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!
PADAY LOANS 101
Payday loans range in size from $100 to $1,000, depending on state legal maximums. The average loan term is about two weeks. Loans typically cost 400% annual interest (APR) or more. The finance charge ranges from $15 to $30 to borrow $100. For two-week loans, these finance charges result in interest rates from 390 to 780% APR. Shorter term loans have even higher APRs.
Payday loans are extremely expensive compared to other cash loans. A $300 cash advance on the average credit card, repaid in one month, would cost $13.99 finance charge and an annual interest rate of almost 57%. By comparison, a payday loan costing $17.50 per $100 for the same $300 would cost $105 if renewed one time or 426% annual interest.
All a consumer needs to get a payday loan is an open bank account in relatively good standing, a steady source of income, and identification. Lenders do not conduct a full credit check or ask questions to determine if a borrower can afford to repay the loan.
Payday loans are made by payday loan stores, check cashers, and pawn shops. Some rent-to-own companies also make payday loans. Loans are also marketed via toll-free telephone numbers and over the Internet.
At the end of 2010, an industry analyst estimated that there were 19,700 payday loan stores operating, down from an estimated 20,600 stores at the end of 2009. The number of payday loan stores has been dropping since 2006. This same analyst estimates 2010 loan volume at $29.2 billion with $4.7 billion in revenue for loans made by payday loan stores. In addition, Internet payday lenders are estimated to have loaned $10.8 billion and collected fees of $2.7 billion in 2010. Combined storefront and Internet payday lending totals $40.3 billion in loans and $7.4 billion in revenue.
High cost payday lending is authorized by state laws or regulations in thirty-two states. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia protect their borrowers with reasonable small loan rate caps. The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that the Arkansas payday loan law was unconstitutional. In recent years, Oregon, Ohio, New Hampshire, Arizona, Montana and the District of Columbia have reimposed rate caps.
Protections for Service Members and Dependents
Federal protections for service members and their families took effect October 1, 2007. The Department of Defense regulations apply to payday loans, car title loans and tax refund loans. Lenders are prohibited from charging more than 36 percent annual interest including fees; taking a check, debit authorization or car title to secure loans; and using mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts for covered loans.
Lenders use a variety of tactics to avoid state regulations. Some lenders use sham transactions, such as contracts for Internet access with rebate schemes, to cloak loans. In Texas, most lenders operate as unregulated "credit services organizations" to evade state small loan limits set by the Texas Finance Commission under the small loan law. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation undertook enforcement actions to stop a dozen or so small banks from "renting" their charters to help payday lenders operate in states that do not authorize these loans or interest rates. Payday lenders revamped their single payment loans into high cost installment loans to evade state law restrictions in Illinois and New Mexico. In Virginia, some lenders morphed payday loans into open-end lines of credit to escape rate caps.
Payday loans trap consumers in repeat borrowing cycles due to the extremely high cost of borrowing, the very short repayment term, and the consequences of failing to make good on the check used to secure the loan. Consumers who use payday loans have an average of eight to thirteen loans per year at a single lender. In one state almost sixty percent of all loans made were used to cover the prior payday loan transaction; either through renewals or new loans taken out immediately after paying off the prior loan.
Every unpaid loan involves a check that is not covered by funds on deposit in the borrower's bank account. Failure to repay leads to bounced check fees from the lender and the consumer's bank. Returned checks cause negative credit ratings on specialized databases and credit reports. A consumer can lose her bank account or have difficulty opening a new bank account if she develops a record of "bouncing" checks used to get payday loans. Research indicates that payday loan users are almost twice as likely to file for bankruptcy as borrowers who are turned down for a payday loan.
Basing loans on personal checks leads some lenders to use coercive collection tactics. Some lenders threaten criminal penalties for failing to make good on checks. In some states lenders sue for multiple damages under civil "bad check" laws
Internet payday lending adds security and fraud risks to payday loans. Consumers apply online or through faxed application forms. Loans are direct deposited into the borrower's bank account and electronically withdrawn on the next payday. Many Internet payday loans are structured to automatically renew every payday, with the finance charge electronically withdrawn from the borrower's bank account.