Why pay more? Grab the best hotel deal possible.

Twelve ways to secure good hotel deals.

Like most people, you probably want the best of everything without having to pay much for it. Sounds familiar? So, when it comes to paying for your vacation accommodation, trust me, you do not want to pay rack rates. No, no! That’s just too nasty on your hard-earned paycheque.

Room for More [Beth Ehemann]

So how do make sure you spend less for your next hotel accommodation and have more to budget for other travel pleasures and still be satisfied?

Here are the top 12 different methods I have used. Today, I’d like to share them with you so that you too can save money on your next hotel bookings.

1.  Booking Websites

This is one of my first go-tos for the best deals. I discussed this topic with a group of well-travelled friends over dinner recently. They too agreed that this approach is their first means for securing better rates.

All you have to do to take advantage of this method is to, first, sign up with a couple of or with your preferred booking websites. As a member, you’ll sometimes land on secret member deals or special privileges. The benefits are tiered, so the deal offers get more attractive the more you book using the website.

The Mars Room [Rachel Kushner]

Each booking website has a unique reward mechanism. These might include one free room exchange for every ten bookings or an additional discount for different tiered members.

There are generally two types of rates offered: non-refundable rates (where the entire booking fee and room cost is forfeited upon change) and free cancellation/flexible rates (where no charges are incurred when you change or cancel your booking). Non-refundable rates are the cheaper of the two, but use this only when you are 150% sure you will not have a change of plan; otherwise, any change will result in this option being more expensive. I have much experience in losing hard earned money this way.

Taxes are usually applied to the final price for website bookings. Do note that some booking websites do not show the final price that would be charged, making them seem cheaper than others. Be cautious of these prices to avoid disappointment after booking. Tip—always compare price after taxes.

It is always good not to rush into any booking, and if time is not a constraint, do the search through several websites first to see who offers the best deal. However, remember, don’t wait too long. There are many travellers there who are looking out for the same deals. Promotional offers are on a first-come basis.😉

The Garden Room [Joy Katz, Author]

2.  Hotel Membership Programs

Memberships are usually offered by established hotel chains to encourage customer loyalty. There are many programs available today from companies such as Starwood, Le Club, Wyndham, and Hilton.

Hotels run exclusive campaigns through their membership programs with added benefits and promotions for members. Such could include free room redemptions with accumulated rewards, an additional free stay for every qualified paid room, dining vouchers, or concert tickets.

How does this work? Upon signing up, members accumulate points for their purchase of goods and services made at the hotel or with their affiliate partners. Affiliate partners include designated car rental companies, casinos, and airlines.

Once you have enough points accumulated, you can use those points to redeem the service you require. Services can be bought for yourself or others. I too benefited from my sister’s membership points. Thank you!!

A Room of One's Own [Virginia Woolf]

3.  Last Minute Deals

No hotel property wants empty rooms for the night. So, sometimes, hotels offer their unrented rooms at the last minute for a reasonable rate.

The term last-minute could vary. During peak travel season, it could refer to unoccupied rooms on the same day, and during the non-peak season, the duration is usually longer.

I recently missed a flight connection. I was lucky to have had a last-minute deal (room + breakfast) at a very classy airport hotel. However, if you are on a planned vacation, I wouldn’t recommend you wait this long to secure your room unless camping in the railway station is also an option. However, seriously, do plan! 😏

The Room With Many Colors [Ruskin Bond]

4.  Bid On a Room

If you are familiar with websites like Priceline, this is precisely what it is. Here, bidders will put up an offer for a disclosed hotel room in the city and location they wish to stay at. Usually, the bidder with the nearest offer settles for the deal. I like this. I had once successfully won a bid for a 5-star hotel at a two-star price. Simple pleasures. Go on, try your luck!

