When it comes to dealing with hotels, know that you have the advantage. Hotels are a permanent fixture, which means they can’t change their location and they’re entirely dependent on foot traffic. You, on the other hand, have the option of walking nearby to inquire at competing hotels. And with searches on your phone, you can quickly find key information such as room rates and occupancy levels in your city.
A Google search reveals that in the U.S. the average room rate is between $122 to $137 per night. In 2015, hotel prices rose 3 percent, according to Hotel Price Index (HPI).
Here are ways to cut your hotel costs.
Book late and use rewards programs
In the airline industry, ticket fares increase the longer you wait to book a flight but the opposite is true for the hotel industry. Room rates decrease the longer you wait (to book your room) because these establishments are motivated to increase their occupancy.
There are many tools at your disposal. For instance, HotelTonight is a mobile app that lists discounts at thousands of hotels. Room rates found on the app typically decrease the longer you wait to reserve your room — the later it gets, the more hotels slash their prices to avoid having too many empty beds. On average, the app’s users save 17 percent, according to CEO Sam Shank in an interview with Lifehack.
Secondly, consider using hotel rewards or card programs. In the case with HotelTonight, the app has a partnership with Capital One that gives Venture and VentureOne cardholders an extra 10 percent discount on top of other savings. Card reward programs often bundle their offers with other promotions. So in this case, Venture cardholders will earn unlimited double miles while VentureOne customers continue to earn 1.25 miles on their purchase.
So do your research. Almost all major credit cards and airlines have partnerships with hotel chains — some award points that accrue toward a free hotel stay or airline ticket and other perks.
Find off-peak times and occupancy levels
Go online and look for off-peak times and occupancy levels in your target city. This is possible through the power of search engines. Media outlets and consulting firms often publish occupancy levels in key cities. A Google search reveals that occupancy rates averaged 84 percent in San Francisco in a recent year, but these levels can be as low as 60 percent in Miami during a certain period.
If nearby hotels have higher numbers of empty beds than they’d like to admit, you should leverage that information to negotiate a lower rate. If you stay for a week, the savings could add up to hundreds of dollars. And that leads to our next tip.
Find out when offseason takes place. It won’t be near the Super Bowl and it won’t take place near March Madness. Hotels may also slash prices at the end of summer or right after holidays, or during midweek (compared weekends). If you’re staying at a hotel and you’re seeing a big crowd, chances are you’re also paying a higher price. It’s Economics 101: More demand equals higher prices while more supply means lower prices.
If you plan to frequent a specific hotel, then introduce yourself to the manager. Negotiate your rate or ask for a room upgrade. Most hotel managers are well-connected and it’s a shortcut to discovering the ins-and-outs of a locale that you may not know about.
Use coupons and vouchers
Go online and research coupon and hotel voucher sites. They can shave off the room price as well as give your various other benefits. For example, airport hotels can offer free parking, airport shuttle or a cheaper flight. So consider how smaller savings from various sources can add up to a tidy sum.
A casino hotel may offer free tickets to a show or provide free meals and drinks. If you’re likely to miss breakfast, get a to-go box and save your meal. Take advantage. Hotels want to give you these perks. Competitors are nearby, and being a fixture, hotels are permanently stuck to their location. You’re not.
Travel like a local
Traveling shouldn’t bind you to perpetually patronize restaurants and local shops to the point where your bank account is in the red. Restaurants and shops located inside the hotel are particularly expensive. Moreover, when you go abroad tourist hotspots are known to significantly inflate prices if you look like a foreigner. Adjust accordingly and you won’t get ripped off.
When it comes to dining, there are hotels that have kitchenettes, so you can buy gastronomical delights and cook at your leisure. If you’re traveling abroad, ask the hotel’s front desk if you can get a discount or other perks if you pay in U.S. dollars. The greenback represents a stable currency that, in some cases, is more redeemable than local fiat money.
Ignore entertainment packages
There are mobile apps that will help you find worthwhile activities. Apps such as ‘CityMaps’ will show you nearby attractions while ‘Peek’ helps you book nearby activities and tours.
For the most part, forget the hotel’s organized tours and entertainment packages. Most of these packages have significant markups where the hotel collects a nice commission. If you want to go diving, going outside the hotel premises to a nearby diving shop will usually save you money.
Some packages may not be a bad deal, but how will you really know unless you’re already familiar with local prices? Chances are, you’re not.
And these packages can include destinations that you won’t necessarily enjoy — like a forced visit to the local zoo when all you really wanted to see was the coastline or historical museum. Always consider that the hotel and tour company may get commissions from forcing you to eat at a particular restaurant or by forcing you to visit a certain destination. They are for-profit enterprises. It’s also tough to back out when the package deal already includes the entry fee to places that you don’t want to visit.
Traveling is fun and it should be done smartly. It can definitely be accomplished without breaking your wallet. As Warren Buffett says, “Price is what you pay but value is what you get.”
Featured photo credit: William Warby via flickr.com