Getting a good deal on a hotel room is more than just luck. It takes knowing where to push and when to book and exactly how to haggle to get a cheaper deal on a luxury hotel room. If you’re traveling on vacation this summer, check out these tips for cheaper hotel rooms and other lodgings.
Get the Group Rate
If you belong to AAA or AARP, chances are you qualify for discount hotel rates just about anywhere, but those aren’t the only group that gets discounts. People in certain professions often score dollars off on their hotel rooms. If you’re an educator or in a non-profit profession, mention the fact when you’re booking your room. You may get offered a discount or an upgrade on your reservations.
Likewise, if you’re active duty military personnel, check with the hotel chain to find out if they offer discounts to the military. Choice Hotels, for example, offer a 10 percent discount to military personnel, Marriot offers 15 percent and Days Inn has a 10 percent discount. Those are just a sampling of the larger hotel chains that offer discount hotel rooms to military and military families.
You may also get a discount if you’re a return customer. If you’ve stayed at a hotel before, mention that when you book your room and you may get a discount. And don’t forget the power of association – if your company always uses a hotel or chain for business, mention that even if you’re on a family vacation.
Travel at the Right Time
The off-season is the best time to score great deals on hotel rooms – and just about everything else related to travel. Hoteliers are eager to fill their rooms outside the tourist season, so you’ll benefit from lower prices – as well as shorter lines and more attentive service. Do keep in mind that some tourist attractions may be closed, but on the whole, traveling in the off-season is bound to be cheaper than trying to get a discount during peak tourist season.
Of course, it helps to know when the off-peak travel season is for the region where you’re traveling. In the Caribbean, for example, winter months are prime tourist season, so you can usually score big hotel room discounts if you book a summer vacation. You’ll also save money if you schedule your trip just before or just after the prime tourist season – London in October, for example, or Jamaica in April.
Don’t forget that timing is short-term, too. Many hotels will offer lower rates for midweek stays than if you stay during the weekend, when there’s far more demand for tourist and vacation rooms. On the other hand, if you’re planning a vacation in a “business city,” the rates for hotel rooms may actually be cheaper during the weekend.
And if you’re willing to take a risk, you can score potentially the biggest discounts by trying to book a hotel room on the day of your stay, after 6 p.m., when many hotels have empty rooms or guests who haven’t shown up for their check-ins. Waiting until after the last minute can score you amazingly cheap hotel rates on high-quality rooms – but it can also leave you stranded and sleeping in your car, so weigh your options carefully before taking this risk.
Shop for Cheap Hotel Rooms Online
It’s hard to believe that people are still nervous about booking a vacation online, especially when the payoffs for doing so are so big. If you’re willing to take a chance, you can easily score 4-star hotel rooms in major cities for less than half what you’d pay if you book your hotel room directly.
Check for hotel rooms on Priceline, Hotels.com, Hotwire and other travel deals sites before you book – but before you snag that deal, be sure to check the hotel website for any seasonal deals or promotions that might make it even cheaper.
Don’t Stay at a Hotel
Cheap hotel rooms are always nice to find, but there are other cheap lodging options for vacation travel that can really save you serious money. Look for independent inns, motels and small B&Bs that might offer great savings over a major hotel chain. You can often find them if you look in tourist guidebooks of Chamber of Commerce sites for your destination city.
Check HomeAway.com and similar sites for vacation rentals, which are often cheaper than a hotel room stay – and will provide you with more privacy and space. The range of vacation rentals available is staggering – from a cozy cottage on Cape Cod to a Tuscan villa overlooking the Mediterranean.
You may also save money by staying a little outside your target destination. Room rates in Jersey City, for example, are a fraction of what you’d pay for a hotel room in Manhattan, but you’re only a short ride away from the city.
Learn to Haggle
Asking for a discount can be an excellent way to score cheap hotel rooms, if you know how to negotiate. The trick is tact, say expert travelers. Don’t demand a discount – instead, put yourself in a position where the hotel desk can “do you a favor.” Try something like “I’d love to stay here, but $94 a night is a little more than my budget dictates. Would you consider dropping that by 10 percent?”
Knowing when to negotiate can help, too. If the hotel parking lot is half-empty, for example, it usually means that the hotel has unsold rooms and will be far more willing to negotiate. And take a tip from a pro – leave your luggage in the car when you go in to negotiate. If you bring in your bags, you’re letting the desk staff know that you intend to stay, no matter what the price ends up being.
Check Non-traditional Lodgings
Youth and family hostels are among the cheapest ways to stay in your vacation city. Check Hostelz.com for listings of youth hostels and cheap lodging options in thousands of cities around the world. Also, check with colleges in your destination city. Many of them rent dorm rooms to tour groups and tourists during vacation and summer seasons.