I have conservatively estimated that prior to the purchase of our motor home, we'd spent over 450 nights in a hotel room. This alone and the fact that I worked at a hotel for over a year and a half leads me to think that I can offer you a few words of wisdom; particularly how to get discounts, what to ask when booking a room and what chains to avoid like the plague. But this may take awhile, so for your sake, I'll break this information down into several posts. Let's begin with some money saving tips.
1. Advance Reservations
When it comes to staying in a hotel, you'll often get the best rates if you book well in advance. Hotels are driven by supply and demand. As demand for their rooms increase, so do the rates. Typically, you won't find your best rate during special events, weekends or holidays. As a former hotel employee, I can safely say that the sooner you book your room the better. I sometimes took reservations for rooms up to 364 days in advance, as prices increase every year. If you have the luxury of knowing your travel plans that far ahead, that's wonderful. You can always shop around for a better rate and cancel your existing reservation if you find one, but if not, you should have a pretty good rate locked in.
2. Ask for Discounts
Now, what about those times when you don't have as much notice? Certainly the more notice you have the better, right? Well, not always but this is where securing your hotel room can be a bit of a gamble. You can make your reservations ahead of time or wait and hope for a last minute deal. Let's continue talking about advance reservations. If you are calling the hotel directly, always inquire as to what the best rate is.
It has been my experience as a traveler and as a hotel employee that your best rate is normally going to be an Internet rate for reservations. But that is not always the case as policies differ between establishments, your best bet will be to ask the hotel representative directly when calling. If you ask they are normally straightforward. Also, be sure to ask about AAA, AARP, Military, Corporate, Pastor's rates, and government rates. And, if you are eligible for more than one, inquire as to which rate will reap the biggest monetary savings.
3. A Word about AAA
Let's talk about AAA for a moment. I'm sure many of you have heard of AAA. Some people chose to enroll in the club for peace of mind with the roadside assistance. Our membership has certainly paid for itself several times over. We've had our vehicles towed on more than one occasion and several years ago I went through a period when I couldn't seem to remember to remove my keys from inside my van before locking it! Thank goodness we had AAA then!
Some chose to join AAA for the travel planning services they offer; did you know that AAA is the largest travel agency in North America? Although I don't normally use one of their agents when I'm planning a trip, I do love the online triptik feature and always peruse the Tourbooks before visiting an area. But the biggest motivation I have for joining AAA is purely financial, you will save money while you travel!
In one week, we were able to save enough money off our hotel room with the AAA rate that our membership was paid for! How could we resist? Hotels aren't the only places you'll save. You'll save on rental cars, campgrounds, discount tickets to big attractions (like Disney) and even retailers. A membership is worth consideration...
4. Off Season Travel & Flexible Travel Dates
You'll be amazed at how much money you can save if you can travel during the off-season. We've stayed at incredible hotels that were normally several hundred dollars a night on their off-season for under $100. The trick is to travel when you can save on your hotel rates, but not to miss out on the attractions that you want to see in the area that sometimes close or have reduced operating hours certain times of the year.
You'll always pay more during special events. The hotel I worked for catered towards the racing crowd. That meant that during those key races, if you were able to find a room, you were going to pay 200% more than if you traveled the week before or after. When making a reservation online, try several different dates and see if you get a price difference or call the hotel and ask for quotes for several dates. Just remember that those rates aren't locked in until you make your reservation.
5. Using Coupons
If you prefer not to reserve your room in advance, or don't have much notice that you'll be traveling, a coupon rate will be your best rate if the hotel offers them and if you have one (coupons can be obtained at gas stations, rest stops, visitors centers ad now ONLINE). Always call the hotel to verify that the coupon is still valid, if the designated rooms are still available and if there are any additional costs. Make sure to read the fine print. The coupon will normally be for a specific room type or will only allow so many people, maybe one or two, with a surcharge for additional occupants.
6. Ask for Discounts
If you don't have a coupon, ask what your rate will be with any discounts that you qualify for. Finally, ask if they are offering any manager's specials. If the hotel is under booked, the front desk representative, may be able to offer you a special discounted rate. The hospitality business is very competitive and if you walk into their hotel, they want to keep you there and don't want you going next door to their competitor. I was able to offer substantial discounts, if the customer asked. Why offer a discount to someone that is willing to pay full price? So next time you travel, remember, you can bargain a bit and ALWAYS ask for discounts!
7. Weekly Rates
If you are planning a trip to an area that you will be spending a minimum of 7 days, be sure to call the hotel directly and ask if they offer a weekly program. Remember, it never hurts to ask!
8. Rewards Programs
Join a rewards program. Almost all hotels offer them, it's free and you'll be surprised how fast those rewards can add up. Especially if you travel during specified promotion periods. This year we've already received quite a few free nights! But then, we've already established how often we frequent hotels, or used to I should say! Find out how quickly you can stay your way to free nights here.
9. Discounts for Homeschooling Families
Now, attention homeschooling families, do you know that HSLDA has negotiated a 20% discount for members at Choice Hotels? Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Comfort Suites, Clarion, and Mainstay Suites** fall under the Choice name and are normally a good mid-priced hotel to consider. If you are reserving a room online, always call the hotel directly to verify that you are receiving the best rate.
**Rodeway and Econo Lodge also follow under the Choice Hotels umbrella, but I’ve had enough BAD experiences at both that I will not recommend either of these chains.
10. Online Bidding Agents
Finally, there are online bidding agents such as Priceline, Orbitz, etc. While I have heard of people really saving substantially, I prefer to skip the bidding process and know in advance what hotel I'm going to stay at, be it good or bad.
There you have it, hopefully I've given you some ideas on how to save money on your next trip- and if you take my advice, why not leave a comment telling me how much money you saved? Or if you have tips you'd like to share, please do!
Until the next post....Happy Traveling! This post is linked to Oh, Amanda’s Top Ten Tuesday.