Why do flights get overbooked? Airline experts explain what you can do to avoid being bumped

Alaska Airlines recently made news when a gay couple was asked to give up one of their seats on a flight. In a Facebook post, David Cooley said that his partner was asked to move to accommodate a straight couple, in what seemed like “preferential treatment.”

In a statement to Gay Star News, the airline said it has apologized to the passengers, stating that both parties were assigned the same seats — a “seating error, compounded by a full flight and a crew seeking on-time departure and nothing more than that.”

According to Seth Kaplan, a managing partner at Airline Weekly, this issue may have been the result of both a system error and bad judgment, he said in a phone interview. However, William J. McGee, a journalist with a previous career in airline flight operations management, said this issue may be due to Alaska Airlines overbooking its seats, a common practice among airlines, he told Mic over the phone.

RELATED: Never eat this on an airplane 

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Onions and garlic

Go easy on your seat mates—that garlic bagel you enjoyed for breakfast might linger through a flight later on. The compound allyl methyl disulfide, one of the culprits contributing to garlic breath, can take up to 24 hours to be removed from your body. Thankfully, Sheryl Barringer, PhD, professor and department chair of food science at Ohio State who co-authored a study on managing the odor (published in the Journal of Food Science) has an easy fix. "Eating foods like a raw apple or mint leaves can help deodorize your breath after eating garlic," she says. You might be all too familiar with garlic breath, but avoid these other surprising foods that give you bad breath before a plane ride.

Alcohol

For individuals who fear flying, drinking alcohol might seem like a way to calm down. Plus, you might think of the start of vacation as an excuse to overindulge—but think twice: Flying by itself is a dehydrating experience, according to the Aerospace Medical Association. Sitting on a cramped flight for more than four hours already increases chance of blood clots in high-risk people, according to the CDC, and dehydration from drinking adds yet another layer of risk. Watch out for 18 more things you shouldn't do on an airplane.

Dried fruit 

That snack bag of dried apricots seems mighty enticing if no meal is included on your flight. You may live to regret it if you have been newly diagnosed with asthma and aren't particularly familiar with its triggers. Dried fruit can contain sulfites, which could promote an attack, according to research article in the journal Gastroenterology and Hepatology from Bed to Bench. Lower oxygen levels might worsen breathing issues, according to the Aerospace Medical Association. Try these 11 nutritionist-approved tips for eating at airports instead.

Coffee

Grabbing a Venti dark roast on your way to the gate is a common habit. But that cup of coffee delivers 410 milligrams of caffeine. Two hours into the flight, you'll have annoyed your neighbors with several bathroom trips and restlessness. A 2017 studyin the journal Frontiers in Nutrition found that 6 milligrams caffeine per kilogram of body weight (408 milligrams for a 150-pound person) can act like a diuretic, leading to fluid, sodium, and potassium loss. This caffeine jolt could also result in symptoms such as headaches or muscle cramps, warns the Mayo Clinic. Plus, flight attendants warn about this gross thing lurking in airplane coffee.

Blue cheese

Skip the Cobb salad on the in-flight menu—blue cheese can be a problem for someone with a milk allergy. The last place you want to find out if you'll react is at 35,000 feet. The cabin is pressurized, but the environment is still similar to the air at the 6,000- to 8,0000-foot altitude. Those lower oxygen levels mean individuals with respiratory ailments are especially vulnerable, according to the Aerospace Medical Association. Plus, tummy-related symptoms could be an even bigger problem if turbulence is keeping you in your seat and away from the bathroom.

Nuts and nut butter  

Peanuts are a handy snack, but you'll be going hungry if the flight attendant announces that someone on board has a severe nut allergy. Because the plane recycles a percentage of cabin air, opening your bag of nuts could expose the allergic person. How airlines handle the issue varies—Allergy Safe Travel provides links to various airline policies. For example, your nuts could be OK on Jet Blue Airline, which tries to discretely create a nut-free buffer zone the row in front of and behind the allergic passenger.

