1: GO NOW
Summer is low season in Palm Springs, and from now until September, rates are at rock bottom. Take, for example, the Hard Rock (much-maligned, but more on that next week). A room tonight costs $64. That same room on Monday 12 October will be $128. Yes, it’s hot out there – 118 degrees for my stay last week – but at least that obligates you to jump in the pool and makes you feel less bad about not canyoneering or hiking through Joshua Tree.
As well as knocking the rates down across the board, the majority of Palm Springs hotels also have limited summer deals offering even deeper discounts. They’re usually sent via email, so sign up for their newsletters, or call and ask if anything is in the works. Thanks to its annual sale, I stayed last week at the Parker (absolutely, indisputably, categorically the best hotel in Palm Springs) for $99 a night – half off their already discounted summer rate of $199. The cheapest room at the Parker on a weekend in October? $449. Plus tax. Plus resort fee.
Meanwhile, another favorite of mine, the Orbit In, is offering half price rooms from now until 22 July, as their pool is being remodeled (you do get the use of a pool, it’s just at their other property, The Hideaway, half a block away). That takes rates down to $69.50. A Monday in October starts at $169.
Temporary pool for the Orbit In
2: GO MIDWEEK
Yes, I know you already knew that Palm Springs is a weekend destination, but perhaps you didn’t realize just how much so – the price differential between midweek and weekend is of Vegas proportions. For instance, last week, I stayed Tuesday to Friday at the Parker on the $99 sale price. If I’d stayed on for the Friday night, I’d have paid $179. And outside of the sale, weekend rates start at $259.
That price hike goes right across the board – at Caliente Tropics (a pearl of a motel, but more on that later this week), rates start at $39 midweek, but hover around the $100 mark on weekends.
Croquet at the Parker
3: DON'T BOOK BEFORE YOU GET THERE
No, I’m not talking about HotelTonight – PS has been doing day-of-stay price drops when apps were a mere glint in the proverbial milkman’s eye. If you’re not bothered about where you stay, drop in at the Visitor Center (2901 N Palm Canyon) on the way into town: every day, they collate last-minute prices sent in by hotels around town. The discounts can be huge – last week, the all-suite San Giuliano was going for $99 (usually around the $150-$200 mark) and the Vagabond Inn was $41.65 (rack rate $149). That day, it was mainly chain offerings, but I’ve previously stayed at the Del Marcos (a midcentury classic) for half price through the Visitor Center.
This method works for same-day bookings only, but if you want to stay extra nights, ask the hotel nicely whether they might do you a similar deal for the rest of your stay. I ended up staying four nights at the Del Marcos at the same half-price rate, except they moved me to a larger room and dinged me $20 a night extra for the weekend (I was still paying half what everyone else on property was).
Side note on HotelTonight – lots of PS hotels use it, but be sure to cross-reference with their own websites, because recently there appears to be little, if any, price difference between the two. Independently owned Palm Springs hotels tend to be old school, so it’s always worth calling to see if they’ll discount further over the phone.
4: CHECK THOSE RESORT FEES
Resort fees can turn what sounds like a bargain stay into an irritatingly expensive one. That $99 rate at the Parker I paid last week? With tax and $30 resort fee included, it took it up to $149 – still a bargain for the Parker, but still a 50% price hike. Check, check and check again whether your hotel has one – the majority, sadly, now do, but those that don’t include Ingleside Inn, Caliente Tropics, Skylark, Orbit In and, surprisingly, the Renaissance. Other than the Renaissance, none of those charge for parking, either. So if you needed a reason to go independent (other than why the hell wouldn’t you? You’re in one of the best places to do it), there you go.
5: STAY LONGER
Of course, darlings, one should always aim to stay as long as possible in Palm Springs, but there’s extra incentive when free nights are at stake. Many of the independent hotels have pay three nights, stay four deals – sometimes even stay two, pay three. It gets better – at the Orbit In, for example, you can stay three and keep that extra night for a freebie down the line. Sometimes these apply to summer or midweek only, so check the details; but this being Palm Springs, where the people are as sunny as the desert they live in, they’ll often bend the rules if you ask nicely.
Got tips of your own for doing Palm Springs cheaply? Chime in in the comments below!