By SHANNON KELLY
It’s a no-brainer that if you book well in advance (or in some cases at the very last minute), you will get a better hotel price. And that deals are more plentiful in the off-season or on off-days, like a Tuesday. But some “rules” of discount hotel booking are less clear-cut. Here are five of our top “insider” tips for saving money on hotels.
1. Book at all-suites hotels. All-suites hotels with kitchenettes and laundry service are popular with business travellers, meaning bookings tend to drop off during weekends and holidays—prime time for leisure travel. Though decor is often a bit corporate and you mind end up in a business district, you’ll generally get a large room, the kitchen comes in handy for pre-brunch breakfast (is it just us?) or late-night popcorn and you’ll usually be assured free Wi-Fi.
2. Call the hotel directly. We’re so used to booking online these days that we forget about speaking to a human being. Try calling the hotel’s local number after finding the lowest online price and asking them to beat that price. You can ask for the lowest rate on the room you want, then try to negotiate down. If you’re not having luck with the salesperson, ask to speak with a manager. Be polite but aggressive, and as with any negotiation, be prepared to walk away if the price isn’t right. You might also try the toll-free central sales number to compare. Bonus to direct booking? Easier cancellations and changes, plus confirming the room is what you want (i.e. not facing a Dumpster).
3. Research and ask about all discounts and promotions. Lower rates for CARP/AARP members, auto-club members and rewards-card holders are a given, but it doesn’t stop there: students, government workers, friends and family of hotel employees and other groups may get discounts, too. Ask directly about all promotions.
4. Work the Web sites. Calling the hotel doesn’t always yield the best prices. Sometimes online discounters are the way to go. Head for a Web site that scans and compares all the sites’ prices, like Kayak.com, rather than going to each site individually. A recent article from BudgetsAreSexy.com has some ruthless tips for getting rock-bottom hotel rates on Priceline for 30% less than the prices quoted on Hotwire.
5. Keep track of prices after you book. If you see a rate decrease after booking, call the hotel and ask for that rate. It’s not a guarantee that you will get it, but many hotels will, in good faith, lower your rate to meet the new promotion or discount.