Saturday, March 10, 2012

Copley Square Hotel and Le Meridian - how to get good deals on hotel rooms in Boston!

Copley Square Hotel

13 hours. That's the time difference that separates Stephane and me. When he called while admiring the view from the balcony of his hotel in Kunming, China on Friday evening, I was watching the sun peep over the horizon from the window of my hotel in Boston. Even though we're on opposite sides of the earth, we have one thing in common. We're both exhausted. So, when Stephane told me to take it easy, I looked around my comfortable hotel room, spied the neglected book on my nightstand and decided to take his advice. After all, I had spent quite a few hours searching for the best hotel that I could find at a reasonable rate and might as well enjoy it.

Whether it's a hotel room or a rental car, I'm a bargain hunter who frequently uses Hotwire to save up to 50% off the regular rate. Here's my modus operandi:

  • Start shopping for a room as soon as possible to get an idea of the price.
  • As Hotwire categorizes hotels by star ratings and location but doesn't disclose the name of the hotel until after you pay, it helps if you're familiar with the area. If you're not, use google maps to get an idea of which hotels are in a specific part of town. With a bit of research, you can usually figure out the hotels that are listed on Hotwire.
  • If you're staying for more than a couple of nights, check if the price drops on different days and make two different bookings. I did this for Le Meridian because prices are frequently lower on the weekend than they are during the week. When I checked-in, I told the hotel that I had two bookings and they blocked the room for the entire time so that I wouldn't have to change rooms.
  • Clear your web browser (be sure to delete your "cookies") from time to time because they'll usually try to entice you to book a hotel during your first visit to the website by offering lower prices. This is also true when shopping for airline tickets.
  • Once you have a fairly good idea of which hotel you're looking at on Hotwire, compare the prices and read the reviews at Booking.com and TripAdvisor.
  • As Hotwire rooms are the least expensive rooms in the hotel, explain that you understand the restrictions associated with the booking when you check-in and ask if they'll put you in the best possible room in that category. Unless they're fully booked, they'll usually honor your request. It helps if you're polite with the staff at the front desk!
What are your secrets for getting a good price on a hotel room in the USA or in Paris?

My boutique room at the Copley Square Hotel

Copley Square Hotel: The Hotwire rate per night was $100 (plus tax $20.94) on Sunday and $128 (plus tax $24.95) on Tuesday for a boutique room with a queen size bed. The best available rate for the same room is currently $299 (plus tax $43.21) if you book the room through the hotel's website.

What I like: The location! It's perfectly situated near Newbury Street and is in easy walking distance of the major tourist attractions. The front desk staff is very helpful and friendly, the recently renovated rooms are tastefully decorated and include a dark-colored wash cloth labeled "make-up" so that the fluffy white ones aren't discolored. That's a clever touch. The added bonus was the free wine tasting in the evening because it was a great opportunity to get to know my son's girlfriend when she kindly offered to join me while Philippe was in class. Tea and coffee are available in the lounge in the morning and seasonal beverages, like hot chocolate, are offered in the afternoon. The special touches normally associated with boutique hotels. Free wireless.

What I don't like: That there isn't a way to make tea or coffee in your room. While going down to the lobby for a hot drink may be fine for travelers who are on the right time schedule, it isn't convenient for a jet-lagged traveler coming from Paris. The smaller sized rooms (the queen rooms are 205 sq. ft) may not suit those who prefer more space. For me, it was comfortably cozy.


Le Meridian Hotel in Cambridge: The Hotwire rate per night was $121 (plus tax $22.03) from Wednesday-Friday and $105 (plus tax $19.05) from Friday-Monday. Since the staff at the front desk kindly upgraded my room to a superior room on the top floor, the best available rate for the same room is currently $360.52 (including taxes).

What I like: The front desk staff for upgrading my room! The perfect location for last minute lunch dates with my daughter and the two queen beds in case Sara wants to escape her graduate student apartment and join me for a sleepover. All of the trendy restaurants in the area with a cool vibe. Easy access to the bus and the red line on the T. The bathrobe. 24 hour "Soundscape" created by French musician Henri Scars Struck that plays unobtrusively in the elevator. Spaciousness of the 240 sq. ft. room. Convenience of having a grocery store located in the same complex. Free wireless. Housekeeper who generously increased my daily allotment of tea, coffee and cream. Fitness center, even though I haven't had the energy to use it. 

What I don't like: The noise occasionally coming from the hallway, but it's a minor distraction. This hotel wouldn't be a good choice for those who prefer to be in the middle of Boston.

I haven't dared touch any of the snacks or the drinks in the mini-bar because they're placed on sensors that immediately record that an item has been purchased as soon as you pick it up.

