It all started this spring when I needed a hotel in Milan. A nice hotel, but not too nice, but one that had some soul – not just some corporate cookie cutter crap. I found rates directly with a major chain much higher than I had hoped, but then I found the same hotel on Tablet for a lot less. Furthermore, the site was offering a free trial of “Tablet Plus” membership, which got me extra goodies thrown in on top. As one might expect, I booked without too much hesitation. Months later, I’ve paid up for my Tablet Plus membership, and I have to say, I love it.
Before getting into the actual reasons why I love it, it’s probably best to describe my personal travel patterns. I’ve never been a major chain loyalist, mainly because I like boutique hotels, or at the very least – places with unique character. I latch onto a property, or nice neighbourhood and find the most unique option I can find within those parameters. When loyalty works, it works, but I am just not one of those “where’s the Hilton” people. At the same time, I love benefits like upgrades or cookies when I arrive, and I don’t have enough loyalty to just one chain to earn them, even though I travel over 200 days a year.
This is where Tablet has reeled me in. I get benefits across a variety of hotels both chain and non, and unlike some of the programs like Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts, Chase Luxury Hotels or any of the other booking benefit platforms, I seem to always get the lowest rate I can find, rather than an inflated rate to justify the benefits.
Tablet Plus is a $99 per year add on to the TabletHotels.com booking platform, which is owned by the Michelin Guide. You pretty much get the same rates as someone booking without “Plus” membership, but “Plus” guarantees a series of upgrades and benefits at each hotel, like a mid-top tier guest. Think: room upgrade, late check out, free bottle of wine on arrival and that kinda stuff. I’ve used it at quite a few hotels now, and the benefits are always delivered.
I’m obsessed with the Tablet Plus platform now, because it ticks one very important box on virtually all my searches: the rates are always equal or lower than others. I simply won’t pay an inflated rate to get a free cookie, or late checkout, and so far I haven’t had to make that choice. Furthermore, I don’t get offered every hotel in the city, but rather a curated selection of mid range to luxury options. I can’t lie, I’m just not a cheap lodging person – I like my comforts, and I really like being presented with say… 10 hotels in a major city, versus 1,000.
Is it perfect? I dunno, is anything? I’m sure there are hotels I would love that aren’t on the platform in some cities, and I’m sure somewhere, sometimes there are rates lower elsewhere. I just haven’t seen them, and I’m pretty decent at this whole game. I see the $99 annual price point as a unique niche, in large part because people spend $1000’s each year chasing hotel status with just one chain. I pretty much enjoy similar (or in some cases better) benefits with each stay for a fraction of the price.
The same could be said for the $450-$550 a year credit cards, which tote similar stay benefits as a reason to get the card. I’ve always been a fan of premium credit card booking benefits, but when I can enjoy the same perks without the inflated rates that seem to often be charged via these credit card booking portals, I feel like I’m winning.
If there’s a downside, it’s the lack of loyalty program – a la Hotels.com – which offers your 10th night free, based on the average price of what you spent per night to earn the 10th night free. Of course that program doesn’t offer any benefits, and has virtually every hotel under the sun listed, so it’s far from perfect either. If you’re into the whole rebate thing, Tablet probably isn’t the right answer for you. But if you are just happy to enjoy excellent rates at places which are well curated, while enjoying VIP perks too, you may find yourself in my position, absolutely loving it.