TIPS ON MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS:
When traveling for business or fun, there’s nothing worse than thinking you have a reservation and learning your hotel reservations been lost, your room has one bed and not two bedrooms, or you thought your check-in time was noon, only to find out it is really 3:00pm. To help avoid these things from happening, there are a few helpful hotel reservation tips seasoned travelers recommend:
Always use a credit card when making a hotel reservation. A credit cards offers the guest some level of protection should the hotel stay go awry. Any disputes a guest may have with the hotel, or with the billing can more easily be rectified through the credit card company. The card company will act as a mediator once their client can show effort to resolve the dispute. Additionally, if a dispute cannot be resolved, the credit card company has the authority to remove the charge from a client’s bill. If cash were paid, a hotel guest would have no recourse. Note: If you don’t use your own credit card to secure a reservation, be aware that the person whose name is on the card will be responsible for showing the card and signing at check in. If the card does not belong to the person staying at the hotel, notify the desk before leaving home (prior to arrival) and ask what their identification procedure is. They may accept a letter from the credit card holder authorizing use, and a copy of both the front and back of the card.
Ask for deals/discounts at each hotel. Many hotels offer corporate, AAA, senior, or even mid-week/off-season discounts. If one is not offered - ask about them. Many hotels now offer ‘rewards’ programs and some hotels reduce rates by $50 or more, for simply signing up for their program. If making reservations online, look for internet-only rates and shop various websites to find the best deals. Travel agents can often secure unadvertised specials or late check-in opportunities which can translate into huge savings.
When making reservations speak clearly and repeat spelling of all names. There have been many reservations lost because of inaccurate spelling and guests have been told they did not have rooms when a hotel or an entire city was booked to capacity. If any special requests are made, verify them and if possible get them in writing. Also make sure to get the name of the employee. Verify everything spell names and verify information/requests etc. Double check reservations prior to leaving for hotel and make sure names of all hotel employees you’ve spoken to are taken.
When reservations are made, changed and cancelled-confirmation numbers are given. Make sure all numbers are kept in a safe place until credit cards are billed and all charges are verified. Cancellation and confirmation numbers are often the difference between being charged for a hotel reservation that was cancelled, the possibility of a free upgrade when the hotel overbooks and you can prove when your reservation was made, and being stranded away from home without a room for the night.
Discuss hotel policies prior to making reservations, and verify them at check-in. Some hotels require credit cards at check in for any hotel charges, such as telephone usage, room service, meals in the hotel, or even take -out arranged through the hotel with area restaurants, etc. If a credit card is not available, a cash/check deposit maybe required for any services/fees that may accrue during the hotel stay. Determine when check-in/check-out times are, when cancellation policies go into affect and verify occupancy limits if staying in a room with multiple occupants.
Remember these hotel reservation tips when scheduling your travel plans. Whether by internet, through a travel agent, or by telephone, it pays to research the hotel and be meticulous when making arrangements. A little pre-planning when making reservations can save major headaches when traveling away from home.
DID YOU KNOW:
FINDING THE BEST HOTEL RATES:
Due to the internet, the manners in which hotel rooms are procured have drastically changed over the last couple of decades. Prior to internet access, guests called hotels directly to book rooms. While some guests continue to book rooms this way, many have learned that calling a hotel directly may not be the most economical choice. However, it is also been found that hotel rates also vary a great deal from website to website, especially discount travel sites.
Hotels are in constant competition with each other for your business. The goal of every hotel is to achieve 100% occupancy. Not only are they competing with each other, they are often competing with themselves. Look at how many hotels have various hotel chain subsidiaries beneath them. They must stay competitive, but still continue to make a profit while keeping their rooms occupied. This said, many hotels offer blocks of rooms to a variety of other entities to sell. Travel agents and online brokers typically compete to sell rooms for hotels, and they receive a percentage of the purchase price. The rate disparity comes into play two ways. First, the hotel is offering rooms at their standard rates or discount club rates. Second, because hotels offer these agents and booking websites various rates, someone who is getting a larger percentage of the sale price, can afford to offer the room at a lower rate than someone who is getting a small percentage from the sale.
Finding the best room rate:
If contacting the hotel directly, ask if they have any current specials. If your travel plans are flexible, inquire about any future specials, and the specific parameters of those specials.
If you’re a ‘select’, ‘rewards’ or hotel ‘member’, mention this, and ask if they have any special discounts available for members of their programs. Additionally, if you are affiliated with a corporate account, or a roadside assistance plan which offers travel benefits, mention that too. Sometimes guests are eligible for more than one discount and can pick and choose the one that provides the greatest savings.