Room for One More [Sorche Nic Leodhas]

5.  Coupons

Heard of Fav (previously operated by Groupon in some countries) or RetailMeNot? These are just a few of the many portals providing retail discounts. Sign up with these coupon-issuing websites for deals and offers. They too, periodically, offer additional discounts for your hotel bookings.
The Inspired Room [Melissa Michaels]

6.  Travel Agents

I used to use this quite a bit in the past. Some travel agencies who conduct regular global and domestic tours, like Ken, Trafalgar, Reliance, have access to attractive offers with their partner hotels. Try contacting an agent to hop on to these offers. The more established and reputable travel agents share these offers. I use less of this today because I get impatient waiting for someone to pick up the telephone line. What has technology done to us?

Room With a View [E. M. Forster]

7.  New Hotels

Keep an eye out for newly opening hotels. These hotels sometimes have unbeatable opening promotions. The services during the opening may be a little off the mark, but you will get a sparkling-clean room and a firm mattress at newly launched hotels.
The Scented Room [Barbara Milo Ohrbach]

8.  Deals with Airlines

Airlines, just as travel agents, do negotiate good deals with hotels for their passengers. You may have noticed when making an online ticket reservation (at an airline’s portal), there is also an option to purchase your accommodation too. Try this; you’d be surprised at how low some bundled offers can get. The catch here is, if you change your flight ticket, you may risk losing the hotel reservation altogether.

Room to Dream [David Lynch]

9.  Airbnb

Airbnb is where individual property owners sublet their apartment, room, or villas just like a hotel. As guests, we have many options to choose from at much lower prices. This option is great because both the property owner and property renter can provide a review of the experience to help future hosts and renters. This encourages both parties to always be courteous and cautious with their dealings.
The Yellow Room [Mary Roberts Rinehart]

10.  Alternatives—Pensions or Hostels

There are plenty of pensions and hostels available, especially in Europe. These are cheaper alternatives compared to the hotels of similar category. Many pensions and hostels also include a decent breakfast in their package. Its concept is very similar to the old B&B style accommodation. The facilities offered are limited (e.g. it may not provide elevator services, safe-boxes or coffee-making facilities). Not all pensions are listed in hotel booking or pension/hostel booking sites. If you are lucky, you may even get a room in a castle. 👀

I like staying in one these when travelling on vacation in Europe because they have the essentials and are clean, cheap, and centrally located.
Chat Room [Kristin Butcher]

11.  Mention the Occasion

If you are celebrating a special but private occasion at a hotel, such as silver or golden wedding anniversary or birthday, it won't hurt to let the hotel staff know what is important to you. I have known of a few hotels that have gone out of the way to make those guests stay a little extra for the memorable occasion. Don’t be surprised when you see a box of specially carved chocolates in your room. The savings you receive here is not in the form of a reduced room rate but the added service for the same price. 💕
The Telling Room [Michael Paterniti]

12.  Reviews

Lastly, good deals are not always valued in terms of dollar and cents. I am sure you’d agree with me on this. It could be intangible in value—perhaps in terms of services available at the property or the distance of the hotel from the sites you wish to visit. Do check out hotel reviews ahead of time. Sleeping with bedbugs or spending too much time in traffic jams to save USD20 may not be the wisest savings. In my opinion, reviews from paying guests are the best because they represent an honest view. So, enjoy some coffee, check out those reviews.

Room Service [Rochelle Alers]

That's all for today. I hope you too land yourself on a smashing hotel deal for your next booking. Do you already use any of the above ways or do something different? Do share your experience with us. Counting stars, Reaching DelphiI am off to count my booking rewards for my next free room. 

Note: Image captions are titles of published books.

Holi Malaysia 2019 - Colours Bringing Cultures Together.

Have you heard of an event called Holi Malaysia? Well, my friends—Vim, Kavitha, Sharan, Richie, and Alysha—and I were at a fun-in-the-sun event with 8000 other participants in Kuala Lumpur, an event organised by Perfect Plan. Yes, it was called Holi Malaysia 2019. The event’s theme this year was ‘Colours Bringing Cultures Together’.

Holi Malaysia 2019 at  KL Sentral - All of us!

What is Holi?

Here are some fun facts on Holi. Holi is a spring festival. It originated in the Indian subcontinent and is still observed there today. However, the excitement and colours of Holi have become widespread, and the festival is celebrated in many other parts of the world as well, like here in Malaysia.

