While even cars have gone the way of reliable sticker prices, hotel accommodations remain a haggler's game, with arcane and confusing rules and terminology that seem aimed to sneak dollars out of your pocket even when you think you're making out well. Take the term "corporate rate," for instance. Corporate employees travel a lot; they must get a good rate, right? Well, some of them do, but probably not the ones who ask for the corporate rate. |
Following are some tactics for getting the best hotel rates any time you travel. Your mileage may vary, and some hotels are more flexible than others, but these ideas and tips as a whole should keep you on the winning side of the bargaining table.
1. Ask for a lower rate. This sounds simple, even doomed, but very often works like a charm. Ask whether the hotel is currently running any promotions or packages, and then see if any of the following special rates might apply: AAA, senior, family, hotel membership, weekend, government discount, frequent flier, convention, shareholder or corporate. Hotels sometimes even have what is called a "fallback" rate for travelers who are resisting the quoted rate.
2. Shop around online. For the latest hotel deals in locations around the world, be sure to check our discount hotel deals daily. In addition, check the Web sites of your favorite hotel chains; often they will run promotions exclusively for Web bookings.
Hotel discount reservation services like Hotels.com can also help you save considerably on hotel rates, as can general travel booking sites like Expedia and Travelocity. Note, however, that these sites may charge booking fees, so often your best strategy is to shop around to find the lowest rate and then call the hotel directly to see if they can match it.
You may also want to check aggregator sites, which search a wide range of hotel chains and travel sites, and then send you directly to the provider for booking.
3. Book by price, not by property. If you care less about a specific hotel than getting the cheapest deal, you may want to consider choosing your own price on Priceline or shopping the anonymous (but deeply discounted) hotel inventory on Hotwire. On these sites you often won't know which hotel you're staying at until it's booked, but you can request the general location and quality (three-star, four-star, etc.) - and you could save a significant amount of money over other booking sites.
4. Call the hotel directly. Many times specials are offered at the hotel that can't be submitted through the central reservations system. The hotel agents have no direct access to room availability, and are often not authorized to negotiate. Hotel agents are generally more in touch with availability and specials, and are therefore more flexible with rates.
Many chains allot only a select number of rooms to the central reservations system, so hotel agents may even tell you a hotel is sold out when in fact the hotel is discounting rooms because of low booking rates!
Create a personalized budget for your hotel and other travel expenses as a means to get this process off to a good start and to ensure you are not going to end up overspending. You need to ensure you get great value for money and the degree of and standard of hotel room you so deserve.
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