Roadtrip travel tips: How to save cash on hotels

The recession-choked hotel industry is making it easier for guests to score free nights at major chains, so this summer is a great time to embark on that multi-city roadtrip you've been mulling over. In some cases, the complimentary night could be at a much pricier hotel than the ones you paid for.

I just arrived home from a 17-day family roadtrip from Boston to San Francisco. Along the way, we paid for a total of four nights at three Holiday Inn Express hotels and earned two free one-night stays redeemable at more than 4,000 properties worldwide that are also under the InterContinental Hotel Group umbrella, including the much more upscale InterContinental Hotels & Resorts brand. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. -- which includes brands like Aloft, Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis -- also is offering a free weekend night at its top-tier hotels after guests stay at any of its hotels twice by July 31.

These are among the best hotel deals being dangled. The three of us paid $119 for a night at Holiday Inn Express in Fort Smith, Arkansas; $119 for a night at Holiday Inn Express in Amarillo, Texas; and $140 per night for two nights at Holiday Inn Express in Page, Arizona (all prices include taxes and free continental breakfasts). Yet we can cash in our free-stays at some place posh, like the InterContinental Hotel Los Angeles Century City, where a standard room costs $199 to $829 per night before tax, depending on the popularity of the reservation date.
If you're going to chase after offers like these, be sure to read the fine print -- such as the requirements of signing up for a free membership in the InterContinental Hotel Group's Priority Club Rewards program and then registering your rewards membership number at before booking the reservations. Free stays under this offer can only be racked up until July 3, and they're redeemable from July 3 through Dec. 26. But similar offers abound.

Best Western also is luring guests in by giving a free one-night voucher after registered members stay in the brand's hotels twice between June 21 and August 16. If you want to reap the loyalty discounts while on your roadtrip, brands like Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites are offering 50% off the second-consecutive night of a single reservation through Sept. 7, when booked with the "SUMFAM" rate code.

The best route for your roadtrip? Figure out where you want to stay, then check the brand's websites for deals like these. Then get motoring!
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