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How To Get The Best Hotel Deals

(October 28, 2003)

If you're like most cost-conscious travelers, you take a practical view of lodging; it should be economical, clean, and fairly close to the things you want to see and do. If you do some research and don't mind a little uncertainty, it's possible to find a four-star hotel for the price of a Red Roof. Here's how:

1. Go Online To Research Prices

When looking for a hotel, start with online travel sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. In addition, download SideStep and take your search capabilities even further. These sites can give you detailed descriptions of the entire range of hotels available at the destination you are interested in. Keep in mind, even if you think you've found a good deal don't stop there; go directly to the hotel's website. Often the best deals are available on the hotel's individual website or hotel chain's website. You might find a special Internet-only rate, weekend special, or other deal that beats published rates.

2. Find A Consolidator

Look into hotel consolidators. A hotel consolidator is a travel agency that buys blocks of rooms in major cities and then offers the rooms at discount. Because they sell lots of rooms, hotel consolidators can negotiate lower rates than individuals can usually get. The rooms you'll get will be the same as if you booked them through any other means. Check Hotel Discounts.com, Quikbook, and Hotels.com. While you get the hotel for less it often comes with strict cancellation restrictions or penalties attached.

3. Play Hotel Roulette

Hotwire and Priceline are consolidators of a different sort; you don't know where you're staying until you make a purchase. In Hotwire's case, you don't bid, you get the price up front on unnamed hotels identified only by neighborhood. Priceline's "name-your-price" strategy makes you do all the work to find the acceptable price. Learn to play Priceline's and Hotwire's game and you can get rooms at excellent discounts. I recently used Hotwire to purchase a suite at Embassy Suites in Ft. Lauderdale, which lists for $149.99, for a paltry $50.00 a night (plus taxes and fees). Understand once you purchase from Hotwire or Priceline the sale is final, no changes or refunds.

One thing to keep in mind with both sites is their hotel ratings. Hotwire's hotel rankings tend to be less in quality than AAA's diamond system. For example, a four-star hotel on Hotwire is more like three-diamonds on AAA. On the other hand, Priceline's star-rating is more in-sync with AAA's ratings.

Before you bid on a hotel, be sure to check out BiddingFun.com. This great site helps take the mystery out of Hotwire and Priceline with powerful information and tips to help make the process more manageable.

4. Book On The 'Outskirts'

Hotels and motels on the outskirts of cities and attractions are often cheaper. Decide how much time you want to spend commuting back-and-forth. You may find the hassle of commuting outweighs the savings, especially if you plan to spend most of your time sightseeing in a city or at a major theme park.

5. Gather All Your Discounts

Do you belong to an automobile club, frequent flyer program, professional organization and will your party include children or senior citizens? If so, see what discount options are available. Some hotel chains offer senior discounts to any person over 50, while others define "senior" as 55 or even 65. Similarly, children's rates may apply up to age 12 at some hotels, up to age 18 at others. Once you've gathered all your discounts compare prices. You may be able to shave more off the price or get an upgrade to a larger room.



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