In all my years writing about travel, the two questions I'm most often asked are: "What's your favorite hotel in the world?" and "How do I find the best hotel rates?" Despite what you might think, the latter is easier to answer (though I'm happy to share my thoughts on what hotels I love most).
Finding a great hotel rate doesn't take a physics degree, a miracle or a magic wand. It takes patience, reasonable expectations, a basic understanding of how room rates are factored, and a polite demeanor. If you're seeking budget rates at luxury hotels, you will be disappointed. However, if you pay attention to what's included in a luxury hotel room rate package, for example, you might be surprised at how much money you actually save when you choose the bundle, instead of purchasing rooms, meals and entertainment a la carte. The best rates aren't always posted online, so calling a hotel and simply asking about what's available can yield some great results. Of course, credit cards, loyalty programs and thinking outside the box help when you're looking to grab the best hotel rate possible.
Don't believe me? Take it from another expert source. Condé Nast Traveler Senior Editor Lisa Gill recently appeared on the Today show to offer the best ways to get a deal on hotel rooms. Here's a recap of her tips:
Be flexible with your dates: At luxury properties, rates vary substantially according to occupancy. A room could be $550 one week because there's a big group, and $250 the next because they have significantly more availability. For top-end hotels that have on-site reservations desks, call and ask the manager when, during your travel window, the hotel will be emptiest and thus have the lowest rates.
Get on the phone: Do not rely on the Internet alone when searching for discounted hotel rates. Call hotels directly and ask if there are any last-minute deals available on a room. The rate listed on a hotel's website is not always the lowest rate that the hotel will offer.
Stay at a business hotel: If staying in an urban area over a weekend, consider staying at a hotel that caters to business travelers. They are busiest during the week, and have an abundance of rooms to fill over the weekend, usually dropping their rates in order to fill the rooms.
Use your credit card: Some hotel cards include significant money-saving perks: free nights, discounted rates, etc. (For more in-depth detail, Conde Naste has a great article called "Play Your Cards Right," which details the best credit cards for spending, the ones that come with benefits, and the ones with the best sign-up bonuses.)
Sign up for e-mail notifications: Hotel companies target specific subsets of travelers—loyalty program members, holders of certain credit cards, people who've registered on their Web sites—and alert them by e-mail when there's a deal. Also, follow hotel chains that you frequent on Twitter—sometimes hotel chains will announce deals via social media.
For the full interview and more details on how to score the best room rate, watch the Today show interview.
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