Tap water

Sure, airlines dole out H2O in bottles, but their coffee and tea are made with tap water—and you might want to wait on those until you land. The Aircraft Drinking Water Rule of 2009 requires airlines to inspect their water transit systems for E. coli at least every five years, which leaves an uncomfortable amount of room for error. Sure enough, a 2015 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that water on the two planes it tested contained bacteria known to cause disease. Carry your own water bottle, and fill it after you get past security—and before you board.

Salami 

That salami sandwich you grabbed while waiting at the airport may come back to haunt you during your flight. Salami is considered a high-histamine food, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article. In those who are sensitive to histamines, eating it could aggravate nasal allergies or sinusitis, making lift-off and landing a congestive nightmare. Next time, choose the turkey sandwich.

Beans, peas and lentils  

Get this: The Aerospace Medical Association reveals that the change in cabin pressure can cause gas in your intestines to expand up to 25 percent. Those fiber-rich legumes give you gas on the ground—imagine what they can do to you (and your unwitting seat mates) once you hit cruising altitude. Plus, the abdominal crowding will make you even more uncomfortable if you're pregnant. Avoid the black bean burrito before you board, and maybe skip any beans on the side of your in-flight meal. Here are other 11 more weird ways that flying alters your body.

Breakfast sandwich

Hit the brakes on that fast-food breakfast sandwich. The USDA lists biscuits with egg and ham as the worst fast-food item for sodium content. At 1,989 milligrams, one sandwich happens to be 86 percent of the recommended daily 2,300 milligrams of sodium. All that sodium can boost blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, which is especially concerning when the flight's low oxygen puts additional strain on your heart. Stick to fruit and yogurt or other low-salt options.

Carbonated beverages  

Lower oxygen levels can make flying particularly trying for individuals with lung disorders. A study in the European Respiratory Journal found that 18 percent of passengers with lung disease had at least mild respiratory distress during a flight. To make matters worse, gas expansion at high altitudes can increase pressure on your lungs. The Aerospace Medical Association recommends avoiding carbonated beverages, which could increase in gas formation and compromise breathing. Stick to water to keep you hydrated and reduce gas production.

Popcorn

Picture this: You're in your seat with your bag of butter-flavored popcorn ready to watch a movie when the plane hits an unexpected turbulent patch. The bag goes flying, covering you and your neighbors in popcorn kernels. Even if you avoid this embarrassing scenario, you'll have buttery fingers, a rustling package, and a strong, buttery smell for everyone around you. And if the fiber results in flatulence, you'll realize perhaps some trail mix or healthy chips might be a better option. Check out these 13 things your flight attendant won't tell you.

Dark chocolate espresso beans 

When we think about caffeine we usually think coffee, but dark chocolate can pack a caffeine punch. A 3.5-ounce bar of 85 percent cacao has about 80 milligrams caffeine alone, and chocolate-covered espresso beans contain as much as 336 milligrams per serving, according to the USDA. You won't like that if turbulence makes you anxious. Find out why you should avoid eating airplane food entirely.

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Why do flights get overbooked?

Overbooking is the result of miscalculation, McGee said. Typically, an airline anticipates a certain number of people missing their flight — and sometimes, they’re wrong.

“Airlines are allowed by law to sell more seats than they offer, and in theory, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “But it’s a harmful practice that continues to inconvenience thousands of passengers every day.

“That’s when they have to figure out a way to make everybody happy,” Kaplan added. When an airline has oversold a flight, there are two consequences: voluntary or involuntary denied boarding. When a passenger is voluntarily bumped, they have chosen to take a later flight in exchange for compensation or vouchers. But without any volunteers, passengers can be involuntarily bumped and offered “denied boarding compensation,” which is based on ticket fare, length of delay caused by denial of boarding and whether the flight is domestic or international.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website, an airline may deny a seat subject to their own criteria, which can include a passenger’s check-in time, ticket price or frequent flyer status.

Not all airlines overbook flights, however. JetBlue has a policy against overbooking its flights, but Kaplan said it still has a surprisingly high rate of involuntary bumping. The airline recently attributed this to aircraft changes and occasionally bumping passengers from smaller planes while new planes undergo maintenance.

Major airlines, like United, Delta and American, however, have more complex prices and often change fares up until a flight takes off, resulting in a greater chance for miscalculation, McGee noted.

