Short trip, sweet deals: Take an in-town vacation
Take an in-town vacation in Seattle or Kirkland and experience luxury for less in a top hotel.
Tell Seattle's Four Seasons hotel that you're celebrating an anniversary and the staff might surprise you with a bottle of Champagne. Book at room at Seattle's Hotel Monaco or Vintage Park and eat breakfast for $1.
Snag a last-minute Web special at the Fairmont Olympic, and score a suite in the Northwest's only AAA Five Diamond-rated hotel.
Can't afford the time or money to fly anywhere for the weekend? Then do what thousands of out-of-town visitors to Seattle do every year. Take a "downtown" vacation.
A downturn in business travel has luxury hotels scrambling to fill rooms. Even the Four Seasons, which rarely discounts, is offering discounted weekend rates and, through June, three nights for the price of two.
Rooms at top-end hotels such as the Sorrento, Westin and new Hyatt At Olive 8, have been showing up on Web sites for $150 a night. Customers bidding on Priceline report snagging the Sheraton, Monaco, Vintage Park and Edgewater hotels for $70-$100.
With cruise-ship season approaching and Seattle's convention business holding up better than in some other cities, rates won't stay as low as they were in January and February when nearly half the rooms in town were empty. But prices swing widely on different dates, and hotels often drop prices on short notice.
How to find a deal? Consider these strategies:
• Shop around. You may or may not find the best rate on a hotel's Web site or by calling the hotel, so check sites such as www.seattlesupersaver.com, Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau booking site, and Expedia, where hotels often unload rooms at bargain prices not available on their own sites (although many will match them if asked).
• Call hotels directly for AAA and AARP/senior discounts that may not show up on Web sites.
• Try Priceline.com. You pick a location and the category of hotel but don't find out the hotel's name until after your bid is accepted and your credit card is charged. Save 50 percent, sometimes more, off rates quoted on hotel Web sites. Tips at www.biddingfortravel.com and www.betterbidding.com.
The real trick to snagging the best deal: Shop last-minute and/or avoid making a nonrefundable booking too far in advance.
An example: Seattle's Pan Pacific hotel usually offers a nonrefundable "supersaver" rate on its Web site. A check earlier this month showed the rate varying from $188 ($217 with taxes) for bookings several weeks out to $118 ($132 with taxes) for reservations made just two days ahead.
Seattle's current best-value splurge could be the last-minute Internet specials at the Fairmont Olympic (www.fairmont.com/seattle), an 85-year-old former Four Seasons with an indoor pool and first-class service.
"Depending on occupancy levels, sometimes Fairmont will open up the floodgates and say, 'Do this for the next 10-14 days,' " said spokeswoman Heather Mitchell. "We need to put heads in beds just like everyone else."
A last-minute nonrefundable rate of $169.50 ($196 with taxes) showed up recently on the Fairmont's Web site for an executive king suite vs. the usual rate of $339 ($392 with taxes).
If you're looking for a place to sleep on the cheap, you'll find the lowest prices among the two or three-star hotels. Luxury hotels, such as the Fairmont, are pricey even with discounts, but there's never been a better time to splurge.
Here are five other upscale choices that win high marks with customers. All are in different areas of downtown Seattle, and one is in downtown Kirkland for those looking for an Eastside escape.
Take note: Rates vary widely on various dates, depending on conventions, special events and overall bookings. Rates quoted below reflect what we found by checking with the hotels and on various Web sites on Tuesday, April 14, for a one-night stay for two people on Friday, April 17.
Four Seasons Seattle
Opened at 99 Union Street last November, the Four Seasons is Seattle's swankiest new hotel. It's winning praise for its service and location overlooking Elliott Bay. Ranks No. 15 out of 128 Seattle-area hotels reviewed on TripAdvisor.
Best price: Weekend rate of $318 a night including taxes, found on hotel Web site, or by calling.
Checking in: Even the toilets in some suites come with water views. The least expensive rooms are on lower floors facing the street, but there's a good chance for an upgrade.
Reason to stay here: The heated rooftop pool and fire pit overlooking Elliott Bay.
Neighborhood advantage: Across from the Seattle Art Museum and the Pike Place Market.
Budget tip: New happy hour from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday-Thursday in the Art Lounge with $5 drinks and appetizers.
