You know how I’m not a big fan of planning things? Well, every so often this little quirk of mine comes back to bite me in the ass.
My recent trip from Medellín to my home state of Washington was one of those instances. Well, at least it could have been.
When I decided to rearrange my itinerary in order to get home in time for my grandmother’s memorial service, my plan to spend a few hours overnight in the Fort Lauderdale airport (thus saving myself the cost of a night’s stay in a hotel) was foiled. The only available itinerary just didn’t quite line up as snugly, so I was forced to find a place to sleep for the night lest I spend nearly 24 hours in an airport, unshowered and surely unable to properly sleep. Naturally, I wasn’t feelin’ that option, so I set about looking for a cheap place to crash.
My idea of cheap is limited to hostel dorms these days, but when I found out just before my departure that I’d be landing in Fort Lauderdale during college spring break, my optimism about finding such a deal instantly faded.
A few searches on Hostel World and Hostel Bookers confirmed what I already feared; not only was everything in the hostel category nowhere near as cheap as I was hoping for, but many were already fully booked.
So, I did what any irresponsible non-planner would do in such a situation. Nothing. I instead decided to cross that metaphorical bridge when I came to it, which would turn out to be the literal moment I landed in Fort Lauderdale.
An Unexpected Solution
After retrieving my luggage, I waded through the muggy Florida air toward the hotel shuttle stand. A few conversations with shuttle drivers sent me straight into panic mode–no, I didn’t need a reservation and yes, there was availability–but at prices that, especially when unexpected, felt like a kick in the gut to the frugal backpacker in me.
In my state of desperation, anything below $200 for the night began to sound like a good deal; I was no more then a few minutes from biting the bullet when I remembered a hotel booking app I’d downloaded (and subsequently forgotten about) just a few months earlier.
Enter: Hotel Tonight.
Hotel Tonight was designed for people like me. Indecisive non-planners who leave everything until the last possible second. I mean, seriously, their tagline is “We believe in a life less planned.”
It offers great last-minute deals on a selection of hand-picked hotels, wherever you happen to be that night. I fired it up on my iPhone and was instantaneously browsing Fort Lauderdale listings (my location was determined by GPS, and I was reminded just how beautiful having a data plan was).
Each hotel is profiled, explaining (with a healthy dash of humor) exactly why the people at Hotel Tonight like it. Categories tell whether each option is basic, solid, hip or luxe, and each listing contains details and beautiful photos of the on-site amenities, what the room itself offers (minibar, microwave, etc.) and whether food and drinks are available.
A quick scroll through revealed one room that was considerably less than the other listings, and it just so happened to be beachfront as well. Though still not a price I’m used to paying at $120 for the night, I was eager to get somewhere–anywhere–where I could drop my bags, have a shower and relax. And compared to the $250 I’d been quoted for the chain hotels that were definitely NOT beachfront, $120 sounded like a downright steal.
I’ve since done some research to find out just how good of a deal I was getting (if any at all). The hotel I chose, the Sea Club Resort, seems to always have some sort of promotion running, but prices still aren’t as low as I found using Hotel Tonight. The room I stayed in, which could have easily slept four people, typically costs $474 per night. So, there you have it–the app really did come through with major savings.
Once my decision had been made, the booking process was an absolute breeze. With a few taps, I was able to connect my PayPal account for a seamless payment and within minutes my reservation was confirmed. Hotel Tonight armed me with the hotel’s address, a map of its location relative to where I was, and the exact distance I had to go to get there.
I was eternally grateful not only for how effortless the app was to use, but for the savings it afforded me for being a lazy non-planner. Okay, so I could have saved even more by being an actual planner, but I easily could have been out hundreds of dollars if not for Hotel Tonight.
One outrageously expensive cab ride later (hellooooo, reverse culture shock!) and I arrived at my haven for the night, the Sea Club Resort.
Now, having lived and traveled primarily in developing countries for the last few years, my standards for accommodations are extremely low. Checking into proper hotels is a rarity for me these days, so I was more than satisfied with my digs at the Sea Club Resort.
It was a little retro. Okay, maybe a lot retro, but to me that’s hardly something worth complaining about. It had its own pool, a gym, a sports bar and a restaurant. Everything that I needed and then some. And for once, it was nice not to share space with other travelers, especially since I was still in a somewhat fragile emotional state.
I loved having two beds to
jump on choose from and a mountain of pillows to dive into; the bedding was downright divine compared to what I’d become accustomed to while living in Colombia. I relished being able to drink the tap water without question and being able to dispose of toilet paper in the toilet again. Ahh, the little things.
But before I got too settled in my spacious bed, I had a beach and a spectacular dusk sky to attend to. I can’t say I’ve stayed in many beachfront resorts before, so to be squishing sand between my toes not even thirty seconds after leaving my room left me feeling positively spoiled.
The next morning was a mirror image of my arrival: Breakfast on-site, a wander to the beach, a dash to the airport to catch my flight to Seattle.
My one night stay in Florida was so pleasant and went so smoothly, in fact, that I finally understood–if only for a moment–the appeal of living in a place like Fort Lauderdale. The Sunshine State has yet to fully win me over, but I’m warming up to it ever so slowly.
Even if you consider yourself a planner, I’d still highly recommend you download Hotel Tonight ASAP (you can now book rooms up to a week in advance). You never know when you might need a bed at the last minute, and you’ll be glad to have it in your arsenal.
Get $25 off your first booking of $100 or more by using my promo code: ldavis410
Have you ever needed a room at the absolute last minute? How did you find one?