So, the story of what happened on Monday with HotelTonight in Amsterdam …

As I explained on Monday, I was flying out to Amsterdam for the night to test out the Hotel Tonight ‘last minute booking’ app.  I had earned some credit from signing up and from referring a few HFP readers and I wanted to try it out.

I did have a kind of plan.  I had been watching Hotel Tonight for a couple of weeks and I knew roughly what hotels they featured in Amsterdam.  I had also picked my preferred target for the night.  I guessed that trouble was brewing, though, when I checked cash prices last Friday and saw the top five-star hotels coming in at £600 for Monday night!

HotelTonight loads its offers at ‘9am local time’.  I assumed this was ‘hotel time’ so at 8am, on the train to Gatwick, I fired up my phone – to be told to come back in an hour.  It seems that ‘9am local time’ means 9am in the country you are in – this is a bit odd, frankly, as anyone living in France, Germany, Netherlands etc gets a 1 hour head start on booking Amsterdam hotels.

Hotel Tonight

At 9.15 I was in the British Airways lounge at Gatwick.  Before I go on, let me explain what I needed.  I am a family guy in my 40’s.  My plans for a night in Amsterdam involved getting a meal in my hotel, watching TV and working on the blog in a comfortable room.  I was not after a ‘crash pad’ which I would hardly see after a night of hard drinking and other stuff ….

These were the offers at 9.15am London time:

‘Espresso’ – ‘Basic’ quality level, 12 square metre room, £106 – rejected on quality and room size

‘Albus’ – ‘Solid’ quality level, 18 square metre room, £170 – rejected on room size

‘NH Carlton’ – ‘Basic’ quality level, room size n/a, £283 – rejected as laughable value for money vs quality

‘NH Caranso’ – ‘Basic’ quality level, room size n/a, £258 – rejected as laughable value for money vs quality

‘Vondel’ – ‘Hip’ quality rating, 15 square metre room – rejected on room size and TripAdvisor reviews.  They warned that some rooms are in the basement and have massive noise issues from the hotel kitchens etc.  I was pretty sure this is where my room would have been.

‘NH Museum Quarter’ – ‘Solid’ quality rating, room size n/a, £235 – rejected on value for money grounds

I rejected the above pretty quickly.  This was not necessarily the fault of HotelTonight – on a busy day, there is less distressed inventory to be had and it will still fetch a good price.  In some ways HotelTonight is more useful on very busy nights as you know the hotels they feature will be available – if you’re willing to pay.  The hotel I wanted to book for the night was not there at all.

Half an hour later, The College Hotel appeared.  This was better – 29 sq m rooms and £155.  A quick look at TripAdvisor found many complaints about major falls in service levels and, more importantly since I wanted to work, that the rooms were very, very dark.

I could have gone with the College and, if it had been there at 9.15, I probably would have.  In the 30 minutes before that hotel popped up, though, I had started looking at other options using my hotel loyalty points.   Some of these options looked a lot better.

Starwood has ‘last room availability’ so I tried them first.  The Pulitzer was sold out so that was off the list.  Perhaps luckily as I have had bad experiences there twice before.

Hilton had the brand new Waldorf-Astoria.  At 80,000 points this seemed like a serious hit even with a cash rate of €595 – and at 28 sq m (before any Gold upgrade) the room was smaller than the College.  The standard Hilton was not a contender at 70,000 points (€299 cash).  The Doubletree by the station would have done at 50,000 points if I was desperate.

I moved on to IHG.  I finally got luckyThe InterContinental Amstel, one of the finest hotels in the chain, was available.  There is a picture below.  For cash, they wanted €729 for a 35 sq m room.  For points, it was only 40,000 – only 5,000 points more than you would pay for some Holiday Inn Express hotels in London!

Amstel

I also have InterContinental Ambassador status, which meant (as long as they honoured my benefits on a reward stay) 4pm check-out and an upgrade.  I stayed at the Amstel about eight years ago so I knew the location was good for the Rijksmuseum – the only bit of sightseeing I definitely wanted to do.

HotelTonight got the push.  I still have my credit and I hope to use it over the next few months.  I booked myself into the Amstel – review to follow – and then also decided to give the pretty poor BA First Class lounge the elbow as well.  I wandered downstairs to No 1 Traveller – more on that tomorrow …..

(PS.  There is an ironic postscript to this story.  At 6pm, in the Amstel, I took another look at HotelTonight.  The hotel I was hoping to get – Banks Mansion – was now available.  It wasn’t even at an inflated price, just the usual £170.  If they had loaded this at 9am then my night would have been very different.)

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Comments

  1. Manuel Gonzalez says:

    Hotel-TONIGHT is a bargain app, so the more TONIGHT you are the cheaper :)

  2. Good final choice, Rob. IHG seem particularly good at this sort of thing – on a recent trip to San Francisco, where Hilton had quickly switched to ludicrously-priced Premium Room rewards, IHG were still offering 45k redemptions at the IC San Francisco, vs $600 a night rooms! Plus they gave a bit of an upgrade as an IHG Plat member, a nice bonus on a reward stay.

    I’ve also used the No 1 LGW before – the BA lounge there is quite disappointing and on a long layover I decided to lounge hop!

    • Lipton says:

      Alan,I am staying at the intercontinental in San Francisco in August. Any good ? I am also a platinum ambassador and was wondering what benefits they offer.

      • I liked it – I was at a conference at the Moscone Centre though so incredibly handy! I enquired about upgrading to Ambassador at check in but they didn’t seem to offer me anything more for it than I was already getting as a non-Amb Plat. The rooms were nice and staff welcoming – it might be worth enquiring with them in advance as to which room type you’d need to book to get upgraded to a room with Club Lounge access though.