20 comments:

  1. I didn't know I had to clear my browser to get the lowest deals, what a great trick! I always ask for opinions on hotels from friends and double check any hotel internet deals on tripadvisor to be sure it's a good hotel. Lately, I've been renting apartments in Paris or places I'm traveling with a group. It's usually cheaper than getting a hotel and interesting to see how people live in different cities.

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    1. Apartments are a great idea, especially if you're traveling with a group.

      CNN had an interesting report yesterday morning about the ways that companies track your online purchases. They said that online retailers will even give different prices according to the type of computer you're using! Can you imagine? My son and his girlfriend confirmed this when I told them about it because he was checking prices for an upcoming trip using a mac and got consistently higher prices than the ones that she got using a pc!

      I noticed that I'll get a lower price when I first start a search and that the price will start to go up as I continue to check it. Retailers and travel sites do this to create a sense of urgency ("Oh my gosh! The airline prices are going up. I need to buy my ticket now!). When this happens, I clear my browser and delete all of my cookies and the price usually drops.

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  2. I prefer the look of the bed in Copley Square, and for me, it's all about the bed and the lack of noise. And how dark the room is at night. And no hallway or elevator noise. I always put a note in my reservation to be away from elevators and preferably on a corner. The view is not so important to me. I also have no trouble asking to see two rooms, why take the first one?

    I too like to have coffee in my room in the morning and will grudgingly go downstairs for it, but prefer to make my own if possible.


    Also, I remove any bedspreads from the bed, especially if they are they types that are not laundered after each use--you can just tell.

    Although I don't really have tips on getting a good deal, other than the ones you list, I do like a room that is actually comfortable and worth spending a little time in without the rush to get out the door.

    Where next voyager?

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    1. Joseph - we share so many of the same quirks/preferences that it's funny! Thank goodness that the Copley and the Meridian use duvets with fresh covers because the thought of all the germs and other stuff on bedspreads freaks me out! This is disgusting, but once I discovered that someone had picked their nose and left all of the crusty stuff on the bedspread right near my face (Cringe!) I also prefer it when a room is as dark as possible, of course the problem with this is that I stumble around at night if I have to get up to go to the bathroom! Le Meridian has an automatic nightlight in the bathroom for which I'm grateful.

      I'm at Le Meridian until I return to Paris Monday night. Stephane, however, is now in Bangkok. After reading this post, he sent me some photos of his hotel room. It's lovely!

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  3. I am amazed at the great rate you were able to score in both hotels. Fortunately, as a former 'local' I never had to think about pricing a room hotel in Boston. Since I still have lots of relatives in the area, hotel rates are not a concern. Guess it helps to have friends and family in major world cities....Loved the decor in both the Copley and Le Meridian but I would chose the latter for it's Cambridge location. Are there still shops and that great spa in the lower level of the hotel?
    nancyb

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    1. I was amazed, too! Since we're in Boston on a frequent basis I've gotten a fairly good idea of what prices I can expect to pay and these were great deals. Of course, the rates skyrocket in May when hordes of parents descend on Boston for all of the college graduations. The man at the front desk of Le Meridian told me that the rate on the room that I'm in goes up to $600 at that time. It's all supply and demand.

      Le Meridian is fairly new. I didn't see a spa but there's a Star grocery store in the same complex. I love the vibe in Cambridge and all of the hip restaurants.

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    2. Alas MK, I am confused (yet again) I was thinking of the Charles Hotel located Harvard Square with it's Regatta Bar on top and spa/shoppes on the lower level ...........see, I HAVE been out of MA too long. nb

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  4. Hi MK!

    This post makes me jealous! The Copley Square Hotel looks just perfect. I want to be in a hotel, relaxing and enjoying room service. Instead I'm doing everything but relaxing! (See my latest post and you'll know why).

    So I've only been to Boston once (weird, right?) to go to a concert at the Avalon and incidentally there was a Red Sox/Yankees came happening across the street at Fenway. It was my first taste of the rivalry that before then had no idea existed. It got really intense on the streets. J'avais peur! : /

    Have fun in the States!!!..and don't worry, I'm a Mets fan! : )

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    1. As soon as I read your comment, I went straight over to your blog to see what's been happening during Fashion Week. You're right - you need a break from those crazy models!

      And speaking of fashion, I just read an article saying that GQ ranked Boston men as the least fashionable men in the USA last year. Do you suppose that it has something to do with all of the sports gear that they typically wear? I really hope to see a Red Sox game one of these days - and a Red Sox/Yankees game would be even better, although the idea of overly intense sports fans scares me, too.

      For some unknown reason, your blog stopped showing up in my reader so I stopped following you and then started following you again. I hope that it works because I get worried when I don't see your posts on a regular basis!

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    2. LOL! Boston men are the least fashionable?! I wonder where GQ is populating their facts from. I think it may have something to do with all of the universities that are in the Boston area that is bringing down the fashion quota. Fashion and cramming for exams don't exactly coincide. Just a guess....

