Our best-ever hotel tips

If you travel often, you've probably noticed that hotel prices are rising all over the world. But luckily there are a few insider tricks that can help you save on your next stay.

Hotel rates can fluctuate, and when sales do occur, they aren't always advertised openly. One clever way hotels keep their low rates hidden is by bundling rooms with airfares on travel sites like Travelocity, Expedia, and Orbitz.

For example, a three-night flight and hotel package for two from Newark to Nassau, Bahamas can go for $2,090 on Expedia. Booking separately however, that same trip would cost over $4,000 -- that's nearly 50 percent more than the bundled rate.

And what about booking last minute, like when you have a sudden change of plans? If you're looking to save money and avoid the scramble of 11th-hour reservations, check out HotelTonight.

This app is great when you're in a pinch -- you can find international deals as late as 2 a.m. the night of your stay, at discounts of up to 70 percent. And don't forget that a lot of hotels will let you cancel your reservation as close as 24 hours before without a cancellation fee, although some major chains have started to adopt stricter policies. It pays to know the policy though, because in many cases, you can still cancel your reservation if a better deal comes along.

Lastly, don't hesitate to call the hotel directly to book. The staff will often have access to prices not advertised online, so check the rates on the web before you contact them. One phone call just might save you an estimated 10 to 25 percent off the lowest online price.

With a little digging and a bit of know-how, you can find a hotel that doesn't break your stride -- or your budget.

Related: 9 hotel scams and annoying fees to watch out for
9 Hotel Scams and Annoying Fees to Watch Out for
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Our best-ever hotel tips
After you check in, the room phone rings, allegedly from the front desk. There's a problem with your credit card, the operator says, please give me the account numbers again. To pull it off, all a criminal has to do is trick their way through a hotel switchboard and catch a patron in the room. If you get a call like this, hang up, call the operator, and ask if there's a problem. That's a good habit at home, too. Hang up and call back. If there's really a problem, don't reveal your number over the phone. Just walk back to the front desk.
"You find a pizza delivery flyer slipped under your hotel door," the FTC says. "You call to order, and they take your credit card number over the phone. But the flyer is a fake, and a scammer now has your info." I've not seen widespread incidence of this. it would be pretty brazen for ID thieves to physically walk around hotel hallways, where cameras might be used to identify them. Still, the same principal applies. Use a smartphone to double-check the phone number you see on any flyer placed in your room before you order pizza.
The single easiest way for a hacker to hijack your computer is to set up a rogue hot spot and trick you into connecting to it. "Oh, free WiFi," you think. While that's a very real problem, it's also not terribly likely in a hotel room. After all, to be close enough to pull it off, the criminal's technology would in most cases have to be inside the hotel. That's a risky proposition. On the other hand, you might be visiting a lot of strange coffee shops on the road, where rogue Wi-Fi is a more likely possibility. It's always smart to double-check the safety of the networks you connect to, however. It might be wise to stick with your smartphone's connectivity, if that's possible.
The more expensive the hotel, the more likely you will be charged a hefty Wi-Fi fee of $10-$15 per day. The new trick I've seen lately is for hotels to offer "free" Wi-Fi in the lobby but charge for access in the room. Best way to avoid that fee? Before you leave, make sure you know how to use your smartphone for broadband access.
Hotels have a love-hate relationship with websites like Priceline (PCLN) or Expedia, which help them fill rooms,but systematically put downward price pressure on their inventory. Extra fees, added at check-in, are the hotels' way around this problem. Many folks pay online, only to find there's additional charges when they arrive at the hotel. Resort fees are often the biggest culprit. As the name suggests, this fee is most prevalent in restort-y places like Las Vegas. 
Hotels like charging to clean your room now, as if that's not included in the price. The worst part of the housekeeping fee: Often, housekeepers don't get any of the money.
More hotels are embracing travelers with pets, and they're charge $10 to $100 for allowing a pet in your room. If you use a site like Expedia to sort through pet-friendly hotels, make sure you manually check the fee. Not all pet-friendly hotels are created equal.
This one bugs me. Some hotels put a safe fee on your bill, even if you never use the safe. You can ask that it be removed. Same for the newspaper fee.
Finally, gone are the days when hotels could be canceled by 6 p.m. on the night of a reservation for a full refund. Cancellation policies are all over the map now and can even vary based on how the reservation was initially made. Never book a hotel without knowing what the cost of a breakup would be. Travel always involves adventure, which involves unpredictability, which means plans change. Make sure you plan for that.
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