Everybody wants to pay less for hotel rooms — or at least that is the impression you might get from the number of articles on the Internet about reducing hotel room rates. As Melanie Nayer put it in her "Pack Up" blog on Boston.com, "Finding a great hotel rate doesn't take a physics degree, a miracle or a magic wand. It takes patience, reasonable expectations, a basic understanding of how room rates are factored, and a polite demeanor." Using that polite demeanor, many tips on the Web could save people more money than a gecko hawking auto insurance. Here are some of the best tips from around the Web. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org TWITTER: @degroote FACEBOOK: facebook.com/madegroote
Condé Nast Traveler senior editor Lisa Gill spoke on the "Today Show" on NBC about how luxury hotel rates vary widely depending on occupancy: "A room could be $550 one week because there's a big group, and $250 the next because they have significantly more availability. For top-end hotels that have on-site reservations desks, call and ask the manager when, during your travel window, the hotel will be emptiest and thus have the lowest rates."
BoomerAndEcho.com says regular resort and sports destinations are busy on the weekends but charge 15 percent to 40 percent less during the week. On the other hand, hotels that cater to meetings and business people (usually in downtowns) are busiest during the weekdays and may charge up to 50 percent less on the weekends.
Brandon Ballenger at MoneyTalksNews.com says seasonal rates vary greatly. A room in the busy season could be $500 a night but could drop to $150 in the off season.
Brandon Ballenger at MoneyTalksNews.com says to check for online coupons such as RetailMeNot.com. You can also check Groupon, LivingSocial or even eBay.com.
Condé Nast Traveler senior editor Lisa Gill says hotel credit cards offer "free nights, upgrades, and other benefits they offer might, in the end, save you more money than an airline card." Big chains such as Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt offer credit cards.
The best deals are usually unannounced to the public at large, according to Gill. To get in on these deals, sign up for hotel emails. You can also "like" the hotel's Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.
Not everything can be done on the Internet. Gill recommends calling hotels and asking for any last-minute deals. Their websites do not always have the lowest rates. "If a hotel has a large amount of rooms open for a night and it's less than 48 hours before that date, a manager at the hotel may be willing to reduce the rates further than what the website advertises. Do not be afraid to ask for a lower rate. The worst the manager can do is say no."
Knowing what rates and amenities other hotels in the area offer gives you knowledge to negotiate lower rates, Ballenger at MoneyTalksNews.com says.
BoomerAndEcho.com says to ask about a preferred corporate rate or government rate or to find out if they offer a discount for an organization you belong to. Stacy Johnson at MoneyTalksNews.com takes it even further. He asks about corporate discounts for a group like AARP or AAA. If the hotel offers those groups a discount, Johnson asks for the rate — regardless of whether he is a member or not. If they give it to other people, why not you? "Because whether or not I’m a member of a particular organization, I’m going to get that rate," he says. "But that’s just for starters. Once I’ve secured that discount, I ask again: 'Are you sure you can’t do better?' Then finally, I’m going to ask for the ‘Elvis Suite,’ i.e., a room upgrade.”
If you go this route, you may wish to brush up on your negotiating skills.
CNN/Money says getting a hotel on the outskirts of town with access to public transit can mean big savings. "Rather than stay in the heart of Washington, D.C., where a night at the Dupont Circle Hotel will cost $232, book the $127-a-night Hyatt Arlington across the Potomac in Virginia," CNN/Money says. "Sitting atop a subway station, the hotel is only 10 minutes away, via the Metro system, from the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Monument and other landmarks on the Mall." Ballenger puts it this way: "Everybody’s going to book the closest spots first, so widen the radius of your search to find hotels a little more desperate for your business."
BoomerAndEcho.com says hotel employees get discounted rates — and sometimes they can also apply for friends and family. So if you know somebody who works in the hotel industry, ask them.
BoomerAndEcho.com says there are often advanced booking discounts on hotel websites. For example you could book 14 days in advance and get up to 20 percent off or book a week in advance for 10 percent off. Be careful, though. There might be catches like having to pay up front or not being able to cancel.
Just like airlines, hotels sometimes charge for things that other hotels include in the price. CNN/Money gave an example: "A June stay at Chicago's Amalfi Hotel, including breakfast, Wi-Fi, and valet parking, would run a couple $256 a night; a room at the nearby Hotel Sax was quoted at only $229, but the add-ons would cost another $100."
Ballenger says combined hotel and airfare may be cheaper than doing each on its own. Look on Orbitz and Travelocity for deals.
BoomerAndEcho.com recommends looking at third-party websites like Expedia.com or Travelocity.com to see the rates of hotels in the area you are visiting. The hotel, by agreement, can't offer a lower price on its own website than it offers through Expedia or Travelocity. The trick is, the hotel has to pay a percentage booking fee for every reservationit gets through the other websites. "Savvy hotel operators will know that they will net more profit by offering you a $10 or $15 discount over the phone than they will by allowing you to book on Expedia," BoomerAndEcho.com says. "(For example, if you) book a $100 rate on Expedia — the hotel nets $78. If you book an $85 rate with the hotel directly — everyone wins!"
MSNBC talks about how 24 percent of American workers are considering a staycation this year. Eleven percent say they will definitely take one — all in the name of saving money. "Staying at home and working really hard at pretending it’s just as great as being in Hawaii, Europe or even Grandma's house in the country," MSNBC says.
And the room rates are as cheap as they come.