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A Travel Writer's Guide To Saving Ca$h On Your Next Hotel Stay

November 20, 2012 at 1:10 PM | by | Comment (1)

You get this gratis at the FS Beverly Hills, when you have a special occasion, so mention it!

Sure, there are a number of things you've probably done to save money at hotels. Maybe you signed up for a loyalty program for the free WiFi and room upgrade ("when available"). Perhaps you booked at the respective hotel's web site to secure the "best guaranteed rate".

Meh.

You're probably thinking: Tell me something I don't already know. Well, as a travel writer for the past ten years (on a tight budget, for that matter), I'm divulging my best secrets. Some tips are common sense, some are things you might not have ever thought about.

Either way, the following advice is guaranteed to have you save $$$—without feeling ghetto about it!

Book a Sunday Night Stay
Easy math. If business travelers stay Monday to Friday, while leisure travelers occupy Friday and Saturday, leaving on Sunday, that means Sunday check-ins get very little love in the hotel world, thus lower rates prevail.

Thirsty? Head to the Gym
The last time I paid $6 for a bottle of water? Ten years ago. To save on those crazy prices, head to the fitness center, where complimentary bottles are usually offered. If it's a mid-range hotel, they'll likely have a water cooler, so bring an empty bottle and fill'er up.

Avoid Room Service
It seems obvi, but people order room service then wonder why their $20 hamburger from in-room dining suddenly costs $29! It's becoming more common for hotels to charge a service fee and/or flat delivery rate (if so, skip that "additional gratuity" line). And, depending on the hotel, service fees can range from 10 to 20 percent. So it's a good idea to just go to the hotel restaurant, lazy. (HC Ed Note: We let this one slide for budgetnistas, but we still totally love room service!)

Book Brand-New Properties
New hotels generally offer fantastic introductory rates. Before you book a hotel at your destination, see what hotel or resort has just opened. Some of these places won't be on sites like Hotels.com yet, so you'll have to do research. Also, you'll get better service at a new hotel as staff will be eager to please.

Book Through a Flash-Sale Site
For even deeper bargains on hotels, book with a flash-sale site. You have limited time to reserve (generally one week), yet the rates are often ludicrously unbeatable. For instance, my site Out Escapes offered rates at ME Cancun for $169 per night (including high season) and we threw in a $500 resort credit on top of that. Other sites like Jetsetter (while they're still with us) and SniqueAway are options as well.

Analyze the Amenities
Always, always check out the hotel web site for surprise benefits. For instance, free long-distance calls are becoming a trend at hotels in Mexico, Caribbean and Central America (like Palace Resorts in Mexico and Grace Bay Club in Turks & Caicos) but they're never really promoted. Some hotels and resorts also offer complimentary fitness classes, lobby lounge Happy Hour (yes, free booze, like Sheraton, Kimpton, and Andaz's Wine Hour) and check-outs later than noon. You can't assume the front desk will tell you all these things.

Pick Up the Phone
Call the hotel directly. Ask for a great rate. You'll be surprised how much wiggle room there is. In fact, I can't believe some people just pay the rack rates without calling for a better deal. There's a reservations manager on staff who basically expects you to ask for a discount. While you're at it, and if it's true, tell them you're celebrating a special occasion (like birthday or anniversary). This may get you an upgrade or bottle of wine. Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills sends a bottle of champers to your room at no charge!

Did you know that? Betcha didn't!

[Photo: Jimmy Im/HotelChatter]

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The gym's where it's at

Not only free water, but sometimes fresh fruit, a sauna, and just another place to explore besides your room and the lobby. Plus, endorphins make you feel good, blah blah blah.

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