“They sell more seats than they have in this model,” he said. “In those cases, they’re charging different fares for practically every single seat on the plane and sometimes the system doesn’t work.”

RELATED: Pilot code words to understand 

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"Doors to arrival and crosscheck." 

Used in a sample sentence: "Flight attendants, doors to arrival and crosscheck."

Definition: The announcement, usually made by the lead flight attendant as the plane is approaching the gate, is to verify that the emergency escape slides attached to each door have been disarmed — otherwise the slide will deploy automatically as soon as the door is opened.

"All-call."

Used in a sample sentence: "Flight attendants, doors to arrival, crosscheck, and all-call."

Definition: According to Smith, "all-call" is usually part of the door arming/disarming procedure. "This is a request that each flight attendant report via intercom from his or her station — a sort of flight-attendant conference call," he wrote.

"Holding pattern." 

Definition: "A racetrack-shaped course flown during weather or traffic delays," Smith wrote. "Published holding patterns are depicted on aeronautical charts, but one can be improvised almost anywhere."

"Flight level."

Used in a sample sentence: "We've now reached our cruising altitude of flight level three-three-zero. I'll go ahead and turn off the seatbelt sign."

Definition: "There's a technical definition of flight level, but I'm not going to bore you with it," Smith wrote.

According to the long-time airline pilot, flight level is simply a fancy way of saying how many thousands of feet the plane is above sea level.

"Just add a couple of zeroes. Flight level three-three zero is 33,000 feet," he explained.

"Last-minute paperwork." 

Used in a sample sentence: "We're just finishing up some last-minute paperwork and should be underway shortly."

Definition: For many of us, this announcement is a precursor to a delay. According to Smith, this "paperwork" is usually a revision of the flight plan, something to do with the plane's weight-and-balance record, or simply waiting for the maintenance staff to get the flight's logbook in order.

"Ground stop."

Used in a sample sentence: "Sorry, folks, but there's a ground stop on all flights headed south from here."

Definition: "The point when departures to one or more destinations are curtailed by air-traffic control, usually due to a traffic backlog," Smith wrote.

"Air pocket."

 Definition: A colloquial term for a jolt of turbulence.

"Equipment."

Used in a sample sentence: "Due to an equipment change, departure for Heathrow is delayed three hours."

Definition: The airplane. "Is there not something strange about the refusal to call the focal object of the entire industry by its real name?" Smith wrote.

"Flightdeck."

Definition: Cockpit.

"First Officer (Co-Pilot)."

Definition: The first officer or co-pilot is the second in command of the plane and sits on the right side of the cockpit wearing three stripes on his or her shoulder.

"He or she is fully qualified to operate the aircraft in all stages of flight, including takeoffs and landings, and does so in alternating turns with the captain," Smith wrote.

"Final approach."

 

Used in a sample sentence: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are now on our final approach into Miami."

Definition: "For pilots, an airplane is on final approach when it has reached the last, straight-in segment of the landing pattern — that is, aligned with the extended centerline of the runway, requiring no additional turns or maneuvering," Smith wrote. "Flight attendants speak of final approach on their own more general terms, in reference to the latter portion of the descent."

"Deadhead."

Definition: According to Smith, a pilot or flight attendant who is deadheading onboard a flight is one who is traveling to a destination to be repositioned as part of an on-duty assignment.

"This is not the same as commuting to work or engaging in personal travel," he clarified.

"Direct flight."

Definition: Whether or not a flight is "direct" has nothing to do with how many stops it makes on the way to the destination. Instead, a direct flight is defined as a routing where the flight number does not change.

"This is a carryover from the days when flights between major cities routinely made intermediate stops, sometimes several of them," Smith wrote.

"Nonstop flight."

Definition: A flight that doesn't make any stops along the way.

"The ramp."

Used in a sample sentence: "We're sorry, your suitcase was crushed by a 747 out on the ramp."

Definition: The ramp is the area closest to the terminal where planes and vehicles are active such as the aircraft parking zones.

Again, this is a relic from the early days of aviation. "In the early days of aviation, many aircraft were amphibious seaplanes or floatplanes. If a plane wasn't flying, it was either in the water or it was 'on the ramp,'" Smith wrote.

