By Ed Perkins, Tribune Content Agency
I’ve recently come across a few online sources that you might find of interest. One is new; the others are just new to me.
Boutique Hotel Booking Agency. Doris and Dicky (dorisanddicky.com) is a new British-based hotel booking agency that promises “The Best in Budget Boutique Hotels.” It posts a set of “curated” listings, meaning that it books only hotels that agency staff has vetted personally. The site’s publicity says it features budget hotels “around 100 pounds (about $155) a night,” but a fair number of listings go above that figure.
When I checked the offerings, I concluded that Doris and Dicky seem to have carved out a useful niche in the very crowded and intensively competitive online hotel bazaar. The featured hotels really seem to warrant the “boutique” descriptor, and the list includes a wide range of properties from historic city center buildings to houses in vineyards to seaside villas — from quaint and funky to sleek and modern. Geographical coverage is surprisingly diverse: Although listings in Europe and the UK are quite prominent, you can also book hotels in places that range from New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Argentina, to California and New York. The website’s primary search filter is geographical: You enter a town, city, region, or country, but you can’t do your initial selection by map in any area. Once you get initial results, you can look for detailed location, setting, room size, and other specifics. I was surprised to see that quite a few boutique properties, even some in historic buildings or remote areas, offer in-room Wi-Fi. But if you have a bad back, the site doesn’t tell you whether the hotel has an elevator. The home page also displays an attractive sampling of offerings and suggestions.
I’m not a big fan of boutique hotels; I just want a comfortable bed, good bathroom, and useful work space. But I can understand why some folks like boutiques. And if that includes you, Doris and Dicky is a good place to start looking.
Airfare Hold. “When you find a good deal, pounce.” That’s a prime airline ticket buying strategy in the words of colleague George Hobica at AirfareWatchdog. But there’s always that nagging feeling that you might miss out on an even better deal if you keep looking. If you’re in that frame of mind, check out Options Away (optionsaway.com), where you can lock in a fare “option” at what you think is a reasonable price but still explore for a better deal. The option period can be 2, 3, 7, or 14 days. Of course, Options Away charges a fee, which is typically $40 or less; the longer the period, the higher the fee. And Options Away won’t sell options at all on tickets its computer models say are likely to increase.
The way the deal works is simple: When you buy the option, Options Away does not buy a ticket; it just bets on the future price. At the end of the option period, if the price has increased, you pay Options Away the original price and Options Away buys a ticket at the new price; if the price has decreased, you buy a ticket at the new, lower fare. I haven’t used it, but the idea seems interesting.
Coupons Everywhere. Say you’re heading somewhere for a weekend. If you like to chase deals, you can log on to 8coupons.com, enter the area, and find any coupons that might be available from Groupon, Amazon, Valpak, and other sources. Current examples for my home town, Ashland, Oregon, range from hotels to massages to wine-tasting to pet spaying. As is usually the case, some coupon deals are good, others are not. But if you’re a bargain-chaser, 8coupons gives you a one-place look.
Luxury Vacation Rentals. Vacation rental mega-site HomeAway has mounted a separate sub-site for luxury rentals. As far as I can tell, the postings are culled from HomeAway’s giant sites, but pre-screening for luxury eases your search. HomeAway intends to compete more easily with the many “luxury villa” online agencies.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out Ed’s new rail travel website at Rail-Guru.com.)
Nov. 17, 2015
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