Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New York City Hotels In Brief - Comfort & Covenience for More Than Change

One thing that New York City does not lack is hotel rooms. Also it is no secret that NYC has some of the most expensive hotel room rates in the country. The trick is to find one that is comfortable and convenient for you with a price to match. For those where money is no object, please be my guest and book the $30,000 per night suite at the Four Seasons.

Common thought was that all the best hotels were in Midtown. But hotels are abundant in downtown from the Financial District to Soho too. Straying away from Midtown increases the chance of finding a room for a bargain. Why is Midtown so popular? The answer is simply location. It is conveniently located to the theatre district, Fifth Avenue shopping, Rockefeller Center, museums, and a hop and skip away from the Upper West Side and Central Park. Midtown is also perfect for business travelers who need to be close to Madison Ave, the Garment/Fashion District or to the convention center.
In a previous post, I indicated that finding hotels is one of the most difficult things in planning for the independent traveler. Again the main reason is that the opinion of the definition of a good hotel and good price is viewed differently. Depending on the reasons, just because a friend recommended or disliked a hotel does not mean you will feel the same. Those who frequently visit Las Vegas will be hard pressed to find abundant bargain hotel rooms while the London traveler will see the room rates comparable to the European city.

But there are some common truisms that go for NYC or for any other big metropolitan area. If you stay at a hotel that attracts the convention crowd, expect to find crowded lobbies, more lines and slower service. The average hotel should come with these basics: air-conditioning, private bathroom, cable TV, telephone, hairdryer, iron and ironing board. A good hotel will have double pain glass to reduce noise. Also most hotels will have complimentary in-room coffee service and a newspaper delivered to the room or available in the lobby. Space is at premium in Manhattan so the size of the room can vary wildly from hotel to hotel despite similar prices. Lastly, hotel room taxes are high.
So how do you find the best rate in NYC. Start by considering different times of year to travel. Winter (Jan-Feb) is less expensive. Despite summer being peak tourist months, rates can vary depending on the convention in town or dwindle as the hot months of July and August approaches.

Whenever finding a room rate, always be sure to calculate the taxes. The hotel room tax of 13.625% and $2 occupancy tax will add a substantial amount to a $200 per night room.

Compare prices from trusted sights. Start with official hotel websites to gage what the ‘big brands’ are pricing rooms in Manhattan. Next, consider less well-known brands. Look at boutique hotels. From there you should have an idea of what the room rates may be for the time(s) of year you’d like to visit.

Next consult hotel discount service websites. Many of these sites require full payment upfront of your hotel stay rather than when you check out. Hotel.com requires payment upfront but don't be surprised if a hotel itself is requiring payment upfront on their own website to obtain a discounted rate. One popular website that specializes in NYC hotels and other major cities is quikbook.com. This service allows you to book now and pay when you checkout instead. I’ve used this site (formerly express-res.com) to book stays at the Novotel and Millennium Broadway hotels at rates more reasonable than at the Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt chains during some peak months.
Finally what is your expectation in a hotel? Often the theory is it’s just a place to sleep. But this is also your home away from home. The biggest complaints I hear from travelers to any city is the accommodations. So read as much as you can about the property, find reviews and or even current photographs of the hotel common areas and rooms.

Obviously the cost for the solo traveler is more than for a party of four. Many NYC hotels allow up to four or possibly, at certain properties, six people in one room (with some surcharges). However I don’t know who would want to room with five other people. But say you are a party of four. If you find a hotel that charges $325 per night (including taxes) and the room is generous enough in size to sleep four and the hotel is located in Times Square, it may be worth your while to book the hotel.

Always consider the total economics of traveling when choosing a hotel. Not just the room rate, factor in the transportation and time from your hotel to attractions. The cost to catch a cab or subway adds to your per day cost as opposed to a hotel within walking distance to many attractions. Like booking an airline ticket, timing can be of the essence as well. The closer you book to your date of arrival, will likely leave you with higher rates than if you had booked several months ahead.
In a way, this post expresses a lot of information that can be applied for visiting other cities like Washington, D.C. or San Francisco. But with this said, on with the NYC visit 2007. By the way, The Hopeful Traveler has had the opportunity to stay at all the hotels pictured in this post. From top to bottom: the 50-story atrium of the New York Marriott Marquis; Millennium Broadway; Novotel; Marriott Courtyard Times Square South (the actual hotel is recessed beyond this entryway); Renaissance Times Square. I guess a review of these hotels is expected. But I'll save it for later.
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