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jun 08

8 ways to save on hotel rooms

Hotel room savings are within reach. (Courtesy kevindooley/Flickr)

Have you ever paid hundreds for a hotel room, only to feel you paid too much? It can be upsetting. But, have no fear. Here are eight ways to save money on future hotel reservations.

Tell us your money-saving tips in the comments section.

Start a bidding war between hotels

Book a "cancellable" hotel reservation as you ordinarily would, but then call a nearby hotel to see if it might offer you a better deal. Say something like, "I've got a reservation to stay at [insert property name] in a double room for [insert the price], but I was looking at your TripAdvisor reviews and am having second thoughts. I really like your hotel because of [insert reason]. Is there anything you could do to offer a lower rate or a better room?" With luck, the clerk will make you a better offer.

Tip: In case the hotel is a chain, be sure to call the hotel's front desk directly because its workers are empowered to cut a deal on the spot. Don't call the chain's toll free reservations hotline, because its staffers are unlikely to negotiate.

Booking hotels overseas? Look beyond U.S. sites

Formerly just a flight search tool, Momondo has debuted a hotel search tool that is especially strong for its international listings. Easy-to-use site Momondo sources its hotels from retailers like Escapio and Hotelopia, providing a different selection of hotels than you'll find on U.S.-based online travel sites like Expedia, which rely only on the boring, overlapping lists of hotels provided by American chains and a few large listings databases (called global distribution systems).

Tip: No one site has all of the lowest prices or the best selection when it comes to international hotels. Beyond Momondo, you should also try Booking.com, Agoda.com, and Venere.com, which all list affordable hotels you often won't find through major U.S. online travel agencies.

Know the right lingo

Hotels have a language all their own. Sadly, travelers who don't know the lingo can lose out by paying too much. For example, if you call a hotel, you may ask for something vague like what's your "best deal on a room." But if you instead speak to the hotel clerk in his or her own jargon, you may boost the chances he or she will quote you the truly lowest price. So try asking for "the cheapest nonrefundable rate."

Tip: If you're asking for an upgrade, the best time to do so is if you check in around 6 p.m., by which time hotel clerks know which of the better rooms are going to go vacant for the night.

Lock-in a rate without prepaying

"Dibs" is a fresh concept that may catch on in the hotel industry. Here's the gist: As you know, rates typically go up and down every week for the same room on any particular dates. If you're nervous about booking a hotel room at today's rate thinking that it may drop in price tomorrow, you can visit TripDibs.com and buy the "dibs" option for about $5 to $10 per night rented. For example, you can currently lock in a $109 rate at the Platinum Hotel Vegas for a fee of $6 per night rented. TripDibs will hold the price for a period of a few months. Whenever you're ready to pull the trigger, log back into the site and book the room. At the moment, only a couple of hotels are participating, which means slim pickings. But if the "lock-in-your-price" idea proves popular, it could be adopted widely.

Tip: If you want to track changes in the prices of a specific hotel, you can sign up for a free an e-mail service alert service from Yapta.com, which will tell you if the rooms have gone on sale.

Become a member of AAA

Members of AAA, the American Automobile Association, can qualify for special rates for hotel rooms by providing their membership number. It may sound old-fashioned, but AAA discounts can save up to 50 percent off published rates at major chains, such as Marriott and Sheraton. Budget Travel has often found that AAA rates are usually close to the lowest rates quoted on major websites that you can cancel. (That said, you may sometimes save more by booking a nonrefundable, prepaid room instead of the AAA rate. Always shop around.) Membership in AAA, whose clubs are independently run by region, range in cost from $38 to $80 a year.

Tip: AARP membership also can mean discounts, and you can qualify from as young as age 50.

Don't forget about corporate perks

Your employer, your spouse's employer, or your brother's or neighbor's employer, may offer deep discounts for friends and family. For example, family and friends of employees of International Hotels Group qualify for dramatic savings of up to 40 percent off hotels worldwide using a search tool and filling out a form proving the relationship. In short: Don't forget to check with your human resources representative to see whether your company provides any travel discounts.

Tip: You will often need to book directly with a hotel through its website or over the phone if you're booking a corporate discount. Be sure to comparison shop, such as at online travel agencies, to make sure the corporate rate is the best deal for you.

If you're going solo, try independent hotels

Most chain hotels are biased against solo travelers, quoting room rates on the assumption that two guests will stay—without offering discounts for solo travelers. Yet smaller hotels, such as New York City's Pod Hotel, may sell rooms aimed at solo travelers for lower rates. You may also find that smaller, independently-owned hotels and inns are also usually open to negotiation about the nightly rate if you explain that you're traveling solo (and if they have vacancies to fill).

Tip: Some tour companies, such as Intrepid Travel, don't charge a single supplement and can help arrange for travel at lower prices than you might find on your own.

Book group travel through Priceline (really!)

Priceline may be famous for its bidding service in which travelers bid blindly on airfares, hotel rooms, and the like. But the online travel agency also sells travel at standard retail rates and it happens to have the most thorough service of the major online travel agencies when it comes to helping travelers book group travel, such as for family reunions. Find the service by clicking "groups" on the top of the Priceline homepage.

Tip: A common mistake planners make is to think that "adjoining rooms" means that the rooms are connected by a door, when that isn't often the case. If you need rooms that connect, specify that.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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