The buzz: "Fast room service, excellent food at the restaurant, beautiful views, great pool area and gym," report TripAdvisor reviewers. Disappointments? "Less-than-perfect" drinks. "No TV in the bar."
Info: 206-749-7000 or www.fourseasons.com/seattle
Arctic Club Hotel
Opened last year at 700 Third Ave., the Arctic Club ranks No. 27 on TripAdvisor. Expedia customers give it a customer satisfaction rating of 4.8 out of 5.
Best price: $191 with taxes and fees, found on Expedia.
Checking in: Small-hotel atmosphere in historic building decorated with replicas of antique furniture the designer found in European flea markets.
Reason to stay here: Architectural ambience. Designers transformed a men's club built in 1916 into a classic hotel with marble stairways and a ballroom with a stained-glass dome.
Neighborhood advantage: Close to Pioneer Square and stadiums.
Budget tip: Becomes part of Hilton's Doubletree chain in mid-May. Look for room and restaurant prices to drop.
The buzz: "Beautiful lobby and bar area," says one TripAdvisor reviewer. Street noise sometimes a problem. "Room choice would be key at this hotel. Anywhere but the 3rd Ave. side."
Info: 206-340-0340 or www.arcticclubhotel.com
A 12-year-old boutique hotel at 1101 Fourth Ave. Ranked No. 13 on TripAdvisor and 4.5 on Expedia.
Best price: $172 with taxes through Seattle Super Saver.
Checking in: Part of the Kimpton chain of hotels in older buildings turned to new uses. This one was a telephone switching center. Large living-room-style lobby, bright rooms.
Reason to stay here: Free lobby entertainment including afternoon wine hours, Blackberry "thumb" massages and Guitar Hero music videos.
Neighborhood advantage: Central for downtown shopping. The assistant manager leads guests on morning runs along the waterfront.
Budget tip: Rates vary widely on various dates. Lowest rates often available on other sites, but Kimpton will match.
The buzz: "Staff was very friendly and helpful. Room was not huge, but not too small," says a TripAdvisor reviewer. "Biggest downfall is the parking," $46 per day with taxes.
Info: 206- 621-1770 or www.monaco-seattle.com
Pan Pacific Seattle
Opened by a Singapore-based luxury chain 2-½ years ago at 2125 Terry Ave. in the South Lake Union area. Ranks No. 3 on TripAdvisor and rates 4.8 on Expedia.
Best price: Nonrefundable rate of $160, with taxes, found on hotel's Web site.
Checking in: Pan-Asian urban chic. Spacious, airy rooms with blond wood, marble tubs.
Reason to stay here: New area, away from the downtown hubbub but close enough to walk to shopping and restaurants.
Neighborhood advantage: The Seattle Streetcar stops at the Whole Foods market below the hotel. Travels to downtown or Lake Union.
Budget tip: Tutta Bella Pizza next door oozes big city ambience at local prices. Order house wine, share a salad and pizza, and call it dinner for two for $50.
The buzz: "You could sit in the tub (great BIG soaking tub) and watch the TV if you wanted to," reports one Expedia reviewer. Another said "the neighboring construction was loud at times."
Info: 206-264 8111 or www.panpacific.com
Heathman Hotel Kirkland
Opened 1-½ years ago at 220 Kirkland Ave. on the east shore of Lake Washington. Sister hotel to the Portland Heathman. Ranks No. 1 out of 9 Kirkland hotels on TripAdvisor and rates 4.6 on Expedia.
Best price: $156 with taxes, on hotel's Web site or by calling.
Checking in: Wins points for good value, boutique touches, three mattress choices. Some lower-priced rooms even have partial water views.
Reason to stay here: Walk, jog or bike along Lake Washington.
Neighborhood advantage: Two blocks from cafes, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants in Kirkland's lakefront downtown.
Budget tip: Refresh at the hotel bar during "crush hour" when drinks are $1.50 off.
The buzz: "Great escape from Seattle," "terrific getaway without going too far," say TripAdvisor reviewers. "Modern boutique feel ... The sound insulation wasn't perfect, but everything else was great."
Info: 425-284-5800 or www.heathmankirkland.com
Carol Pucci: firstname.lastname@example.org
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