Holi celebration signifies the following:
  • The victory of good over evil
  • The arrival of spring season
  • A chance to forgive and repair broken relationships
  • Thanksgiving for a good harvest

How is Holi Celebrated?

Briefly, Holi is celebrated for one night and one day. The celebration on the night before is called Holika Dahan. In India, it’s tradition for people of the community to gather and pray for the good of all. The next day is called Rangwali Holi, a free-for-all festival of colours where people smear each other with coloured water or powder. 

The celebration recognises each person as equal—rich or poor, young or old, man or woman.

@ KLSentral

Holi Celebrations in Malaysia

During the recent Rangwali Holi festival in Kuala Lumpur we attended, each participant was given a packet of colour-powder for the same reason—to smear powder on others!

This is how we celebrate Holi in Malaysia

First, make sure you have purchased a ticket and cleared security; otherwise, this friendly guy won't let you in.

Hello, please show me your tickets and remember to have fun

We wanted to get a shot of our clean selves before we got smeared. But looks like a passerby at the entrance didn’t think that was necessary. He smeared green-powder on Vim and Kavi before we could get a picture.

Holi Malaysia 2019: Our first picture for the day (with almost-clean faces)

Let the celebrations begin! 

Warming up

We warmed up to the sun with shades of pink, red, orange, green, blue, purple, and yellow powder. It was just like holding a rainbow in our hands!

‘They need more’, we heard a few others say as they passed by us, and they sprinkled some red and green on us. We responded to them with our own red and orange. That was just the beginning…. The powder attacks followed not too long after.

The day was not only about throwing coloured powder. There were lots of games and entertainment. A few lucky ones won prizes as well. There were also a couple of eye-catching performances by talented performers.

Entertainment at the venue

Sharan, Richie, and Alysha joined us soon after for some more action.

Cool Colours

There were lots of light snacks sold at the venue. We had some pani-poories and cold soda.

Pani Poori, a small snack

This event was for everyone. Looking at this guy below, I am sure you would agree that there is no age limit.

No age limit., but ohh that heat!

This event also attracted a lot people from different parts of the world.

We are one!

Do we look like Smurfs or Avatars?

Ohh...what happened?

Soon it was time to say goodbye. We did have a good time, didn’t we?

Bring your shades

I did not get any coffee at the venue. So, here is one from a local cafe, not too far away from KL Sentral. The barista made my coffee strong that morning, so I was awake all night.

My coffee for the day

‘Colours Bringing Cultures Together.’ I couldn’t agree more. I felt no boundaries today. The red, green, blue, orange, and purples united us in a loud, unspoken language. Crossing borders and uniting through colours…

Just like at Holi celebrations, may we always add colours of goodness to the lives of everyone we meet. May they add the same to ours. Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi.

Skiing at Chatel, the French Alps. The mountains are calling …

Skiing at Chatel, the French Alps.

"May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits" 
- Harley King

Magnificent view

The first few memories that come to mind when someone mentions ‘winter’ to me are carrot-nosed snowmen, freezing snowball fights, thick jackets, and yellow Wellington boots. Winters in the northern hemisphere also bring to mind the generous Santa and his trusted reindeer, Rudolph. Those childhood memories …

Winter is a cold season, I agree, but it is also the time when families, friends and solo travellers gather and go on snowy, fun-filled holidays.

Speaking of super fun trips, today we are going to France—the French Alps to be precise. Chatel. My friend Stephan Rijs and his family went on a ski trip recently and, they will share their experience with us. Skiing! That’s fabulous! I have never done it, so I am very thrilled about the opportunity. I hope you are too. Go, pack your warm clothes. By the way, Stephan is one of my close friends and an ex-colleague whom I’ve worked with on several projects.

Winter break

Where exactly is Chatel?

Chatel is in France, in the Haute Savoie region. Chatel is part of the Portes du Soleil ski area. It is listed as one of the most charming ski village sites in the French Alps. The Chatel village has beautiful mountain architecture and offers ski lovers loads of opportunities to explore the different routes of the Portes du Soleil.

