Ok, first the bad news—hotel prices are on the rise. According to the Hotel Price Index by Hotels.com, hotel prices rose globally by 4% this year. That's a pretty big deal considering that it's the first time rates have increased since 2007. Why the increase? Well, people are traveling more and they're willing to pay higher rates—hotels, flights, even the price of gas has gone up and people are still flying, staying in hotels, and taking road trips. It's a sign that our economy is bouncing back (if slowly).
Now the good news—even though rates are increasing, they're still nowhere near where they were in early 2007 before the recession. And, it's still pretty easy to score great rates. Here are some of my favorite ways to skirt high prices:
Travel in the off season. Ok, you want to check the weather to make sure that you're not booking your honeymoon during monsoon season (as one my friends did—and he didn't take to kindly to my suggestion that his "great bargain" was about to come at a very wet price). You can do that pretty easily by visiting the "when to go" section of a major guidebook such as Frommers or Fodors. If the weather is nice, go for it. I personally love the off season—there are fewer crowds, you can save anywhere from 20 to 50% on hotels, and flights are usually more affordable too.
Book four to six months in advance. Yes, six months in advance. Most folks book about two months in advance and even that isn't enough time to avoid steep rates. The longer you wait, the higher you'll see prices climb.
Book with a travel agent. Travel agents reserve large blocks of rooms way in advance and so are able to lock in better rates than consumers can get for themselves, especially when last-minute hotel deals are scarce, as they are now.
Keep searching for deals even after you book. Backbid is a website that will do this for you. You share your reservation with them and they'll shop your rate around after you book to see if a competitive hotel can offer you a better rate. I say, why not? It only takes a few minutes and can save you money in the long run.
Of course no one wants to pay more for hotels or anything else for that matter—but nobody wants to be in a recession either. Personally, I think it's a positive sign that hotel rates are rebounding. It shows that the economy is picking up and it means that some of my favorite hotels are likely to stay in business—and renovate when they need to. Plus, there's always a way to find a bargain, even in the most robust economy (hey, that's what we're here for).
And there are always destinations that are especially affordable, regardless of the time of year. On that note, I'm going to get back to working on our annual list of the best budget destinations for the coming year—stay tuned for that information, coming in a few months.
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