Perhaps you’ve heard that hotel deals will be plentiful in the coming months. It’s true! In 2010, the hotel customer is king. Whether you want a room upgrade or a few extra amenities during your stay, this is the time to ask for it.
“There was a time when hotels would have one rate for high season and one rate for low season, and that was it,” says Tom Meyers, editor of EuroCheapo.com. “But now there are constantly changing rates based on availability and what other hotels are offering throughout that same city. Cities like New York and London are extremely competitive, and people can [bargain more], especially if the hotels still have availability as they get closer to [the customer’s] actual travel days.”
Start Combing for Deals
Let’s say you’ve booked a flight to Las Vegas in the coming month, and you’re in the market for a great hotel deal. Don’t just visit one site and be done—as in any situation, comparing prices will reap dividends in getting you the best value for your money.
Start with a search of the local convention and visitors’ bureau (in this case, VisitLasVegas.com). Partner properties will be listing their current offers directly on the website, so you may find a great rate, a free night’s stay, a complimentary room upgrade, dining vouchers, and the like. You’ll also want to look at your preferred hotel brands’ websites, as they may have online-only deals or other promotions not listed elsewhere. Then, use a comparison-search tool to determine if any online travel agencies have a better deal for your trip. You can also check out SmarterTravel’s hotel section for the latest deals.
Once you’ve done a comprehensive search and found a property you like, you may be ready to book. Or, you may have found a property that interests you, but also saw better offers at similar, competing properties. This is why it’s important to…
Deal Directly With Your Hotel
Before pressing the “book” button online, call your hotel’s front desk directly (not a central reservation line) and ask to speak to a manager or head of reservations. You can mention any prices or promos you found online, both at the property itself and at competing hotels, and ask if there’s any wiggle room with regard to pricing. If the price is non-negotiable, ask for extra amenities or a room upgrade in order to get your business. Maintaining a cordial and friendly tone is key.
Meyers put this strategy to good use at his favorite hotel in Paris. “Last year, when I booked in the off-season, they were offering a discount, so I checked prices on [the hotel’s own] website, then called them to see if [that] was their best offer,” he says. “I got the online discount over the phone and also was able to ask for my preferred room. In this case, it really paid to call and check for the prices.”
Are You a Frequent Visitor? Speak Up!
If you’re a regular customer, be sure to speak up, whether you always stay at a specific property or if you’re loyal to a particular brand of hotels. Inquire about customer loyalty programs and returning-guest discounts or perks. Often, you can shave a little bit off your bill, get a free breakfast or cocktail, or a similar gift that acknowledges your repeat business.
In addition, find out if any of your professional or association memberships could translate into savings. Hotels frequently offer deals for AAA members, as well as discounts for the military, educators, senior citizens, students, and others.
Don’t Be Afraid to Go Last-Minute
“People should start searches and look for prices as soon as they know that they’re going to travel, but be open to booking at the last minute … especially depending on when they’re going and where they’re going,” says Meyers. “Paris in July, I wouldn’t recommend showing up without a room. But recently one of our writers showed up in Dubrovnik, Croatia, without a room, and her [bus] was greeted by several hoteliers making offers right at the station. Many were from the same places that she saw when she was searching hotels online, but now their prices were much, much less.”
This year, aim high for your vacation, particularly with regard to hotels. “People [should] choose where they want to travel first before they think of the budget,” says Meyers. “Then [they] can plan accordingly to make their trip affordable. You can afford to go basically anywhere you want when you plan a trip this way.”
What deals have you seen during your vacation planning this year? Are there any hotel brands where you’ve consistently found good deals and extra amenities? Share your expertise by submitting a comment below!
(Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns hotels.com.)