If you travel, you’ve probably experienced that sinking feeling when you discover that other travelers have booked the same accommodations at lower rates — especially when the trip is a bit of a splurge.
What’s the secret? Sure, you search Travelocity, Expedia and other well-known travel websites for deals on luxury hotels, but those are scarce. Do you need to know someone in the travel business to find luxury rooms at more reasonable rates? It doesn’t hurt, but there are easier ways score deals on 4- and 5-star hotels.
Consider these five insider tips that only cost you a little time but may save you hundreds:
1. Browse the flash sale websites
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There’s nothing wrong with the standard travel sites, but dig a bit deeper and find the hotel flash sale sites. One of the most buzzed about is jetsetter.com. It’s owned by TripAdvisor but is a bit more exclusive because (free) membership is required. Join, and you’ll find discount deals on luxury hotels that the jetsetter.com travel writers have approved.
A quick look at the site shows some fairly deep discounts for top properties. But members said the real deals are for last-minute bookings. Those are usually at least 40 percent off the lowest rate available elsewhere. You’ll find those at Today’s Deals.
Another site to check is Luxury Link. It offers straight up deals and also allows members to bid on auctions of luxury accommodations.
2. Analyze all cost configurations
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It’s normal to look for the overall total cost for your stay. But travel writer Ben Schlappig (also known as “Lucky”) writes that it’s smart to look at daily rates, too. “While hotels are supposed to charge you based on the average nightly rate, that doesn’t always happen in practice,” he said. “And that becomes even trickier when room type availability differs by night, whereby the rate difference might be even higher.” The bottom line – do the math yourself to make sure you don’t pay for a computer glitch or misunderstanding.
Another tip regarding cost configurations: If you decide to extend your stay, don’t simply call the front desk and accept the rate. That can cost you money, especially in the summer when weekend rates are generally much higher than weekday rates, according to Independent Traveler. Go online and determine if your extra night is on a night the hotel is at low capacity. If so, you can likely score a lower rate. And if the extra night you request is during a busy time, you may still be able to negotiate the rate down.
3. Forget search engine loyalty
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If you typically go to one site to book your luxury room, stop. Prices vary tremendously among sites. Search engines that allow you to search across sites include Kayak, Room 77 and Hipmunk. And don’t be a snob. Check out newer sites, and you’ll find some money-saving deals. Travel + Leisure noted that Tingo automatically refunds you if a room rate you book drops.
4. Call the hotel
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We are such an online society, we sometimes forget that speaking to someone directly may net better results. That’s not to say you shouldn’t peruse websites for deals, but call the hotel directly, too, and ask them if they can beat it, recommends The New York Times. That strategy won’t always work, but it just might. Here’s an extra hint from TripIt: Call the hotel directly at its local number, not the toll-free number. On-site staff will be privy to unadvertised discounts and deals and have a vested interest in filling rooms.
5. Get hotels to compete for your booking
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BudgetTravel suggests you book a refundable room and then call another hotel. Tell the person at the second hotel about your current reservation but explain you’d prefer to stay with them. Of course you’ll want to check out the details of the second hotel so you can drop specifics – such as “Your TripAdvisor reviews say your hotel rooms are much more spacious.” Then ask the clerk if they can meet or beat the lower rate. Again, call the hotel directly, not the 800-number.
There are as many different ways to secure low-cost, luxury hotel rooms as there are hotels, but these inside tips will help you get a head start on bargains.
Do you have money-saving travel secrets to share? Post them in comments below or on our Facebook page.