September 8, 2003 -- The best kind of freebie is one you get for doing something you were going to do anyway.
In the case of hotel discounter Quikbook (www.quikbook.com), they're giving away $15 L.L. Bean gift certificates to anyone who books and completes three hotel stays by December 31.
There are no catches, no tricks, no hidden strings. Your hotel stays can be of any length, at Quikbook's lowest rates, at any hotel. Stay six times, get two certificates; stay nine times, get three.
Sure, a $15 gift certificate towards duck boots isn't a free hotel night or flight to Fiji, but don't look a free sweater in the ... uh, weave.
You'd Shop There Anyway
The brilliance of this promotion is that Quikbook is a place you should be shopping anyway. They often have the best rates for high-demand cities like New York and San Francisco. When we checked some November weekend dates, for instance, we saw the Swissotel-The Drake in New York for $239 on Quikbook (versus $259 on Hotels.com).
Competition between online hotel booking agencies is just as intense as competition for low airfares, so don't let the gift certificate offer sway you. We'd suggest you use Travelaxe (www.travelaxe.com) to sweep several sites for the best rates and then separately visit Expedia, Quikbook and a hotel's own site for comparisons.
Quikbook's response to the competition is a guarantee: if, within 48 hours of your booking, you find the exact same room for the exact same price somewhere else (except on Priceline), they'll refund you the difference. That's a nice safety net, though we'd probably just book the room at the cheaper rate to begin with.
The site also has a neat new feature in their ShortCuts page (www.quikbook.com/shortcuts.asp), where you can see a list of hotels fulfilling any one of ten requirements, from historic hotels to pet-friendly hotels to places with high-speed Internet.
We eyeballed a few of their lists, and they seem to be missing a few good Quikbookable offerings. For instance, ShortCuts lists no historic hotels in Philadelphia, and we'd call the Latham (built in 1907) historic. We could also make a good argument for the Flamingo being a historic hotel in Las Vegas (it's the original joint on the Strip), but that's a quibble. The ShortCuts list is still a good way to charge up your imagination.