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Using a hotel booking service in VS .NET
Using a hotel booking service
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Either the train station or the local tourism office in most European towns has a desk that serves as a central reservation service for the city To use the service, tell the people working there your price range, the part of the city you d like to stay in, and sometimes even the type of hotel, and they can use a computer to find you a room In each city chapter in this book, I list booking services at the beginning of the hotel section Here are the advantages of booking services: They do all the legwork for you Staff members speak English, and many individual hoteliers may not, so they can act as interpreters while calling around for you They re helpful when rooms are scarce If everything s booked during a convention or festival, or maybe just in high season they can often find rooms in hotels that aren t listed in the guidebooks or other popular resources They know the hotels The best ones can find accommodations that perfectly match your needs and price range But booking services do have their drawbacks: Contacting hotels directly is generally cheaper Booking services usually charge a fee a nominal one (say, $3 $10), but a fee nonetheless And in many countries, hotels often charge higher rates for bookings they receive through services A tourism office booking-desk clerk offers no opinion about the hotels Agents just provide you a list to choose from that may include amenities and prices, but little else
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Part II: Planning Your Trip to Europe
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They may be biased A booking agency, especially a private one (which is probably run by a group of local hotels), may try to steer you to places on its push list Rather than an honest evaluation, its advice is frequently a biased sales pitch dictated by the hotel itself You get mixed results from the information that booking services provide I ve found wonderful little bed-and-breakfasts in Ireland through the glossy promotional catalog the tourist office sent me I ve also had a Prague hotel agency stick me in what appeared to be an old high school almost an hour from the city center; the room made me long for my college dorm The only way to protect yourself is to read promotional fluff with a skeptical eye and ask tough questions when you call around In most cities Prague and Rome come to mind and on popular islands, hotel reps will swarm you as you step off the train or boat Some are honestly drumming up business, but others are out to fleece you If an offer interests you, make sure the rep pinpoints the exact location of the hotel on a map and get the price in writing before you go off with him Pay close attention to any photos he shows you a little photo retouching and some strategic furniture rearrangement can make a dismal cell look more like a palatial suite
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Surfing the Web for hotel deals
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Shopping online for hotels is generally done one of two ways: by booking through the hotel s own Web site or through an independent booking agency (or a fare-service agency like Pricelinecom) These Internet hotel agencies have multiplied in mind-boggling numbers of late, competing for the business of millions of consumers surfing for accommodations around the world This competitiveness can be a boon to consumers who have the patience and time to shop and compare the online sites for good deals but shop they must, because prices can vary considerably from site to site And keep in mind that hotels at the top of a site s listing may be there for no other reason than that it paid money to get the placement Of the big three sites, Expedia offers a long list of special deals and virtual tours or photos of available rooms so you can see what you re paying for (a feature that helps counter the claims that the best rooms are often held back from bargain-booking Web sites) Travelocity posts unvarnished customer reviews and ranks its properties according to the AAA rating system Also reliable are Hotelscom and Quikbookcom An excellent free program, TravelAxe (wwwtravelaxenet), can help you search multiple hotel sites at once even ones you may never have heard of and conveniently lists the total price of the room, including the taxes and service charges Another booking site, Travelweb (www travelwebcom), is partly owned by the hotels it represents (including the Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood chains) and is, therefore, plugged directly into the hotels reservations systems unlike independent online agencies, which have to fax or e-mail to the hotel all reservation
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