We are at Chatel village

Chatel is 583 kilometres from the country’s capital, Paris. It is about 1000 kilometres from Amsterdam, the city where Stephan started his trip. Below is a map extracted from Google to show you both points.

Travel points

When is the best time to visit Chatel for winter holidays?

Speaking in skier’s language, when is the best time for perfect powder? We know it’s not easy to predict the weather, so it’s not going to be easy predicting the snow either. But generally, snow season in Chatel is between early December and early April. A good snow base is developed by February. Therefore, generally speaking, ski activities begin in mid-December and end in late April.

The different levels of snow firmness will provide ski-cationers different levels of ski-excitement. Expect more crowds during the (European) school holiday weekends. The more the cheers and noise, the more the fun.


An estimated 120 million people visit the Alps each year.

Do you remember how I freaked out when the temperature got below 20°C? Well, trust me, it’s biting cold just looking at these photos. Luckily the thermometer hasn’t gotten a brain-freeze like I have. At this point of writing, it shows -8°C.

It's freezing here

Knowing how important it is to keep warm, the group indulged in a fresh, morning brew. It was a filtered coffee, Alpine style. Smell that? That hot brew was excellent, Stephan.

Morning brew

This coffee increased our body heat, and it felt warmer outside: -7°C. Look! Even Google agrees with us. 😉

Getting warmer

How do you get to Chatel?

Stephan and his family decided to drive. The drive today took us about ten hours. His wife, Anke, and he took turns. Along the way, we said hello to some familiar cities and towns in Germany and indulged in some local cappuccino to stay awake.

On the way

During the drive towards the Alps, we noticed many vehicles on the road with European license plates, mainly from Denmark and some from the UK (yep, easy to recognise those cars with steering wheels on the side I’m used to).

Here’s a handy tip from Stephan. Ski equipment is bulky, and driving with your own gear can be a hassle, so it’s wise to hire the shoes, sticks, and skies at the local rentals. And that’s just what we did.

As we drove closer, we were teased with the first few glimpses of the inviting Alps.

The Alps

There are other travel options available if you are not familiar with right-side driving.
  • Train: The nearby train stations include Thonon (France), Aigle (Switzerland), and Monthey (Switzerland). There are shuttle rides from the train stations to the Alps.
  • Plane: Nearby airports include Geneva (Switzerland), Sion (Switzerland), Berne (Switzerland), and Chambery (France). There are also shuttle rides from these airports to the Alps.

Where to stay in Chatel?

There are plenty of options to choose from, from fully catered hotels and enchanting chalets to small rooms with sofa-beds at private residences.

Stephan’s group stayed in a charming chalet that belonged to a cousin’s friend. His cousin and his family were also part of this trip. This is the place they called home for the next week 😊.

Chalet in Chatel, home for the week

This chalet was fully furnished. It had four bedrooms with two bathrooms and cooking facilities. According to Stephan, ski vacations can be expensive, so cooking while enjoying each other’s company is the way to go. Reduce costs plus increase time together? I couldn’t agree more!

The village was a great place to relax, and there was plenty of sunshine and blue skies. This would mean only one thing—lots of fun!

It was just after sunrise, and we started with a good breakfast. My, my, what a healthy way to start the morning! Stephan pointed out we have more coffee, and they made space at the table for us too 😉.


Why do skiers love Chatel?

Chatel has great terrain to satisfy the needs skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels—beginner, intermediate, and expert. If you love cross-country skiing, you’d be pleased to know there are also 49 kilometres of cross-country ski trails. 

You’ll hear the term piste a lot. Piste is a firm, snow-covered area suitable for skiing. Chatel has 73 pistes with a total length of 83 kilometres. It ranks as one of the best ski locations in the world.

Our first guide

What can you do in and around Chatel?

Alpine skiing is an outdoor sport (and yes, it is a winter Olympics sport). So, the first thing to do is get a map to plan your activities.