"Final and immediate boarding call."

 Definition: "A flamboyant way of telling slow-moving passengers to get their asses in gear," Smith wrote. "It provides more urgency than just 'final call' or 'last call.'"

"Area of weather."

Used in a sample sentence: "Due to an area of weather over New Jersey, we'll be turning southbound toward Philadelphia."

Definition: According to Smith, this usually means a thunderstorm or a zone of heavy precipitation.

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Passengers have few rights with regard to involuntary bumping, McGee said. The U.S. Department of Transportation has very minimal rules in place and the rights of passengers are often determined on an airline’s website in an agreement called a “contract of carriage.”

“When you swipe a card and buy a seat, you’re agreeing to everything that’s in that contract that may be 70 pages long,” he said. “You don’t get to negotiate it. It’s a system that doesn’t favor consumers.”

“When you swipe a card and buy a seat, you’re agreeing to everything that’s in that contract that may be 70 pages long.”

Airplane seats are occupied more than they’ve ever been as a result of overbooked flights, McGee said. In 2018 so far, the average load factor for a flight is 81.7% worldwide, meaning just over 4 out of 5 seats on a flight are occupied, compared to that of 75.2% in 2005. “They’re trying to maximize profits.”

Kaplan added that airlines consider empty seats “spoilage” once a flight has taken off, as they can no longer sell them. “Like stale bread at a bakery at the end of the day,” he said.

Surprisingly, while flights are more packed than ever, people getting bumped has been at its lowest rate since 1995. McGee attributed this to the recent events surrounding an April 2017 United flight when passenger David Dao was dragged from his seat. McGee said airlines reacted by overbooking seats less frequently. In fact, between January and March of 2017, just prior to the incident, United involuntarily denied boarding to 900 passengers. Between those same calendar months in 2018, United denied just 27.

RELATED: Insider secrets to learn 

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1. Book 30 Days in Advance

Knowing the best time to book your hotel room can help minimize travel costs. Boutique hotel booking website Stayful found that you can get the best hotel prices by booking 30 days before your stay, said Cheryl Rosner, co-founder and CEO of Stayful.

However, if you don’t remember to reserve a room a full month in advance, there is another window of opportunity to score a deal. Rosner said hotels also offer great rates seven to 10 days before a stay.

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2. Or Wait Until the Last Minute to Book a Room

If you can handle waiting until the last minute, you’ll often find a great rate at a hotel by booking closer to your stay.

"Book last minute," said Geena Marcelia, travel editor for Hotwire. "Although it’s common practice to book in advance, if it’s possible to wait, you can usually find the best rates one week before your travel dates."

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3. Get a Refund for a Price Drop

If you don’t want to chance ending up without a place to stay, you can reserve a room in advance and still take advantage of price drops by booking through Tingo.com. Tingo will automatically re-book your room at a lower rate if the price drops and refund you the difference.

4. Stay on a Sunday

Timing a hotel stay right can save you money. And Sundays "are almost always the cheapest day of the week for hotels," said Marcelia.

5. Hit Tourist Locales Mid-Week

The cities that are major tourist destinations often see more traffic on weekends, when people aren't working and have time to travel. So, prices tend to rise with demand. You’ll save on the cost of lodging if you go against the tide, said Bob Tupper, author of “Drinking in the Culture: Tuppers’ Guide to Exploring Great Beers in Europe.”

“Go to touristy areas in mid-week, when the tourists aren't there in droves,” he said.

6. Visit Business Hot Spots on Weekends

You can save money on a hotel by staying in a city’s business district on weekends, when business travelers have checked out and headed home, Tupper said. For example, he found a room in an upscale business district of Zurich, Switzerland, on a weekend at half the price of a weekday stay.

7. Take Advantage of Shoulder Season

Shoulder season is the period of time between the off-peak season — when the weather is not ideal for travel — and the peak season, when ideal weather conditions make prices high and crowds abundant. Because demand is lower, hotel rates tend to be as well.

Learn More: The Financial Perks of Off-Season Travel

8. Get Deep Discounts During the Off-Season

Just because a destination has a reputation for extreme heat, cold or storms at certain times of the year, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to experience bad weather if you visit then, said Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U, a site dedicated to traveling alone.

