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How to Get the Best Rates at Hotels: 10 Insider Tips

Hotel rates, like airfares, can fluctuate wildly depending on when you make your reservation. Yet, because hotels set their rates based on educated guesses of how many people will want to stay in their hotel on any given night, and how much they'll be willing to pay, there are no hard-and-fast rules, such as booking early, that will ensure you get the best rate.

best hotel rates

Rule #1? Call the hotel directly (not the 800-number) or use a travel agent, then ask for the lowest available rate. These two options are often better than many travel Web sites.

In fact, you can rest assured that two people staying in comparable rooms on the same night may have paid vastly different prices.

How can you make sure that you always get the best hotel rate? Here are the top tips to know.

  1. Use the Internet to Your Advantage. It's a simple way to check rates quickly. Be sure to try mainstays like Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz, along with price aggregators like Kayak. If you're slightly more adventurous, you can also try Priceline (which lets you bid for low prices, but doesn't tell you the name of the hotel until you book).

  2. Call a Travel Agent. Often, they can still get you the best rate, even better than the Internet. Plus, a travel agent may be able to get extras, like free breakfast or room upgrades, thrown in.

  3. Call the Hotel Directly (Don't Use the Toll-Free Number). Although major travel Web sites, and bidding Web sites, often have great hotel deals, it's still possible to find the best deal by using the phone. The trick is to call the hotel's direct line to ask for a price. Often, they'll quote you a much cheaper rate than you'll get from calling the hotel's main, toll-free number.

  4. Visit During the Off Season. If you have a choice, traveling to certain warm-weather destinations in the summer, or booking your stay for midweek instead of a weekend (unless you're going to a popular business destination, when you may be better off on a weekend), can save you money right off the bat.

  5. Ask for the "Lowest Possible Rate." Don't confuse this with insisting on a discount from your auto club. While checking for discounts (such as for corporate stays, AARP memberships, military duty, local residents, and more) is important, sometimes you can get a lower rate without them.

business travel

If you're traveling for business and know you won't be using certain hotel amenities (like a pool or spa), searching for a hotel without them will often save you money.

  1. Ask for a Deal if You Need a Lot of Rooms. If you're booking rooms for your entire extended family, or if you're going to be staying at the hotel twice a month for the next six months, ask for a special "volume" rate.

  2. Subscribe to E-Travel Newsletters. Pick a few that meet your interests (Adventure travel? Family vacations? Spa destinations?) and keep your eyes open for special member deals or coupons that interest you.

  3. Stay Outside of Urban/Tourist Areas. Of course you want to be close to the action, but hotels that are just outside of major city limits are still accessible -- yet are often less expensive and more likely to offer free breakfasts and wireless Internet access.

  4. Look out for Hidden Charges. Things like parking, phone service, and mini-bar snacks can add up, so find out the costs before you use them.

  5. Negotiate Rates for "Extras." Hotel managers usually have the ability to adjust the rate you pay for phone calls and other extras. Ask and you just may receive.

Recommended Reading

How to Travel Abroad Safely: Six Important Tips You Need to Know in an Emergency

The Six Primary Cruises Everyone Should Consider: A Cruise Primer

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