8 Tips to Save at Any Hotel – Even the Nation’s Trendiest

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What do Richard Branson, Tiger Woods, and Beyonce have in common? They’ve all stayed at the hotel voted trendiest in America.

The W Fort Lauderdale hotel recently received that distinction in TripAdvisor’s “Travelers’ Choice 2011″ awards. The W was also picked as fourth-Trendiest Hotel in the World.

Out of your league? Not necessarily. Because whether it’s the trendiest hotel in the country or the local Motel 6, there’s always a way to save a few bucks.

Since Money Talks is headquartered a few miles from the W, Stacy decided to use it as a backdrop for a story offering tips to save on hotels. He talked to Scott Brooks, the general manager, and asked how cheaply he could score a room. To hear the answer, see their awesome Presidential Suite and get some hotel cost-cutting tips, check out the video below, then meet me on the other side for more.

As Stacy said in the news story above, the golden rule for saving gold on hotels is: Ask for a better rate. As you heard the W general manager Scott Brooks say, it’s possible to get a better deal that way – and if not always a discount, at least more for your money.

“They have a rate they’re going to sell, and it depends on what kind of inventory they have, and what’s going on that night, and who you talk to,” Brooks says. He says asking for a discount “might work for you,” but “it depends on the person.”

Don’t know who or how to ask? Stacy’s written about it in Confessions of a Serial Haggler and has been getting better deals on hotels for decades. His advice?

“I always ask for a better deal at least three times. First, I ask what discounts are available, like corporate, AARP, or AAA. If they tell me there’s a discount that can be had, that’s my first target. Because whether or not I’m a member of a particular organization, I’m going to get that rate. But that’s just for starters. Once I’ve secured that discount, I ask again: “Are you sure you can’t do better?” Then finally, I’m going to ask for the ‘Elvis Suite,’ i.e., a room upgrade.”

Stacy says never to try negotiating with the reservations agent at the other end of a nationwide 800 number. The people that have the power to lower your rate are in the reservations or sales areas of the specific hotel. And don’t hesitate to play the competition card.

“If I want to stay at the W, I’ll tell the front desk that the Hyatt down the street is offering me a better rate, and ask them to meet or beat it,” Stacy says. “But be truthful when using this tactic, because it’s possible they’ll call the Hyatt and ask. And the main thing to remember – be nice. I almost always get a better deal at hotels, and I almost always make the person I’m talking to laugh. Coincidence? I don’t think so.”

If you aren’t comfortable asking for a lower rate, at least ask for a nicer room. Brooks said these are easier to get, because “that’s where [employees] have a lot more flexibility.”

“When we have open inventory, we want our guests to have as pleasant an experience as possible,” Brooks says. “If we’ve got an upgraded room available, oftentimes we’ll do that for a customer.”

There are plenty of other ways to save, regardless of your destination or negotiating skills:

  1. Go in the off season. If you have control over your travel dates, this is one of the best and most powerful ways to save. Off-season dates can vary from hotel to hotel, so you may want to call and ask – but they’re usually determined by weather and local attractions, and will be similar for an area. As Brooks mentioned in the news story above, the same room at the W that goes for $500 a night during a busy peak-season weekend can be had for as little as $150 in the off season.
  2. Check promotions. This one might also require some flexibility in travel dates, but it never hurts to look before you book. Check a site like RetailMeNot.com for coupons, and also keep an eye on discount sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, which often feature substantial savings – sometimes 50 percent – at hotels and restaurants. Subscribe to e-mails on the cities you’re interested in, and you’ll never miss a deal. Subscribe to the hotel’s mailing list too. Brooks says, “We run promotions multiple times throughout the course of the year. We have all kinds of information we send out.”
  3. Book early. If your travel dates aren’t flexible, the best thing you can do is book as soon as you know. If it’s an annual trip, for example, there’s no reason you can’t reserve months in advance while occupancy – and prices – are lower.
  4. Compare weekdays with weekends. Tourist-oriented hotels tend to charge more on the weekends because that’s when they get more customers. Hotels that target local businesses and events tend to charge more midweek for the same reason.
  5. Comparison shop. This is helpful before you haggle: A bit of research can make competition work in your favor. Know what competitor rates are, and what amenities are included so you don’t get hit with fees for Internet, breakfast, and other services.
  6. Join the club. If you’re a frequent traveler or typically stay in the same chain of hotels, sign up for rewards programs. “Preferred guest members receive automatic upgrades and special amenities,” Brooks says.
  7. Look farther away. While it’s definitely nice to stay at a hotel that’s hosting the event you’re attending or is just a block away – you get to sleep in late under those extra comfy sheets – that convenience comes at a cost. Everybody’s going to book the closest spots first, so widen the radius of your search to find hotels a little more desperate for your business.
  8. Go all-inclusive. Combined hotel and airfare rates are sometimes cheaper than booking each separately, so unless you’ve got a great price on one or the other already, check out travel sites like Orbitz and Travelocity for package deals.

Ready to get away? Check out the Top 2011 Vacation Hotspots, which include budget and offbeat destinations too. We’ve also got a list of the 14 Best Hotels in the U.S. and the World and, if hotels are too expensive, try Vacation Home Rentals: 17 Tips to Save on Your Next Trip or Best Price on a Hotel This Summer? $0

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