What you will get, though, are deep discounts on lodging, because demand will be lower in the off-season. For example, locales known for having a rainy season can be a good value, because the rains are often brief rather than continuous, she said. You can still do plenty of siteseeing — at a lower cost.

9. Stay in the Suburbs

If you stay on the outskirts of mid-sized and larger cities, you’ll find more upscale hotels at lower prices, said Neil Emerson, president of business development for travel brokerage company Tourico Holidays.

Plus, the cost of parking will be much more reasonable — or even free — if you stay at a hotel in the suburbs rather than the city center.

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10. Watch Out for Event-Related Price Hikes

Before you book a trip, make sure there are no major events happening in the city when you want to visit it, said Eric Grayson, founder of Discover 7 Travel. Otherwise, you could pay astronomical rates because of an increased demand for rooms in the area, he said.

Check the city’s tourism or chamber of commerce site for a calendar of events to ensure you’re not planning a trip at a time when rooms will be scarce and prices will be high.

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11. Be Flexible With Travel Dates

The more flexible you are with the dates you can travel, the more you can save on a hotel room. Brian Ek of Priceline recommends choosing a destination and then pricing the cost of a hotel over a few different weeks or months to spot the best rates.

You can use the Trivago.com Hotel Price Index to see the average monthly prices for 35 of North America’s most popular cities and determine the cheapest time to book a stay.

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12. Be Flexible With Destinations

You can save even more on the cost of a hotel room if you’re willing to be flexible with your destination, Ek said. “Same sand, same water, same sun — only difference is the rate,” he said.

Check Out: 20 Travel Hot Spots Where Your Dollar Goes Far

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13. Use Mobile Apps to Book Hotel Rooms

Travelers often can get special deals on hotels by booking through travel apps, Ek said. For example, the Priceline app has "Tonight Only" deals that offer savings of up to 60 percent on last-minute hotel rooms, he said.  

Emerson of Tourico Holidays recommends the Last Minute Travel app, which offers discounts of up to 60 percent. You also can get $25 off your first hotel booking through the app.

14. Get Discounts on Unused Reservations

You can save money on hotel rooms by taking advantage of other people’s canceled traveled plans. The Roomer website and mobile app let you book discounted rooms that travelers have reserved but can’t use.

Or, if you’ve reserved a non-refundable room but have to cancel your trip, you can get some of your money back using this service. Roomer recommends that sellers offer at least a 20 percent discount on the market price.

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15. Don’t Be Afraid to Book Blindly

You can get discounts of up to 60 percent if you take advantage of the option to book a room and pay online without knowing the exact hotel where you’ll be staying at sites such as Hotwire and Priceline. With Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” hotels, you’ll see a rate — and how much of a discount it is below published prices — along with the general location, hotel details and reviews.

With Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” option, you can specify your preferred neighborhood and minimum hotel star class. Ek recommends seeing what the published rates are for hotels in the neighborhood and then entering a bid that’s 60 percent below the going rate. And with Priceline’s “Express Deals,” you can pick the exact amenities you want — such as number of beds — in addition to star rating and location.

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16. Use Online Coupons

There are plenty of coupon websites that offer codes to save money on purchases with online retailers. But coupon codes aren’t just for products.

"By using online coupons for travel, people can expect to save up to 20 percent,” said Scott Kluth, founder of CouponCabin, a site that offers both coupon codes and cash back on purchases at certain retailers.

The benefit of using coupons is that you can stack them with other discounts and cash-back offers to maximize your savings, Kluth said.

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17. Save With Package Deals

You can save up to hundreds of dollars by taking advantage of deals offered by travel sites that bundle airfare and hotel accommodations into one price, said Ek.

These package deals allow hotels to offer lower rates because the room price isn’t disclosed separately from airfare, he said. “It gives a hotel cover for selling at a lower rate,” Ek said.

Don't Miss: Costco's Best Travel Packages

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18. Bid on Boutique Hotels

If you prefer staying at independent or boutique hotels, you can cut the cost of a room using a site such as Stayful. With Stayful, you can bid on hotel rooms in more than 30 markets — much like you would with Priceline’s “Name Your Price” option — but the name of the hotel is revealed from the start.

