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!
HOW REFINANCING YOUR MORTGAGE
CAN SAVE YOU MONEY
Interested in refinancing home mortgage loans but not sure it makes financial sense? Learn how to crunch the numbers and make an informed financial decision rather than playing an expensive guessing game with these simple steps.
A lower interest rate can save you money each month on your mortgage and can save you thousands over the life of the loan. Is it possible to lower your debt and reduce monthly payments by taking out a new loan? Surprisingly the answer is often "yes". Learn how to get a lower interest rate by refinancing without breaking the bank.
How Refinancing Works
Refinancing basically involves taking out a new loan which is used to pay off the prior mortgage. To put it another way, the new mortgage replaces the old one. This is especially helpful when interest rates have dropped since it allows homeowners to pay off older mortgages with a high interest rate in exchange for a new mortgage with a lower interest rate.
Getting a Lower Interest
To demonstrate how effective it is to lower your interest rate by refinancing, consider an example of a buyer who purchased a home for $210,000 in 2001. The original mortgage was $200,000 for a 30 year term with a fixed interest rate of 7 percent and monthly mortgage payment of $1330. Since the original down payment was only 5 percent or $10,000 plus closing costs, they also had to pay PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance of $125 per month.
Now that mortgage rates have dropped to 5 percent or even less, the homeowner is contemplating a refinance. The current balance on the home is $180,000 and the value of the home is appraised at $260,000. Since the home has 20 percent equity and the homeowner does not intend to take cash out at closing, they will automatically save $125 per month in PMI. By refinancing at a lower interest rate of 5 percent fixed for 30 years the new mortgage payment will be approximately $965 per month ...a savings of nearly $400 plus the PMI of $125 for a total monthly savings of over $500 per month.
Notice that in the example above, the homeowner would experience a $500 per month savings by refinancing but in exchange, they would increase the duration of the loan back to 30 years. In order to not pay tens of thousands dollars in additional interest by extending the loan, it is often possible to refinance for a shorter period of time; 15, 20 and 25 year terms are available and may result in even lower interest rates.
Put the Money to Work
Many people find that by lowering their monthly mortgage payments after refinancing, they are able to put more money toward paying down other debts or even accelerating the mortgage payments on the new loan. It's a great way to reduce your total monthly obligations and get a head-start on becoming debt free!
Steps to Decide on Refinancing Home Mortgage
Locate your current loan documents and determine the principle (amount owed on the home), interest rate and term/length of the loan. Be sure to pay special attention whether your interest rate is fixed, variable or a hybrid combination.
Compare current interest rates against your prevailing rate. Typical wisdom holds it usually makes sense to refinance if it will save 1 percent or more in interest. Calculate how much you will save on the monthly mortgage payment if you were refinancing your home mortgage at the current interest rate.
Add up the monthly anticipated savings then compare it to the closing costs and other fees required to refinance. Most people find a break-even point between 1 to 3 years after refinancing. If you intend to own the home for longer than that period of time, it often makes sense to refinance.
Tally up the total cost including years of interest paid. Even if you currently have a 30 year mortgage and hope to refinance your home mortgage, take time to compare other terms; for example, 15 to 20 year terms might be eligible for even lower interest rates plus result in a shorter term. In many cases homeowners can pay off their mortgage years ahead of schedule while still reducing monthly mortgage payments!
Compare against other terms and options. Take time to compare other alternatives; for example, it might make more sense to refinance with a 15 year loan and obtain an even lower interest rate plus dramatically reduced repayment term instead of a 30 year refinance. This is an especially attractive option for those that have owned their homes for an extended period of time and would be adding tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of a new 30 year repayment term. If 15 years is too high then ask about 20 year terms or even 25 year repayment plans. There are more options than ever when it comes to refinancing a home mortgage.
Shop around. Finally, it is always a good idea to shop around before making a final decision on refinancing your home mortgage. Find a mortgage lender you feel comfortable with and can trust because variations in terms, repayment plans, points and closing costs can dramatically influence the full cost of the loan.