Is it true that the best hotel prices are on the Web? Hotels’ own Websites offer information about promotional rates. Comparison booking engines such as kayak or sidestep search many different online booking engines and show the lowest rates available. Auction sites such as priceline allow you to name your price for a room of a certain rating, the exact property to be named later.
I readily acknowledge that the lowest price can often be found surfing the Web, although I remind you that the devil is in the details, and deals aren’t always what they seem to be. (More about that later). That being said, if you are interested in booking luxury, five star hotels (and that’s why you are reading Vagablond), the best values are often not online.
The two best tools at a luxury traveler’s disposal are an American Express Platinum Card and/or a Virtuoso travel agent. A Platinum Card ($450 membership fee per year) allows you to book more than 500 hotels in the Fine Hotels & Resorts (FHR) program through Platinum Travel Service, a travel agency you access through a 24/7 toll-free number. These hotels offer negotiated prices, complimentary daily breakfast, upgrades upon arrival if available, and an additional amenity.
Virtuoso is a very similar program. Rates and amenities have been negotiated with more than 600 luxury hotels throughout the world. Complimentary daily breakfast, upgrades, and additional amenities are offered. No one is required to pay a $450 annual fee to book these rates. And … you’re not dealing with whomever picks up your telephone call. You have your own Virtuoso travel agent.