“Even if the customer’s offer is too low for the hotel, they will come back with a price they would be willing to accept,” Rosner said. Travelers save an average of 22 percent using the site’s bidding process.

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19. Join Hotel Loyalty Programs

Most of the major hotel chains such as Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott have loyalty programs where you can earn points for staying at their properties and cash in those points for free stays. Programs also offer benefits like discounted room rates, room upgrades and free internet access.

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20. Join Travel Site Rewards Programs

Some travel booking sites have their own rewards programs that members can join for free and earn points for free stays at a variety of hotels.

For example, the Orbitz.com Orbitz Rewards program lets you earn 1 Orbuck for every $1 spent on eligible hotel bookings. Hotels.com also offers a rewards program that’s free to join and allows members to get a free hotel stay after booking 10 stays through the site.

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21. Get Free Stays at Independent Hotels

Major hotel chains aren’t the only ones that reward their guests for being loyal. You can get free stays at independent hotels through Stash Hotel Rewards. This free program lets you earn points by booking through StashRewards.com and redeem them for rooms at more than 150 hotels in 100 cities.

International travelers can join Voilà Hotel Rewards at VHR.com to earn points for free stays at independent hotels and resorts around the world. Members also get other benefits, including early check-in, late check-out and room upgrades.

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22. Get a Travel Rewards Credit Card

You can rack up points for free hotel stays even faster if you get a hotel-branded credit card.

With the Hilton HHonors Card from American Express, for example, you can earn seven points for every dollar you spend on Hilton properties, five points for every dollar spent on gas, grocery and restaurant purchases, and three points per dollar for all other purchases. There’s no annual fee, and you can get 80,000 bonus points if you spend $2,000 in the first three months after getting your card.

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23. Get More Savings With Your Credit Card

Even if you don’t have a hotel-branded credit card, your credit card might offer savings and perks at hotels. For example, American Express Platinum cardholders can book through Amex Travel’s Fine Hotels & Resorts service for benefits such as room upgrades, free internet, food and beverage credits and more. Check your card to see what travel benefits it offers.

24. Get Airline Miles for Booking Hotel Rooms

You can get a lot more value for your hotel dollar by using a travel booking site that gives you airline miles when you book through them, said Jared Blank, CMO of deal and coupon site DealNews.com.

Rocketmiles.com, Pointshound.com and Kaligo.com are three sites that offer up thousands of miles per night for your favorite airline frequent flyer program when you book through them. And room rates are generally the same as those found on other travel sites, he said.

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25. Get Free — or Discounted — Food With Your Stay

Several hotels offer guests free food, so you can eliminate the cost of some meals if you stay at these chains.

Comfort Inn & Suites and Hampton Hotels, for example, offer guests free, hot breakfast. Embassy Suites offers guests complimentary breakfasts and free drinks in the evening. And kids younger than 12 can eat free at Holiday Inn on-site restaurants.

Also, ask the hotel staff about whether it has deals with nearby restaurants that will give you a discount for being a guest at that hotel.

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26. Be Nice to the Staff

When you check into a hotel, treat the staff well to get better treatment. Being nice to hotel employees might get you a room upgrade or other perk at no extra charge.

In addition to being polite, Avery of Solo Trekker 4 U said that if you're staying at a hotel in a foreign country, try speaking to the hotel staff in the local language. When she was in the Middle East, for example, she spoke in Arabic during check-in and was upgraded to a suite — for free.

27. Avoid Resort Fees

Resort fees are extra charges hotels levy for amenities such as the use of gym facilities or pool towels. Ek of Priceline said that travel sites are required to disclose the additional fees that hotels and resorts charge. But sometimes this information is limited, because it’s based on what the properties disclose to the third-party sites.

If these charges show up on your bill and you weren’t aware that you were going to be hit with them — or if you’re charged for amenities you didn’t use — ask to have the resort fees removed. Just remember to be polite about it.

28. Get Free WiFi

If your hotel doesn't offer free WiFi, you might be able to get free access if you join the hotel’s loyalty program — which should be free.

