5 ways to check into the best hotel deals
Traveling is expensive: Americans spend $137 per night on average for hotel rooms alone, according to Hotels.com's Hotel Price Index. Not to mention, there's the cost of food, souvenirs and the transportation to get there. But if you're overpaying for your hotel room, it's really no one's fault but your own.
With a little effort, ingenuity and tact, you can sneak into some great deals – even on holiday weekends. But you have to ask! Here's how:
1. Don't click – call.
Before you book a room, call the hotel itself (the specific location, not the chain's 800 number) during business hours and get an actual human on the line to see if the hotel will match or beat rates you've found online. You typically won't have to pay in advance, and should an issue come up, you'll have a real name to work with – not a third-party search site. Don't like the rate they give you over the phone? Hang up (politely) and call again 12 hours later. You will likely get a different employee on a new shift who might be more amenable to helping you.
2. Know what you're paying for.
Some hotels charge a resort fee that might not be included in an online quote. Others charge for Wi-Fi, breakfast, the morning paper or use of the gym. If you're staying in a city, parking can cost $35 or more a day. And if your family pet is joining you on your travels, many hotels charge a pet fee of $25 to $100, which can be total or per day. Ouch. To avoid unpleasant surprises, always ask about which fees are included and how much they'll cost you.
Smaller boutique hotels might not come up on search sites, since the hotels don't want to pay the often pricey commissions to use them. So run a search directly through Google or TripAdvisor to track them down, then ask for a discount in honor of you supporting a local business over a large chain. You can also call the local business bureau for the area you're visiting to get recommendations on smaller hotels, inns and B&Bs that might be flying under the radar. Be sure to ask if these smaller venues have any partnerships with local restaurants or attractions; many do, and you might snag more discounts!
4. Bundle, bundle, bundle.
If you're going on an extended trip, try to book your hotel, airfare and car rental as one. Often, large chains have deals with each other to offer steeper discounts if you book together. Plus, this way, all your reservations are in one place (and under one customer service number) should anything come up. Many major cities also offer weekend or weeklong passes to bundle attractions, such as museums, viewing platforms and walking tours. Pay one discounted price to see all the city has to offer.
5. Go big.
In lieu of a hotel room, find a house or condo rental on Airbnb or VRBO. Because you're dealing directly with the owner, you can sometimes get better deals for more space, especially if you're traveling with a large group. This option also gives you a kitchen to cook meals in, which can help you to save big. You might even have access to bonus amenities such as laundry, a dishwasher and pool.
Pro-Tip: Get Your Status Matched
I'm not a big fan of credit cards in general, as I don't believe in spending money you don't have. However, they can be useful for building credit and securing points for gas, airlines and hotels. But how do you choose a rewards credit card to start building up a status? Well, you don't need to.
Many hotels and brands will match your status with a competing hotel or brand once you have achieved it. Simply call customer service and ask about matching or "challenge" loyalty programs. They will likely ask you to scan or fax a document showing your status with their competitor as proof and then will boost you to the same level of status for their brand or property. Why? Because you're clearly a loyal customer and frequent traveler, and they want to get in on your patronage, too!
Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report
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