When placing reservations online through a hotel booking service, first find the service that offers the best deal. The best deal may not be the one which provides the lowest price, but the service with the best room guarantee, who is willing to price match. If you’ve found the room for a lower rate elsewhere, tell your preferred vendor and ask them to match the price. Several websites will even provide a 30-day guarantee against lower prices - so even after booking your reservation, stay vigilant.
Hotel rates vary so much because there are numerous entities vying to secure your business by competing with each other. With a little investigative prowess, you can secure the best rates possible for your hotel stay, despite the varying rates.
DID YOU KNOW ARIZONA IS A VERY POPULAR TOURIST DESTINATION?
Arizona-the Grand Canyon State-is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world. Beyond the iconic Grand Canyon, experiences await you in every direction and in every corner of the state. Arizona is home to 47 national parks, monuments and refuges as well as 29 state parks that showcase mountains, buttes, deserts and hidden lakes. Visitors often start exploring Arizona from Phoenix, the state capital and the fifth largest city in the United States.
Phoenix and Outskirts
Today, Phoenix is a destination as well as a gateway to further adventure in the rugged deserts, lakes and canyons around its edges. Here are some sites to visit around the city:
Phoenix was not the first town to arise along the banks of the Salt River. Explore Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park to see where the ancient Sonoran Desert people once lived and farmed.
The145-acre Desert Botanical Garden strives to be the premier center in the world for the display, study and understanding of desert plants and their environments. Visitors from around the world come here to appreciate the beauty of the garden and to enjoy its outdoor trails, special events and education programs.
The Heard Museum is one of the world’s finest destinations for learning about American Indian arts and cultures with its 11 exhibition galleries, free guided tours, outdoor sculpture gardens, renowned café, art gallery, trading-post style shopping and more. Be sure and watch the Heard’s Native People of the Southwest video series.
There is a reason National Geographic named Phoenix one of "America’s Best Hiking Cities." Phoenix’s South Mountain Park is the largest municipal park in the United States with 16,000 acres and 51 miles of trails for hiking, wildlife viewing or horseback riding. Other Phoenix area trails and desert preserves include Camelback Mountain, Shaw Butte and Piestewa Peak. The Tonto National Forest is another “backyard” desert playground for urban dwellers-tubing on the Salt River is an Arizona summer tradition!
BERLIN AND IT'S MANY MUSEUMS
Founded in the 13th century, Berlin has had an eventful history. Excavations from 2008 suggest that the city may be even older than was previously assumed: state archaeologists have discovered an oak beam that probably dates back to 1183.
Almost no other metropolis has experienced such frequent, radical change transforming the face of the city. Although Berlin saw steady growth in its importance, dazzling epochs alternated with darker eras. Nevertheless, the formerly divided city has succeeded in becoming a vibrant metropolis in the heart of Europe.
Berlin is best known for its historical associations as the German capital, internationalism and tolerance, lively nightlife, its many cafés, clubs, and bars, street art, and numerous museums, palaces, and other sites of historic interest. Berlin's architecture is quite varied. Although badly damaged in the final years of World War II and broken apart during the Cold War, Berlin has reconstructed itself greatly, especially with the reunification push after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
It is now possible to see representatives of many different historic periods in a short time within the city centre, from a few surviving medieval buildings near Alexanderplatz, to the ultra modern glass and steel structures at Potsdamer Platz. Because of its tumultuous history, Berlin remains a city with many distinctive neighbourhoods.
You can explore Berlin on a traditional sightseeing tour in an open double-decker bus or in smaller buses or taxis. Less common means of transportation are also an option. S-Bahn Berlin GmbH offers special tours in panorama trains with a glass roof, as well as trips in historic S-Bahn trains. Velo-taxis are parked at central locations, ready to take customers on a rickshaw-like ride through Berlin. Visitors can travel by boat along the 197 kilometers of Berlin’s navigable waterways. Guided tours can be taken on bicycles, on mopeds, and on foot - and the next innovative tour idea is no doubt just around the corner. You can also get to know special aspects of Berlin on tours of historic sites, “Jewish Berlin,” the former course of the Wall, architectural highlights, the homes and workplaces of famous people, and much more.
Berlin’s weekly markets and flea markets invite browsing, as do the Botanical Garden and the grounds of the horticultural exhibition Bundesgartenschau 2001 in nearby Potsdam. Recreation areas and sights in the city and in the surrounding state of Brandenburg are popular destinations for outings, while trade fairs, exhibitions, and congresses attract additional visitors. Berlin’s two zoos are unquestionably among the city’s special attractions: the Zoologischer Garten with the Aquarium and Tierpark Friedrichsfelde. The former is the world’s most diverse zoo, and the latter covers a larger area than any other zoo in Europe.