Or, if you have an ample data plan for your smartphone, you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot to connect to the internet. Check your phone’s settings for the personal hotspot option.

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29. Pay Less for Parking

Some hotels in metropolitan areas charge outrageous parking fees. You might be able to find cheaper parking at a nearby parking garage or lot — and there might be coupons that let you save more.

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30. Don’t Check in Early

Find out what time you can check in at the hotel you’ve booked before you arrive by calling or looking online. Otherwise, if you show up before the designated check-in time, you could be charged a fee.

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31. Don’t Overtip Housekeeping

Before you leave money in an envelope for the person who cleans your room, ask whether a housekeeping gratuity is automatically included in your bill, so you don’t spend more on tipping than necessary. Resorts, in particular, are prone to adding this charge.

See: Insider Secrets of Tipping Etiquette

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32. Order Food Delivery Instead of Room Service

You pay a high price for the convenience of room service. Not only will you be charged a room service fee and a gratuity, but you’ll also be expected to tip the person who brings the food to your room.

If you’re too tired to venture out to a restaurant, ask the hotel staff which restaurants in the area deliver to the hotel for free and whether they have menus for them. Or, check local restaurants’ sites to find out which ones offer the best prices.

33. Don’t Leave Your Bags in Hotel Storage

If you ask the hotel staff to hold your bags in storage to avoid checking out late, you might get hit with a fee. To be safe, ask about any fees before handing over your luggage.

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34. Watch Out for Extra Person Fees

Most hotel rates are based on double occupancy. So, if you have more than two people in a room — even kids — you might have to pay more. Always check a hotel’s policy before you book, and avoid properties that charge extra if there are more than two people in your party.

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35. Use Membership Discounts

Take advantage or your profession or membership in various groups to score hotel discounts. For example, hotel chains such as Choice Hotels, Hilton and Marriott all offer discounted rates for military members and government employees.

AARP, the organization for adults 50 and older, offers its members discounts that typically range from 5 percent to 20 percent at several hotels. And AAA members can score discounts of up to 15 percent.

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36. Use a Travel Agent

It’s easy to compare prices and book hotel stays online. But you might get a room with more perks at no extra cost if you use a travel agent to book your stay. That’s because travel agents can leverage their relationships with hotels to get more for guests, said Jenny Ingram of Blue Grotto Travel, a travel agency in Fort Worth, Texas.

Ingram said she once scored a bottle of rum, a room upgrade, spa credit, early check-in and late checkout for clients who were staying at a hotel in Jamaica. And the room rate was the same as what they would’ve found on a discount travel site.

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37. Don't Pay Extra for a View You Won’t Enjoy

Getting a room with a view of the beach or city skyline can cost you more. If you’re only going to be in your room after dark, don’t pay extra for a view you won’t be able to enjoy, said Avery.

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38. Avoid Deals That Are Too Good to Be True

If you find a hotel deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is, Avery said. A hotel with an unbelievably low rate might have lots of hidden costs that could wipe out any savings you think you’re getting. Moreover, quality issues might be the reason a hotel’s price is below the going rate — and a good reason to stay away, said Avery.

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39. Be Persistent

If you check for hotel rates and can’t find any that fit your budget, don’t give up. Hotels frequently adjust their rates, Ek said.

“So, if you don’t see something you like today, come back tomorrow,” he said. “And the next day.”

(Oscar Wong via Getty Images)

40. Set Price Alerts

To keep track of hotel rates, you can sign up for price alerts at the travel aggregator site, Kayak.com. You’ll be notified by a text message or email when rates at hotels you select change. Setting price alerts can help you nab hotel deals without having to check back at hotel or travel sites daily.

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41. Book Your Hotel in Person (in Some Destinations)

"When traveling through Southeast Asia, you can save up to 50 percent on hotels just by booking your room in person and paying with cash," said Max Chambers and Loren Rispoli, who run the travel website Infinite Saturdays. "Sites like Agoda, Booking.com and Hostelworld are great for the U.S. or Europe, but don't provide competitive rates in a number of Southeast Asian countries."

Said Chambers, "Recently, in Cebu in the Philippines, we found the price of one hotel on Agoda quoted at $35, but when turning up at the hotel, they were charging $25 for the exact same room." 

