One of my good friends here in Paris has a theory that “the discount price is the real price, and anyone who pays the full price is a fool.” Well, I prefer to think that those who can pay the full price are subsidizing those of us who can’t (or won’t).
When it comes to hotel rooms, the “rack rate” is the official price, usually the one posted on the back of the door to your room (this is where the rate has to be posted). But there are many opportunities for getting a discount on this rate. There are Internet fares on the hotel’s own website, usually similar to the “corporate” rate. There are seasonal discounts (best during August, November, and February outside the French winter holidays) and package discounts for long stays. When booking directly with the hotel, ask what the rack rate is, then ask if there are any current “promotions”. They rarely volunteer the information if you don’t ask!
Be sure to be clear on the arrival date and the departure date. Saying “March 15 through March 20” confuses some people. Does it mean you’re staying the night of the 20th or leaving on the 20th?
Specify the number and size of the beds. A Double Room is a room with a bed for two people, and a Twin Room is a room with two single beds. Some hotels have rooms where the double beds can be separated, some don’t. You need to state the age of any children(some hotels allow children under a certain age for free, but they have to share your bed).Roll-away beds are usually extra, if available at all. If you’re booking a triple for three adults, be sure to find out if they have rooms with three “real” beds, and not just a double with a fold-out bed usually meant for kids. Baby beds are always free, but you’ll need to reserve one in advance in case there are only a few in the hotel.
Rooms on the ground floor tend to be noisier and darker (other buildings blocking sunlight), but also cooler than top-floor rooms in warmer weather. If you really want lots of sun or views over the rooftops, ask for a top-floor room.
Don’t forget that in France the ground floor is the rez de chaussée (RDC), with numbering starting on the next floor (so the 2nd floor to Americans is the 1st floor in France, aka premier étage).
Some hotels offer a choice of street-facing or courtyard-facing rooms. The latter are quieter, but may have an ugly view of a wall. Rooms with balconies are almost always street-facing, handy to know if you want to sleep with the windows open (particularly in summer if there’s no A/C).
Some, but not all, hotels have non-smoking rooms or floors (although their clients don’t always follow the rules) and wheelchair-accessible rooms (ask about the exact specifications).
Finally, always specify what bathroom facilities you need: bathtub, shower, or both? Some hotel rooms (particularly superiors and suites) have bathrooms with separate toilets (good if you need to relieve yourself while someone is hogging the bathroom).
Peak Times: Book as far in advance as possible during the major trade fairs (September, January, May), and during fashion weeks (January and early July for haute-couture, March and October for prêt-a-porter). Some popular budget hotels don’t take reservations more than three months in advance, then suddenly sell out. Keep trying!
Confirm your reservation right after you make it, and again right before you arrive. Bring written proof (faxes and printed e-mails) to show front desk staff when they claim they’ve never heard of you (unfortunately, it happens).
Notify the hotel if you’re arriving before the regular check-in time (2pm or 3pm), or if you’ll be arriving late (otherwise they may give your room away if you haven’t checked in by 6pm).
Note: Europeans write the date with the day first then the month, so January 10th, 2006 is abbreviates 10/1/06. Write the date out completely to avoid problems.