Berlin is a huge city. You can make use of the excellent bus, tram, train and underground services to get around. Taxi services are also easy to use and a bit less expensive than in many other big Central European cities. You can hail a cab (the yellow light on the top shows the cab is available), or find a taxi rank (Taxistand). Taxi drivers are in general able to speak English. If you ask for a short trip (Kurzstrecke), as long as it's under 2km and before the taxi driver starts the meter running, the trip normally is cheaper, €4. This only applies if you flag the taxi down on the street, not if you get in at a taxi rank.
The Berlin U-Bahn (subway/metro) is something to behold; it is so charmingly precise! There are no turnstiles to limit access, so it is technically possible to ride without a ticket, but if caught by a ticket checker you will be fined €40 so it is probably not worth the risk. All U-Bahn stations now have electronic signs that give the time of the next train, and its direction based on sensors along the lines.
Berlin has a vast array of museums. Most museums charge admission for people 18 years of age or older - usually €6 to €10 for the big museums. Discounts (usually 50%) are available for students and disabled people with identification. Children under 18 years free. A nice offer for museum addicts is the three day pass Museum Pass for €24 which grants entrance to all the normal exhibitions of the approximately 55 state-run museums and public foundations. Most museums are closed on Mondays; notable exceptions include the Neues Museum and the Deutsches Historisches Museum, which are open daily. Museumsportal Berlin, a collective web initiative, offers easy access to information on all museums, memorials, castles and collections and on current and upcoming exhibitions.
Other museums which belong to the Museum Island are the Altes Museum (with the Egyptian and the antique collection), the Alte Nationalgalerie (with mainly German paintings of the 19th century) and the reopened Bode-Museum with its fantastically presented sculpture collection and Byzantine art. The recently reopened Neues Museum houses the Egyptian collection, Neanderthal and other prehistoric archaeological finds, and some of the treasures unearthed at Troy. This is the only museum on Museums Insel that requires a timed entry ticket. It's best to get a timed ticket online ahead of time as time slots fill up quickly.
Museen Charlottenburg - Schloss Charlottenburg (Charlottenburg Palace, Belvedere with Porcelain Manufactory (KPM), Mausoleum, New Pavilion), Museum Berggruen, Bröhan Museum, Museum Scharf-Gerstenberg
Museen Dahlem - in the district of Dahlem three museums are located: Museum of European Cultures - the biggest of its sort in Europe. Ethnologisches Museum - again one of the world's most comprehensive museums (Well worth a visit for its splendid collection of Pre-Columbian archeology!). Museum of Asian Art .
Deutsches Historisches Museum in the Zeughaus, Mitte, Unter den Linden 2, . German historical museum covering everything from prehistory right up to the present day. One can spend many, many hours here!
Museum für Naturkunde, Mitte, Invalidenstraße 43, . Near the main railway station. Natural science museum with a big collection of dinosaur skeletons, fossils and minerals. Reopened after restoration in late 2007.
Berlin Wall Memorial (Gedenkstätte Berliner Mauer), Gesundbrunnen/Mitte, Visitor Center: Bernauer Straße 119, Documentation Center: Bernauer Str. 111 - The central memorial site of German division, located in the middle of the capital. - Open-Air Exhibition and Memorial Grounds: All year round Mo. - Su. 8am - 10pm, Visitor Center and Documentation Center: April - Oct.: Tu. - Su. 9:30am - 7:00pm, Nov. - March: Tu. - Su. 9:30am - 6:00pm. The outdoor grounds are open 24 hours a day all year round. Admission free. - Nordbahnhof S-Bahn station S1, S2, S25, Tram M10 - Flyer
Mauermuseum at Checkpoint Charlie . This museum is situated at the most famous historical checkpoint between the two Berlins. Admission: 12,50 EUR.
Story of Berlin Kurfürstendamm 207-208i, close to the Uhlandstraße metro, the last stop on the U1. Museum in the centre of a mall. In addition to the history (including the World Wars), culture, transportation, architecture and an exhibit of life in the city since medieval times, it is unique to feature an authentic cold-war era bunker. The 20 minute tour is included in the cost of the entrance ticket, and is at the top of each hour, alternating in German and English.
Stasi Museum At the northeast corner of Frankfurter Allee and Ruschestraße is a complex of buildings housing hospitals and clinics. In the communist era, all these buildings belonged to the Stasi with their massive apparatus for spying on East German citizens, including opening tens of thousands of pieces of mail every day. Now just one of these buildings is used as museum of the Stasi. It is almost impossible to find from the street address since the number is out of sequence with the rest of the street. Walk up Ruschestraße from Frankfurther Allee. On the right side of the street, there is a small sign for the Stasi Museum at the entrance to the clinic complex. Walk in and go straight ahead to the far end of the car park.