As the cost of travel continues to rise, the price of lodging can run up your expenses quicker than you can keep track of. Even if you do secure a great price on a hotel room, consider that if you’re traveling with a family you may need more than one room. And the tally for dining, parking, tips, surcharges, phone, minibar, entertainment, sightseeing, and transportation… can really add up.
Hotels are masters of creating an environment where your value judgment can be quickly clouded. In this excerpt from an article by for Wired.com, “The Curse of Mental Accounting” author Jonah Lehrer addresses how this happens and the ways in which our assessment of worth can be easily manipulated:
Needless to say, mental accounting also explains my expensive internet connection. In the end, expensive hotels are able to charge insane amounts of money for Cheerios and wifi because these exorbitant charges get posted to the mental account of the hotel bill, which will be hundreds of dollars anyways. As a result, the charges don’t seem quite so crazy. (This also helps explain why cheap hotels are so much more likely to offer free internet and breakfast buffets. Sometimes, we get more when we pay less.)
If you plan a little ahead of time, and arm yourself with the knowledge of what to expect and the many approaches you can use to help bring those expenses into your control, you can have a wonderful time enjoying, dining, touring museums and historical sights, or just lounging and relaxing without paying astronomical prices to do it wherever your are staying.
The key is to think ahead about what your real desire is and what your real needs will be, and then follow the travel pointers and video tips we’ve assembled here from some of the best travel experts out there… and then go for it!
Hotels can be pricey, we all know this. The place to start is online. Compare prices and deals through sights like tripadvisor.com, hotels.com or cheapoair.com. After you find a few prices, check the hotel’s website for special offers. Then, check sites that offer promotional discount coupons like yeahtravel.com. or FabulousSavings.com And finally, call the specific hotel directly (not the central booking agency if you can avoid it, though it’s becoming more difficult to do this). You have a better chance at negotiating or receiving price-matching, perks or upgrades and securing more favorable cancellation terms when you speak directly to the hotel. Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30 percent to online booking sites, so ASK if they have a better deal than what you’ve found online or if they can match it.
Our number one top solid sure-fire way that consistently gets discounts, deals or extras on hotel stays is to simply ask. There are almost always discounts available, but they will not volunteer that information. However, if you ask, they are usually more than happy to try to accommodate you. It will never do you harm to politely ask.
- Ask the hotel directly if there are any specials or discounts available that you may not be aware of.
- Ask if they accept membership discounts for organizations like AAA, AARP, veterans, seniors, frequent flyer loyalty programs, etc.
- Mention that you’re a loyal customer if you have frequented the hotel or the chain before.
- If the hotel has a loyalty program of their own, you may be entitled to receive a savings or promotional deal. If you are not a member, you can sign up on the phone when making a reservation or right then and there during check-in, and if it is free to join, you have nothing to lose.
- If you’re at the front desk in person, either at check-in or checkout, and you are asking for special considerations you won’t get very far if you are inconsiderate with your request; ask quietly to avoid putting the agent “on the spot” when other guests are within earshot.
- The hours between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. can be particularly busy for the reservation desk. It’s check-out time, and the agent may not be able to take the time to try to work with you, so try to avoid calling with special requests or attempting to negotiate between those hours when you can.
- Some requests are better made at check-out, for example: it’s easier for an agent to remove Wi-Fi charges from your bill than it is to wave them in advance.
- If you need more than one room, ask if they could give you a break.
- Ask politely if an upgrade might be available, or if the parking might be included, etc.
- Want a more spacious room without paying more? Request a corner room.
Bidding on a room can bring huge savings through websites like priceline.com, but we advise to use this only if you are familiar with the area where you will be staying, because it is not until after you confirm the non-refundable purchase, that you find out which specific hotel you have purchased.
Get to know a new or unfamiliar location by searching websites like tripadvisor.com which offer user reviews and photos. But don’t rule out travel agents. They will often be your best bet for accurate information as well as inside deals.
