How I booked my CES lodging (and did not get ripped off, I hope)

No business-travel lodging decision is trickier than CES. The usual affordability of Las Vegas hotels evaporates as properties on the Strip send their rates into the stratosphere for this massive show, leaving budget-minded CES attendees scrounging for cheap alternatives that won’t be too distant or too sketchy.

Las Vegas Strip from the southHere how I managed that this year. I hope you all don’t need to book CES lodging anytime soon, but applying some of the same shopping practices might make your next non-work trip a little more affordable.

  1. Start at the show site’s list of official hotels. Conference hotels can be a grotesque rip-off, but the enormous scale of CES–175,212 attendees this January–means the endorsed-lodging list has to go beyond a handful of high-end hotels. The best deals left this week are in downtown Las Vegas, which I know from prior trips is an easy Lyft/Uber ride to the Strip and not much slower by bus, which in this case includes the show’s free hotel shuttle service. And by “best deals” I mean $500 to $600 and change for four nights–including resort fees, which the CES site helpfully includes in its nightly-cost estimates. That set an upper bound on what I’d pay.
  2. Check Airbnb. Airbnb is an essential part of my business travel–I don’t think I could do events like MWC or Google I/O without that source of cheap lodging–but in this case it didn’t pan out. Airbnb’s site didn’t show any affordable options near the Strip that either had accumulated enough favorable reviews or were offered by hosts with their own prior crowd-sourced approvals.
  3. Check Kayak. Kayak.com has remained one of my favorite travel-search sites for all the tools it provides to narrow down a search (with Hipmunk a close second) while still showing results from a wide range of booking sites. In this case, Kayak revealed another option in the low $500s near the University of Nevada at Las Vegas–not walking distance from the Strip, but a manageable Lyft/Uber commute. (Vegas taxis are dead to me, thanks to their adding a $3 surcharge for credit-card payments.)
  4.  Check Hotwire. This Expedia Group-owned travel-search site offers mystery deals on hotels that don’t have to be that much of a mystery. The trick is to see what “Hot Rates” look good, then check not just the TripAdvisor rating shown next to each but the number of TripAdvisor reviews. That second data point should allow you to identify the underlying hotel with a high degree of confidence. In this case, Hotwire showed some downtown-Vegas properties at about the same rates as the CES site–but without clarity on whether resort fees were included.
  5. Don’t forget esoteric or expiring discounts. My search ended with an app on my phone, and not one I’ve used to book travel before. The T-Mobile Tuesdays app, which historically hasn’t yielded much more than the occasional free Lyft ride, touted some subscriber-exclusive discounts at Booking.com this week. So I belatedly remembered to take a look Friday, which is how I found a DTLV property with solid TripAdvisor ratings and no resort fees for just over $500.

Will that be my most comfortable CES stay ever? Probably not. Will I care after spending 14 hours a day schlepping around my laptop? Probably not. Now to book my CES flights…

 

 

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Fortnightly output: Google and ITA, Android APIs, digital-TV converter boxes, cable-box power use, NFC, Android File Transfer

I had originally thought I’d post my usual weekly summary last Sunday, but then I remembered that I was on vacation–and besides, it would have been a short list then. So instead you get a two-for-one special, and I get a chance to use “fortnightly” for the first time on this blog.

6/4/2013: Remember When Google Was Going To Annex The Travel-Search Industry?, Disruptive Competition Project

One of the first ideas I pitched to the DisCo people was a look back at the predictions of doom that we all heard–and that I found somewhat credible–when Google proposed to buy the travel-search firm ITA Software. When I finally got around to writing it, I was surprised to see how little of a dent Google has made in the market for airfare queries.

SmartBear Android APIs report6/5/2013: Google I/O Android News: Location, Location, Location (Plus Cloud Messaging and Bluetooth), Software Quality Matters

A friend edits this blog, hosted by the software-testing firm SmartBear, and was looking for a report about the new Android application programming interfaces Google had unveiled at I/O. This was a lot more technical than I usually get, but I’m glad I did it. And I’m looking forward to seeing apps built on these new APIs, in particular those involving location services.

6/9/2013: How to get an analog TV set back on the air, USA Today

A friend on Facebook had bought a flat-panel set just before they all started shipping with digital tuners and wanted to know what her options were. And so, once again, I wrote a how-to piece about tuning in digital signals. I didn’t want to leave out cable subscribers, so I added a tip about a new initiative by major cable and satellite providers to ship boxes that use less electricity–which won’t help existing subscribers unless they ask for an upgrade.

6/16/2013: What exactly is ‘NFC’ wireless?, USA Today

My phone includes a Near Field Communication transmitter, and I’m still waiting for a chance to use it outside of specialty environments like tech trade shows. This column explains why, and adds a tip about Google’s Android File Transfer app for Macs that is really a plea for Google to update the thing so it doesn’t fit in so poorly with OS X.

I didn’t post anything on Sulia while I was out (thought about it, decided not having a work obligation outweighed passing up a week’s worth of stipend). But before and after my travel, I summed up a briefing about that cable-box efficiency program, compared the AT&T and Sprint versions of the Galaxy S 4, explained how car2go was more useful to me in Portland and Seattle than back home in D.C., and reviewed an Android app that can get a GPS fix on your position from 32,000 feet up and at 550 miles an hour.