Friday, August 29, 2008

Ahhh September...

Great fishing, warm crystal clear water, calm inviting seas, the crowds are gone... ahhh September, quiet time in the Florida Keys. 

This is the time of the year when locals regroup after a long season, when captains work on their boats, when kids go back to school and when you can get the best deals on hotels, fishing, diving and dining. 

In the old days, hotels would actually close in September due to the lack of business. It was cheaper to close than to stay open. Now days, hotels are open and offering their best deals of the year. 

Yes, there is the chance of a hurricane but most hotels are flexible with cancellation polices to make it easy for you to be here. 

Come on down and relaaax. 

No lines, no hassles, no problems. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Hotel Booking Tip: Better ask about Hidden Fees!

With the economy off and gas prices up, people are shopping around for the best hotel deals. My advice is to be very careful. Don't just call and ask for the room rates. Ask if there are additional charges other than tax. 

In many cases the true daily cost will be the room rate plus a "resort fee" or other hidden charges AND they won't tell you if you don't ask. I do not like this trend. It's not a "bait and switch" situation but it's not totally honest either. It makes the consumer think they are getting a better deal and/or a much lower rate than the hotel down the street. Upon arrival, it may be too late to go somewhere else. 

The most common hidden daily charge is a Resort Fee. You have to look for the fine print on a confirmation letter, web site, or hotel rules to find out what it is and 99% of the time it is not negotiable and must be paid along with the room rate. These fees range from $10 to as high as $60 per day ($60 is at a hotel less than a mile from Pines and Palms). So if you were quoted a room for $279 per night for example, when you add the resort fee (say $30), you get a real nightly rate of $309 per night and a total extra cost for a week of $210.

Another hidden fee could be for parking, common in big cities but not something you would expect in the Keys. Bringing a boat? Not only will you be charged a daily dockage fee but sometimes a fee to launch your boat and park your trailer. Want your room cleaned daily? Look out for daily housekeeping fees. What's next? Some hotels are now experimenting with added energy fees.

This thing bothers me because at our place we do it the old fashioned way. Everything is covered in the daily rate: coffee, daily newspaper, housekeeping, energy, dockage, towel service, parking, etc. You are not forced to pay for extras like kayaks, bicycles, snorkeling equipment, fishing gear, etc., stuff that you may not use. 

You gotta compare apples to apples. One place might seem to have lower rates but don't forget to add in the resort fee and other charges to find the best deal.

Now you know... the rest of the story.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pet Friendly Resorts

Quite often somebody stops by and complains they had to leave their hotel and find somewhere else to stay because there were animals everywhere and/or their room smelled like dog. 

The reason is simple. There aren't many places that allow pets. The ones that do are magnets for people traveling with cats and dogs and other animals such as ferrets and birds (strange but true).

Don't get me wrong, I love animals. That's me in the photo with our dog "Baby." We've experimented with allowing pets at the resort. We've tried a limited number of pet friendly rooms, we've tried small animals only... unfortunately it's the same result: dog droppings, hair, barking, and smell. 

Do yourself a favor, before you book a room ask if they allow pets. If it's a smaller property and you're not traveling with your doggie, you might want to try someplace else. If it's a larger property request a pet-free room.

As a resort owner, I wish there was a good way to allow pets and still keep the rooms clean and quiet. Let me know if you have any ideas.