Have you seen one of those movies where the country bumpkin enters a fine restaurant and gets confused when the waiter wants to take his coat? That’s how I felt when I stayed at The Little Nell hotel in Aspen, Colo., last spring.
After finishing a bike ride, the doorman asked to take my bicycle, and I almost didn’t let him. As I discovered, this hotel features complimentary valet bicycle parking in addition to big-screen TVs and fireplaces in each room. So what’s a frugal guy like me doing in a five-star hotel that normally costs more than $365 a night, even in the offseason? Would you believe I paid $139 a night for this kind of luxury?
There are many ways to save money on a hotel, and Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson nails some of the best ones in 8 Tips to Save at Any Hotel – Even the Nation’s Trendiest. But I’ve been able to come up with just a few more…
1. Discover group rates
I was in Aspen to participate in a bicycle ride, and the organizers had secured deep discounts at some local hotels. With the Little Nell being offered to me at just a few dollars more than lesser properties, my choice of a five-star hotel was easy.
Later, it occurred to me that anyone could have booked that rate, merely by citing the discount code that was posted on the website of the cycling event. Now I know how to search for local events that may offer some fantastic pre-negotiated hotel rates. (Obviously, you shouldn’t take a discounted room meant for members of an organization or event if you’re not eligible.)
2. Get free nights as a credit card sign-up bonus
Hyatt Hotels offers two free nights at any of its properties to customers who sign up for their credit card from Chase. This doesn’t sound impressive until your realize that those properties include the likes of the Park Hyatt in Paris – which can cost more than $1,300 a night!
That can certainly take the edge off of your cost of a nice stopover in the City of Lights. Other major hotel chains have similar offers for free nights or points when you apply for and receive their credit card.
3. Use credit card spending to earn hotel points
Most reward travel cards earn frequent-flier miles or points toward cash back or gift cards. While airlines have made awards harder to find and redeem, hotels have done the opposite. In fact, Starwood, Hilton, and Intercontinental Hotels will offer award stays at any hotel room they have available for sale.
On a recent trip to Italy, I was able to stay in at the Sheraton Four Points in downtown Milan for a mere 20,000 points I earned in Starwood Hotels’ program – saving hundreds of dollars.
4. Get status in a hotel program
If you’re able to receive and maintain status in one of the major hotel chains, you can often get an upgrade to a superior room. Many hotels offer rooms with views, upgraded amenities, or even suites to those with “status.”
You can receive this status by meeting a minimum number of paid stays each year. But many chains also award it to those who use their co-branded credit card. In Milan, we received an upgrade from a nice but small room to a two-bedroom suite, just because I held Starwood Gold status. The funny thing is, I can’t remember ever paying for a Starwood hotel. I just use their co-branded American Express card.
The only thing more satisfying that enjoying a stay in an ultra-luxury hotel is the knowledge that it cost very little to do so. Follow Stacy’s tips as well as a few of my own, and find out what kind of quirky amenities, like valet bicycle parking, you have been missing out on.