Booking Hotel Hacks

Email the General Manager

Elizabeth Houck is now consistently upgraded to the king suite at one particular hotel because she emailed the general manager after having a mediocre experience at their hotel. “I wrote the GM about the experience and he was happy to extend a fantastic rate for me to give the hotel another chance. Needless to say, the upgrade to the king suite on my next visit was well worth the few minutes it took to write the email.”

Once she had a relationship with the GM, Elizabeth wasn’t afraid to ask for more. “In a follow-up phone call before my next arrival, I asked for exactly what I wanted — a good rate, no resort fee, and a king room. I then emailed him confirming my stay.”

Use Bidding Sites

Dalene and Pete Heck of HeckticTravels.com sold everything in 2009 to travel the world, and have been named 2014 National Geographic Travelers of the Year. They enjoy the deep discounts offered by using hotel bidding sites.

“We are recent converts to Priceline.com and Hotwire.com — two sites that have allowed us to save big money on hotel rooms. While we never know the exact hotel we will be staying at before we book it — we only choose by location and “star” rating — their prices are deeply discounted we have never been disappointed.”

Call the Hotel

If it’s your first stay at a given hotel, and you don’t have a reason to contact the general manager, you can still negotiate a good deal. Mike Richard has been a professional traveler since 2006 and is the founder of Vagabondish.com. His advice is decidedly low-tech but effective: Simply call the hotel and ask them for a deal.

“This works especially well with mom-and-pop hotels or smaller chains. Find the best possible deal online, then call the hotel and see if they’ll do better. I find better deals more than 75% of the time.”

Mike adds that the hotel has an incentive to give you a deal since by calling them directly to book, they won’t have to pay commissions to a third-party booking site.

Go Last-Minute With Groupon

If you have some flexibility (and nerves of steel), wait until the last minute and use sites like Groupon to nab a deal. This tip comes from Kristin Addis, a former investment banker who quit her job to travel full-time, and now blogs about her nomadic adventures at Be My Travel Muse.

“You can get a room somewhere like Las Vegas the day of or the day before for much, much less, but of course you must be very flexible!”

Use Country/Currency Arbitrage

Erin Bender of Travel With Bender – “Search in different country-specific versions of the same website and also try an incognito browser window. For instance, Expedia.com can be cheaper than expedia.com.au even when you take the currency exchange rate difference into consideration.”

Go long if you are staying somewhere for more than a week, contact the hotel directly to negotiate a lower rate. It’s less work for the hotel to keep one customer than to turn over the room constantly.

Use price guarantees with some hotel chains like Marriott will match the lowest price you find and may give you freebies or further discounts on top of it. As an added bonus, by contacting the hotel for their price guarantee and booking directly with them as opposed to using the booking site you found it on, you’ll earn loyalty points for your stay. Hotels would have a different system for handling price-matching requests, so check their website before. If approved, the extra discounts are added automatically.

If you’d rather collect frequent flyer miles than hotel points, check a site called Rocketmiles. Each hotel booking on the site generates thousands of miles for the loyalty program of your choice. So you may pay a few bucks more a night than you would if you booked directly, and you won’t get any hotel loyalty points, but if you travel frequently you’ll rack up miles that you can use for free flights down the road.

Book with Service (app), and you’ll automatically get refunded any time the price drops between when you book and when you stay. Another option is Pruvo, which will alert you if it finds a cheaper option after you book; you can then cancel your original reservation and make a new one using the site’s own booking service.

If booking ahead isn’t your thing, you can take advantage of deals on unsold rooms the day you arrive by using a last-minute app such as Hotel Tonight or Booking.com.

Downtown hotels that draw lots of business travelers may be more affordable on the weekends once the suits have cleared out. Meanwhile, cozy B&Bs that specializes in romantic weekend getaways typically offer lower rates during the week. Time your booking accordingly to save.

If your plans change unexpectedly and you’re left with a nonrefundable hotel booking that you can’t use, you can resell it to someone else using RoomerTravel.com or Cancelon.com. You won’t get the full price back (each site charges a fee, and your room won’t sell if you don’t offer a bit of a discount), but it’s better than losing everything you’ve already paid.

At several chains, including Omni and Fairmont, you can avoid paying a daily fee for in-room Wi-Fi by signing up for the hotel’s loyalty program.

If you’re staying at an airport hotel the night before an early flight, you can often leave your car in the hotel lot during your trip for less than the cost of parking at the airport. Use ParkSleepFly.com or BuyReservations.com to find packages that include both the cost of your hotel and a few days’ or weeks’ worths of parking.

Find a hotel chain that also appreciates your favorite ways to exercise. Kimpton Hotels offer a yoga mat in every room, and Westin hotels have a running program in place with New Balance in which guests can borrow shoes and clothes plus get running routes near the property.

Stay with your luggage – if you walk into the lobby ahead of your luggage, it could be snatched. Keep your luggage nearby too, because if the lobby is busy, enterprising thieves can take advantage of the distraction.

Most reputable hotels with the honest staff know not to give out names or room numbers, but it’s still known to happen. If your room number is compromised (i.e., announced out loud), ask to be given another room. You never know who is listening and your room number is a matter of personal security.

Don’t set your credit card on the check-in counter – it’s too easy for a thief to capture the numbers with a good camera. And when it’s handed back to you, be sure it’s your credit card and not someone else’s or a bogus card.

Ask to see a selection of rooms when at check-in. Hotels often try to book the worst of the rooms first.

Slip the front office staff your credit card together with a $20 note and ask if there are any ‘complimentary upgrades’ available and just wait for the magic to happen.

Stay between the third and sixth floors since thefts are most common on the first and second floors, so staying on a floor above those will reduce your chance of theft. Another consideration: Most fire engine ladders can’t reach the seventh floor.

Skip the historic stays. While a Victorian B&B might be charming, personal, and romantic—but it probably has allergens and dust hiding in the rooms and lounges. If worried about getting sick the better option is a clean, modern hotel.

Choose hotels over motels since it is easier to steal from a room when there is no lobby to pass through. And, if your bedroom opens to the outside, you’re literally opening your door to dirt and allergens.

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