        • Lipton says:

          Thanks. So there is a lounge there then. ?? . I am booked into two queen deluxe with family. Will not be eating in the hotel so any recommendations nearby ? Kids are 14 and 15

          • Yes, I didn’t get access myself but it looks like there is one.

            We ended up making use of Google to find some places to eat, our group thought both were pretty good…

            1) Hops & Hominy, Tilman Place – southern food and nice microbrewery beer (perhaps this bit just for you and not the kids!)

            2) Pachino Trattoria, Kearny St – small family-run restaurant, reasonably priced pretty decent food.

            Obviously these are just ones we happened to visit and liked – about a 20 min walk from the hotel, but the weather was pleasant.

            I’d also highly recommend hiring bikes to cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, having lunch in Sausalito and then getting the ferry back over!

          • Lipton says:

            Great. Thanks for the tips. What did you do for breakfast ?

          • No problem :-)

            From what I heard, Mel’s Drive-in near the Moscone Centre got a good name although I didn’t try it myself. I’d just had a few days of big breakfasts at some Hilton properties for a the preceding few days so I actually just had some fruit, cereal bars and juice in my room from nearby 7-eleven and CVS stores 😛

            Am sure you’ll have a great trip. If you decide you want to visit Alcatraz then it’s probably worth pre-booking online at least a couple of days in advance to minimise the amount of queuing you have to do.

  3. andystock says:

    Last month I syayed at the crowne Plaza Amsterdam south, very nice hotel next to Zuud station and only 10/15 min tram ride on tram 5 to the musuem quarter. Rooms extremely quiet. Only 7 mins from the airport.

  4. Some of those hotel prices mean it would be cheaper for me to sleep in my own bed and fly KLM first thing in the morning and end up £100 better off 😉

  5. Marcus says:

    I have to say this post is a little harsh having used Hoteltonight last weekend to stay at the citizenM hotel in Amsterdam. What you didn’t include in your post was the discount % offered, which is kinda the whole point of the app – Lastminute rooms at ‘best prices online’. I paid an average of €150 per night at the CitizenM hotel (which is a fantastic property and brand across EU that I highly recommend you check out next time).

    I actually geeked out and checked their website rate for that day and as it was the national holiday weekender, best rate for a double room was over €200. Across 3 days that meant a saving of more than €150 which I smugly blew on a nice dinner. Try the app again, I don’t think you’ll regret it :)

  6. I would have assumed you would be able to get rooms at 8am UK time when it was 9am in Amsterdam, that does sound odd, my experience booking a room in Berlin is all the best deals (well the cheapest) were gone in the first 15 minutes.

    Did you go to Amsterdam just to test out the app or did you have another reason for being there?

    • It was a few things – I wanted to visit the refurbed Rijksmuseum, I hadn’t been to Amsterdam for 6-7 years anyway and as I had got this Hotel Tonight credit building up with no other immediate use it seemed like a decent idea. I also had a couple of clear days in my diary.

      • Hope you enjoyed the Rijksmuseum. Not sure I’ll be using Hotel Tonight again now I’ve used up my credit, if I’ve booked a room somewhere and I can cancel it on the day I’ll probably check the app out, I wonder how good they are at spotting duplicate accounts.

  7. whirly says:

    Yeah, Amsterdam is full of ridiculously expensive hotels with ridiculously small and shitty rooms.
    The difference between a standard room and a junior suite is that the latter is 2 sqm bigger!
    Unfortunately, there are enough people willing to play along nicely (mostly business and elderly people)…
    Anyway, I am thrilled to see what you think of the IC Amsterdam, because to me it seems like yet another old expensive hotel, where everything in the room falls apart as soon as you touch it and you can hear every noise and smell the mildew

    BTW: Good choice not taking any of those NH hotels, they are especially incredibly shitty…

    • The Amstel is old fashioned – I had a set of Encylopedia Britannia on the bookshelves in my room! It is very nicely done though. I stay in enough hotels to like variety. I am perfectly happy in a ‘hip’ place like the Qbic in London and I’m sure I’d like Citizen M as well. I also have a soft spot for the grandeur of 19th century properties like (in the IC chain) Cannes, Paris LeGrand or Amsterdam as long as they are well maintained.

      The old-school IC Paris is my favourite hotel there. In New York I prefer Soho House if I have to pay for somewhere. You don’t get much of a bigger contrast between two hotels than that!

      What I wanted to avoid on this trip was something entirely nondescript which is partly why I dismissed the Doubletree by the station.

  8. wobbly wings says:

    After Le Grand I believe this is the their best property in Europe. Superb service too. Some of their suites are fabulous. Hope you got one of them.

  9. pazza2000 says:

    My experience of HT is that it’s hit or miss depending on crew city. For eg. I’ve regularly found good value options in Edinburgh where as the Glasgow offering is consistently very poor value.

  10. Peter Hart says:

    Raffles we just had a great night in a hotel in Carmel, California with hotel tonight thanks to your post from the other day reminding us of the £30 credit we still had to use.

    It was £94 on hotels.com but £68 on hotel tonight – so £38 with discount.

    They’d allocated a second floor room but we upgraded for $20 to a top floor balcony room – I guess a good tip is to try to upgrade on arrival and to see what the establishment wants to charge.

    Thanks for the tip, as always!

  11. Rich. S says:

    Much easier to stay slightly out of Amsterdam on one of the rail lines,
    Delft or Leiden would be my choice.

  12. On the subject of IHG, I was just reading about a few people who have had their accounts closed for signing up for promotions they weren’t targetted for. Have any HFP readers got in touch with you about they same thing happening to them?

    • Only one person recently, and they had booked the IC in China which investigated every single person who booked a PointsBreak room at their hotel. This was due to the China ‘resale’ issues, although this person was obviously innocent.