near the area are fully booked for the weekend. I called the front desk for a Hilton Garden Inn and they said it's typical for them to be booked but they don't have a waiting list.

Does anyone have a clever way I could get a hotel to put me on a waiting list, or notify me when they open up?

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Do you have status with any of the big hotel chains? That can sometimes unlock the last few rooms at a nearly booked out hotel –  Gagravarr Jun 6 at 9:29
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No, I'm pretty average joe. –  Dripping Jun 7 at 18:30
    
You could try AirBnB, as a backup plan. –  TrojanName Jun 8 at 17:27

5 Answers 5

up vote 11 down vote accepted

I actually think I have the perfect thing for you. I made this site to check for when any booked hotels open up, and send you an email/text when it does:

Hotel Room Alerts

Full disclosure obviously, I'm obviously the creator of the site. You should add all the hotels that are in that area, and when any of them have an opening, it will notify you right away. Make sure you put all the hotels in there as soon as possible to increase your chances of getting in.

As @Krippled Hick says, sometimes if you need a booking for 2 or more nights, one or just some of those nights might become available first. Hotel Room Alerts will notify you when a portion of the dates you need open up.

Improving the site is a labor of love for me. If you find any issues with my site, or have any questions please shoot them my way :) Let me know how it goes!

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Utilize hotels.com or other "black-out date" wholesalers and discounters.
They purchase rooms in bulk at a discounted rate and mark them up for a profit. As occupancy becomes scarce they will hold rooms back for the last minute premium. The room allocations they have will not be available to the hotel front desk or central reservations.

Hotel front desks generally have limited visibility into the "true" occupancy level anyway. Hotels allocate their inventory across multiple channels and basically lose all control and visibility over those allocations. The front desk is just another one of those channels - and not the biggest one either.

However, just because Hotels.com took 20 rooms doesn't mean all 20 of those rooms are reserved - but unfortunately to the front desk it appears as "Not Available".

Room inventories are allocated to the distribution partners months in advance. Hotels.com, Priceline and Hotwire are the incumbents - if their websites don't have availability - getting them on the phone can be worthwhile. These guys are experts - and they have more resources, influence and options than most front desks.

Additionally - there are 4 primary Global Distribution Services that get the bulk of the room inventory and they don't share with each other. This shows up on Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz.
The easiest way to hit them all is to use Kayak.com or Trivago (or any good aggregator) so you can be certain you're hitting as many sites as possible. It does matter. The more travel sites searched - the better your odds.

Just because the front desk doesn't have rooms, doesn't necessarily mean there's no availability. It just means the hotel has used all of their own allocation.

Keep checking back every day around cancellation time - (re-run your searches) A single cancellation will trigger an available room to pop up somewhere, regardless if that site had previously shown sold-out. You should also try searching for a shorter duration (like just one night - starting on the preferred check-in date) to see if there might be rooms available some nights; but not for the entire duration. It may not be ideal but it will shed light on the true nature of their occupancy. Maybe you're searching for 7 day stay and they actually have 6 of those nights available - but you're rejected because you specified 7. If you find anything - even just one night - It's a start. Once there - you can generally stay.

Cancellation policy is typically 5pm day of arrival - but can be as long as 7 days prior to arrival if there is a big event. Call the hotel front desk and ask for the General Manager every day - (around the cancellation time - 6 or 7 pm) and also recheck Kayak or trivago. They won't call you, but they can be convinced to "pocket" a cancelled room if you convince them you'll be calling every day to check for new cancellations.

Getting on a first name basis with the GM can have huge benefits. It's not uncommon for hotels to "overbook"; knowing that inevitably some people cancel at the last minute - but still trying to fill as many beds as possible. The GM at a reputable hotel will generally help any way they can - within reason.

If all else fails; be at the hotel at least an hour before the final cancellation time on the day of (hopeful) check-in. Introduce yourself to the GM; and wait patiently in the lobby where you can spectate the check-in process.

A room will become available. The only question is - will you get it. Let us know....and good luck.

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My Wife was a front desk manager for 8 years at Doubletree. Maybe they are different but she had full visibility into room availability and could move things around regardless of what hotels.com or any other ones can do –  staticx Jun 6 at 14:47

No particularly clever schemes, I'm afraid. Those hotels that have waiting lists will add you if you call or mail them; those that don't, will not.

I'd look into alternatives like Airbnb that will often have availability even when hotels are full. Or, if you're feeling like Austin Powers, you can wait until just before you arrive and then try your luck with sites like Hotel Tonight or lastminute.com, or even the airport hotel desk, which will most likely have last-minute cancellations.

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Here's a technique that's risky - but can work.

  • Wear a suit, carry a "professional" looking suitcase.
  • Go up to the front desk and try to check in.
  • Inevitably, they won't have a record of your booking.
  • Claim that your company's travel desk made the booking - you've flown all the way over from wherever for a big conference with Name of major local employer.
  • Best case scenario, they're able to find a spare room for you as a last minute walk in.
  • Worst case, you can ask them to ring round other local hotels to see if they have any availability. You're from out-of-town so don't know any hotels in the area.

This has happened to me twice. In both cases, my travel agent had actually screwed up though!

It's by no means guaranteed - but if you're a regular, or work for a company which always sends its staff to that hotel, there's a good possibility of success.

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I'd imagine they'd see through this unless major local employer actually did have a big conference at that time, because if they did, a major hotel would normally know about it. High level meeting might work - though this does sound like the set up for one of those comedy scenes where a small lie snowballs helplessly out of control and you end up stuck trying to bluff your way through an actual meeting with major local employer to the sound of canned laughter. –  user568458 Jun 6 at 13:38
    
Seems to me that you could always say that you were there for a job interview with major local employer. Would be harder to verify than saying you were attending a big conference. That said, even if it did work, it's not something I'd depend on as a strategy. –  neubert Jun 6 at 14:19
    
On the positive end for this kind of experience, our flight carrier messed up booking us into a hotel after a canceled flight, and the hotel we went to actually booked us into the president's suite free of charge. Not saying this is the norm of course^^ –  Silly Freak Jun 7 at 10:53

People don't forget that been if they so have a room or two available, they will charge a premium for it. I mean 2x-5x the typical rate for the same night if booked in advance

I have the highest elite status with Hilton, SPG, Marriott and Hyatt. I can almost always get a last minute room even in the busiest times but the rate is way higher than my company would approve even at their most generous.

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