What can you do to get the best hotel deals possible? We have all been there. The family says yes to a vacation, but the budget says no. Or maybe it’s late, you forgot to make hotel reservations and the prices are outrageous. That’s what happened to me when I was on a girlfriends getaway. The three of us were traveling along the Gulf Coast area thinking there would be plenty of rooms. Instead we were stuck driving in circles late at night. Finally, we scored a room at $30 less than the discounted rack rate.
How did we do that? First, let’s cover the basics in how to get hotel deals.
Think beyond AAA and AARP for discounts. Are you in the military, a teacher or work in another government job? That may qualify you for a government discount in some hotels even if you are on vacation. Do you belong to a student discount program or wholesale club like COSTCO? Get ready to pull those cards out of your wallet. Some hotels offer discounts for those members too. Ask at check-in.
Is online or offline pricing better?
Don’t get caught off guard. Check both for the best prices. It only takes a minute for an online search to yield a range of prices for the area you need. Those prices only tell part of the story. Call the hotel directly to compare (especially if discounts for any of the above aren’t listed). Keep your eyes open for coupon books at rest areas and on billboards if you are on a road trip. Ask for an adjustment if you see a better price listed for the hotel you booked.
Think outside the box
Staying outside of a tourist area or away from an interstate may mean less expensive rooms. Look close to where you want to be, but check outside the area also. If you’re flying, check the hotels that are away from the edge of the airport. They often have lower prices and a complimentary airport shuttle – plus you may get a better night’s sleep.
These tips help you get off-peak travel and “dead week” deals
- Weekend rates in business areas
- Weekday rates in tourist areas
- Off-season prices in tourist areas.
Places like Walt Disney World are packed during the holidays. A January marathon drives prices up and then Valentine’s Day business starts kicking in. What happens in between the marathon and holiday travel? Nothing. Prices during this ‘dead week” are a fraction of what they are during the peak season.
Vacation travelers can get the best hotel rates in cities like Washington, D.C. by traveling on the weekends. I have personally stayed in a top notch downtown hotel for around $100 per night on a Friday and Saturday. That same room was upwards of $300 per night during the week.
Now that we have covered the basics on how to get the best hotel deals around, let’s go back to my dark night along the Gulf Coast.
How my girlfriends and I saved $30 and change – off the already discounted room.
My girlfriends and I were exhausted by 11:00 pm. Each of the hotels that we checked were way out of budget or booked. It looked like we were going to spend the night in the car when I decided to try negotiating with the hotel. The decision was a game changer. We found an affordable room in about 10 minutes.
We looked online, saw they still had rooms available and got a AAA rate of just over $130 plus tax. Ouch!
The desk clerk quoted the same price over the phone.
We had nothing to lose from trying to negotiate. The company had budgeted $100 per night with tax for the three of us. I told him that, pointed out that it was late and asked if he could help. His response? “How soon can you be here?”
The parking lot was about halfway full. We saved over $30 and the hotel rented what might have been an otherwise empty room. Negotiation has worked for me several other times. Hotels must fill rooms to stay in business and will sometimes decide that lowered revenue for a night is better than no revenue.
One thing about negotiation is to be nice. Desk clerks are people that you want to have on your side. If you want their help, then be nice. That friendly smile and positive voice tone may go a long way to helping you get the best hotel deals around – especially after midnight.