Time to plan

Stephan’s first ski trip was when he was 20 years old. He has gone on about 10 visits since. Today, he enjoys going skiing with his family and friends. They all love being active and being outdoors just as much as him. The best ingredients for a great vacation, he reminded me. The kids love the thrill of gliding fast on snow and the challenges of the difficult pistes. Skiing is also popular among his friends.

Our group

Visitors will have to travel on these cable cars to go up and down the hill. You’ll need a pass (wireless card) that allows access through the station gates. Always keep it safely with you.

The view is good here

We hopped onto the cable car with Stephan's group and reached the first ski point. We were all set and charged-up for a thrilling adventure. Before that, since I had never worn skis before, Flossie, Stephan's daughter, agreed to show us how.

Come on, let's go

Look, Flossie is all set. She has her red-hot ski boots and skis on. Let’s not keep her waiting.

The rest of us put on our boots and skis too. Stephan took us on a simple path for us as a warm up and for him to master his ski-filming skills, which turned out to be very good, I’d say. But do be careful. Safety is always the priority.

I was told that this move is called alpine skiing. The skis are curved a slightly so that it’s easier to turn. Sometimes this is called carving, because of its long curves.

We skied for a while and stopped to take photos along the way. Here is one of them. What a view! The fantastic gift of nature. Isn’t this view just breath-taking? I was lost for words.


Next, we were on the way to La Chapalle d’Abondance, another ski point. Before that, more coffee to enjoy the sunny day.

A short break

Where do you get coffee in Chatel?

Stephan speaks a bit of French, so our coffee needs were taken care of. He modestly said that the process of ordering was somewhat tricky. But the picture below shows he ordered correctly.

Café au lait at the highlands

The coffee you see here is café au lait, which is coffee with milk. Sometimes it is called un café s’il vous plait (regular coffee). I learnt that Stephan prefers black coffee, but he ordered café cu lait for our pictures today. That was so thoughtful!

An alternate way to order is of course to use the universal language. Sign! Just point to show any inviting sample on someone else’s table. “Délicieux! Merci beaucoup pour le café adorable.

We headed back to the chalet after a long day out for another surprise. It was party time! Little Flossie’s birthday.

Join me for some cake later

Happy Birthday, Flossie!

Happy Birthday Flossie!

Tips for a fun ski trip at the Alps

Here are a few tips for your ski trip.
  • Take plenty of warm clothes (don’t forget warms socks) and check the weather forecasts and patterns.
  • Rent your ski gear.
  • Cook your meals. It’s healthier, less expensive, and adds family-bonding time.
  • Search for discounted ski passes and ski hires.
  • Book your lessons or engage a private instructor to improve your skills or learn the basics.
  • Find a ski location with several different slopes.
  • Starters -> green and blue
  • Intermediate and advanced -> Red and Black
  • Get insurance coverage in case something goes wrong.
  • Bring a book or a few movies for the evenings when you are back indoors.

The mountains are calling. The alps are calling. Nature is a stunner, and these mountains provide wonderful family holidays. Did you know that at the Alps, as long as you are careful, you will not get a ticket for ski-speeding? It’s true!

Transport in Chatel

Now hear that—the laughter of children and youth. Exhilarating! Laughter is contagious. I am definitely going on those slopes soon. If we hurry, we can still make it for the 2019 Alps trip. There’s still enough snow for us.

Here are more photos of winter taken at various other places. I felt this is the appropriate winter edition to publish them. Thank you to all for the lovely photos.

Hello from the rest

We all need an angel at some point to get over a rough time. So, for those who need one today, here is an angel for your positive thoughts. Stephan, Anke, Douwe, Flossie, and cousins, thank you for sharing your experiences, tips and beautiful photos with us. And thank you for the angel. Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi, heading for the mountains. The mountains are calling …

 "Over every mountain there is a path,
although it may not be seen from the valley"
- Theodore Roethke

Traveller on location: Stephan Rijs and family, cousins. (IG:step_rijs)
Virtual traveller, me 😎


Updated: 9 March