      I think my blog is showing up in the reader now. At least I hope...

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    3. Yes, I'm pleased to report that your blog is showing up in my reader again. All feels right with the world! :)

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  5. Dear MK;
    this must be one of the ‘bestest’ ever postings I’ve seen..... because for me it’s of vital importance that the practices of some booking companies are changing drastically….

    I’m fighting right now the practices of BOOKING COM; they repeatedly give customers one price on their website WHERE THE TAXES ARE INCLUDED and AFTER you’ve booked (bien sur!) you get a confirmation and the taxes are added to the total. There’s NO WAY of proving afterwards that the price you actually saw on the web is INCLUDING the taxes because you won’t see that offer any more….
    Of course it’s probably the cheapest arrangement you’ll find on the web, but it’s called cheating and nobody likes to be taken for an idiot!
    The worst bit is that – being myself a frequent traveller – and having been taken to the cleaners already TWICE by this same company (because I stupidly confounded booking com with the excellent HOTELS CLICK COM), one is so busy to not always being able to check the confirmation right away. In my case, I just turned up with the confirmation and the poor girl at the hotel reception didn’t know what to do and she said (rightly so) that the confirmation showed the taxes added and not included!!!

    I’m therefore ALL for shopping around and most certainly I’m all for taking the extra trouble and sending in your advice on hotels, restaurants, travel companies etc etc. on TripAdvisor! I ALWAYS check out TripAdvisor for any place I have not been before and very often I book in places that have been recommended on TA.

    I don’t know ‘your’ company HOTWIRE but certainly shall check them out too if they work in Europe. (see PS)

    I do however not understand why you seem to recommend Booking Com due to their practice of trying to cheat customers on a quite regular basis….
    You CAN leave a feedback but you have no way of finding out what is being said on their practices. The thing with them is that you only get a glimpse at the feedbacks for a minuscule moment so it’s easy to get caught. I don’t remember at what time I’ve seen the comments but I remember distinctively that many customers wrote the same experiences as I just made (again)… I also lost already far too much time and it’s just that your post triggered me to come back once more to this subject.
    Be good and enjoy your time!
    Kiki

    PS: I quickly looked up Hotwire for my next booking very soon and I’m finding SECRET HOT RATE HOTELS…. with absolutely no info or photos on the ‘chosen’ hotel(s)… Why would anybody book a hotel without knowing any details??? It’s the whole idea of the game that you can compare tariffs and quality! This is so silly…. Sorry, not a good idea!

    PSII: I have the very same preferences as you have - including a liking for being able to get a late or early tea/chocolate without having to 'dress up' and go down to the lobby...

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  6. kiki...Interesting comment about booking.com I ALWAYS use that for booking my hotels and have had only great experiences. Once I wanted to cancel a non-refundable reservation. The agent at booking.com called the hotel and my charges were reversed.
    In what way do they "cheat customers on a quite regular basis…." ? Would be very interested to know

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  7. Kiki, I haven't booked any hotels through Booking.com - I only use it to compare prices once I've figured out which hotel I'm looking at on Hotwire and to read the reviews. My husband uses Booking.com, but we haven't had the problem that you mention with the taxes. The last time he booked a room using Booking.com was in June 2011, so perhaps it's a new practice to not include the taxes. It would, of course, come as quite a nasty shock to learn once you're at the hotel that you have to pay an additional amount. Taxes in Massachusetts are steep and make a big difference to the bottom line price of a room!

    As mentioned, I use Hotwire, which isn't for everyone because there's the element of the unknown. I have, however, gotten relatively good at figuring out which hotel is the "hidden" hotel and haven't ever experienced any nasty surprises. I've been using Hotwire to book hotels and rental cars for the past ~12 years on a regular basis. By using Hotwire, I also know that the hotel is automatically going to assign me to one of the less desirable rooms in the hotel, but I've found that the front desk staff is usually willing to give me a better room if one's available when I check-in.

    Hotwire also worked for me on this trip because my main goal was to get the best hotel at the cheapest price. Since I was traveling on my own and didn't need to be near a certain spot, I had some flexibility in case my guess as to the name of the hotel turned out to be wrong. I also only booked one night at the Copley Square Hotel because I wasn't sure which hotel it was. As soon as I found out the name after purchasing one night, I started shopping for a second night.

    The rate shown on Hotwire doesn't include taxes but they are indicated before you purchase the room so that you know the total amount of your stay.

    Again, Hotwire isn't for everyone but it works for me -- and the savings are significant.

    Thanks for sharing your recent experiences with Booking.com. It's very helpful to know.

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  8. To kikki:
    I have just booked three hotels for my upcoming trip (in 3 different cities) with booking.com and the prices quoted to me when I booked MATCHED the email confirmation...
    No added taxes. Interesting that you and others have had this happen.
    nancyb926

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