“Ask for Unpublished Rates” says GetARoom.com founder Bob Diener. He suggests to call the hotel directly and ask for the “Unpublished Rate,” which can save you 20% or more.
You can avoid many extra hotel fees. Be aware that there are many items that may incur a fee which you may not have been informed of. Ask at check-in for an itemized list of everything they may charge you for, for example: daily newspaper delivery or an extra bed or crib.
Minibar expensescan add up quickly. Some minibars are equipped with a sensor, and you end up with a charge when an item is simply moved – even if you don’t use the item. Find out first before you check-in if that’s the case for your hotel. Better yet, ask them to remove the mini bar contents and any other “offers” that look like they are “gifts” but aren’t, like that bottle of wine or water, the bag of snacks, or the enticing “gift basket” sitting on the counter. You can even request this to be done before you arrive.
Ask the hotel for a referral to a nearby grocery store, and supply your own snacks and drinks at a fraction of what the hotel charges.
Hotel videos and DVD rentals steep prices can be a drain, especially if you’re traveling with kids. Try renting from a nearby shop for far less.
Staying in a home can be a real money saver.You get to experience a location as a resident would, an enriching addition to any travel experience. You can prepare your own meals and snacks and dine in sometimes. A family can be together without needing to secure separate or additional room rentals. Friends can all stay together and share expenses. Deposits are usually required, but would be refunded after your stay if there has been no property damage. Catch the video from the Better Business Bureau for safety pointers.
- Rent a house or a condo. Home owners list their homes, vacation homes, or timeshares for rent. Some resources: homeaway.com, vrbo.com, resortquest.com, and interhomeusa.com.
- Home Swap. If you are a renter or owner of a house, condo, yacht, villa, apartment or RV consider a home swap, or staying in a home as a guest. Often a vehicle is included in the swap. You pay nothing more than the membership fee. Some resources: homeexchange.com charges a minimum enrollment of three months which runs about $47.85. homelink.org offers a yearly membership fee of about $119.00.
- House Sitting. If you don’t have a home to swap, it is still possible to stay for free by house sitting. Seasoned traveler Nora Dunn writes about her house sitting experiences for CareOne Debt Services blog and lists three house sitting job listing Web sites.
Smaller sometimes is better. Consider a smaller hotel, pensione or bed and breakfast, ranch, or guest house. Many are privately owned and operated with detailed and friendly pride. They are usually less expensive than a major hotel chain or resort. Often a meal is included. A resource: BedandBreakfast.com.
And, even smaller: Micro Hotels. Ultra small hotels are popping up all over. Typically these offer very, very tiny paired-down rooms, with starting rates as low as $75 a night. When they began showing up they were often geared toward the younger traveler, but with the growing budget-savvy trend for travelers, there are now many “luxury micro” hotels emerging which provide luxurious amenities. If you aren’t going to be spending much time in your room anyway, this option can offer you tremendous savings. Do an online search using the term “micro hotel” and you’ll find many. A few examples: NYC’s The Pod and The Jane. NiteNite is in London. Yotel, is in London, Amsterdam and just opened in Times Square in NYC, Spring 2011.
Location, think outside the perimeter. If your vacation plans are taking you to one of those popular busy tourist spots or attractions, try this: find your destination city on the map, but before booking your hotel there, check for outlying areas and towns a short distance from that spot. The hotel, dining and shopping rates may be considerably less, but you’ll still be very close to where you want to tour.
A word about all inclusive and Cruises:
All inclusive destinations or cruises can often be a bargain, not only in price but if you’re looking for just about as “worry free” a time as you can get, this is probably your best bet. However, it pays to plan ahead, and that also includes all inclusive vacations. There can be many pitfalls and there are always hidden costs. Find out before you go exactly which services and products are included in the “all inclusive” fare, and which will run up extra charges, like salon and spa visits, top shelf drinks, higher end restaurants, and yes, even disembarking charges. And be advised that port-of-call tours provided by the cruise line are “offered” at premium high-end prices compared to local tour operators you could secure on your own.
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