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42. Bargain With the Hotel Owner

If talking to the front desk or hotel staff doesn't get you hotel perks, talk to the big boss.

"Another tip to get cheap hotels in [South Asia] is to bargain with the hotel owners," said Chambers. "Not only can you get a reduced price on your room, you can get things like breakfast or meal vouchers included in your stay."

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43. Book Through the Mobile App

"The best way to find last-minute deals is through mobile websites, mobile apps and by calling in," said Mahesh Chaddah, co-founder of hotel booking site Reservations.com. "Many hotels will offer limited discount rates to mobile users only, so keep those apps handy."

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44. Look for Hidden Rates

"We have all heard of the old saying, 'What you see is what  you get,' but sometimes you want what you don't see," said Chaddah. "Almost all hotels publish the same room rates on all public websites. However, most also offer discount hidden rates up to 30 percent cheaper through unpublished channels, like the call center." 

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45. Become a Registered User and Log in

If you haven't signed up to be a registered user on your favorite travel booking site, you should do so before you plan your next trip.

"Most websites offer limited special rates, flash rates and extra room availability on sold-out hotels to their registered and logged-in users," said Chaddah. "So, make sure you sign up and sign in before searching."

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46. Take Advantage of Tuesdays

Don't wait until the weekend to book your hotel — do it on a Tuesday.

"Based on historical data, hotel booking rates are the lowest on this day of the week," said Chaddah. "So, be sure to compare prices and take advantage of the lower rates being offered on this day."

(amnachphoto via Getty Images)

47. Don't Ignore State Resident Discounts

If you're planning a vacation in your state, you might be eligible to score a discount on your hotel stay.

"Many hotels — for instance, those in Florida and Hawaii — offer state resident discounts," said Chaddah. "All you need is a state-issued ID at check-in, and you can save an extra 10 percent to 20 percent. So, next time you take a staycation or local getaway, make sure you show off that driver’s license."

(picturist via Getty Images)

48. Ask the Front Desk About Partnership Deals

"Most hotels create business partnerships with local businesses, restaurants and activities," said Jennie Jacobs, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Santa Barbara in California. "These relationships equate to great experiences, savings and deals for guests. For instance, a local restaurant partner might provide the front desk or hotel concierge with some discount coupons or maybe a free dessert with dinner, if the staff calls and books the reservation."

49. Tell the Hotel About Other Travel Deals

"If you go to a booking site (i.e. Booking.com ) that has 'deals' listed, call the hotel/inn direct, tell them you have seen the rates offered on the site and were wondering if they could better it," said Pekka Paavonpera, an inkeeper at Snapdragon Inn.

"Chances are they can, by between 10 and 15 percent, because that’s the commission they have to pay the booking site anyway."

50. Sign Up for Hotels' Virtual Guest Books

If you're planning a trip to Vegas, travel expert David Yeskel offers this tip on how to score the best rate on your hotel.

"Travelers should register on the individual hotels’ virtual guest books," he said. "They'll receive promotional emails that often pair low room rates with free daily buffet passes and other resort credits that can bring the effective daily room rate down to ridiculously low levels."

Up Next: 40 Airport Secrets Revealed: What You Need to Know Before You Fly

Sydney Champion contributed to the reporting for this article.

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How to avoid getting bumped from a flight

For those who want to avoid being bumped, fortunately, there are a few things you can do — though they aren’t entirely fool-proof, McGee stressed. He recommends that passengers confirm a seat assignment ahead of time and check-in as early as possible to lessen the chances of being bumped.

“From the airlines’ perspective, they’re much more likely to bump someone who hasn’t checked in or shown up than they are to [bump] someone who’s sitting there and with a boarding pass in their hands,” he said.

Also, be on the lookout for a long stand-by line at a gate, which is also an indication that seats are in high demand and the importance of getting your seat assigned.

And when all else fails, volunteering to take a later flight has its advantages —according to the U.S. Department of Transportation website, passengers are free to negotiate with an airline. “United and Delta, among other airlines, have authorized their agents to go up to $10,000 if they have to,” Kaplan said. “And everybody has their price.”

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