Negotiate Your Own Hotel Deal

By Tisha Tolar on 25 June 2010 (Updated 13 July 2010) 7 comments

Knowing how to approach a hotel clerk when you want to find a room can be the key to really scoring a sweet deal for a trip or last-minute getaway. Like most consumer industries, hotels have their secrets. The more you know, the better chance you have of successfully negotiating a better price and enjoying your stay a little more. Here are some tips for better hotel negotiations and better service during your next stay.

Deal Direct

With the abundance of wheeler-dealer travel websites, few people bother to make direct contact with the actual hotel. Big mistake! Forget the toll-free reservation line as reps likely won’t be authorized to reduce the room rates. Speak directly with the hotel’s front desk and don’t be shy in asking for a deal.

Another tip is to contact hotels that are independently owned. They are more likely to give you a deal or a discount than a national chain would. Big, national corporations generally have rates they stick with consistently.

When dealing with the negotiation side, remember that hotels pay up to a 30% commission to booking sites and agencies for recommending their hotels. You can actually ask for up to a 20% discount and still get a price cheaper than online reservations. The hotel is still making money and it’s win-win for everyone.

Potential Upgrades

If you are considering a request to upgrade your room, do yourself a favor and ask the desk clerk discreetly. If you shout out your upgrade request with others close by, everyone will expect an upgrade too.

If you booked a standard room but want more space for no additional costs, ask to take a corner room which by design are larger than other rooms.

Thou Shall Not Steal

When you settle in, it can be tempting to borrow indefinitely whatever is not literally nailed down. You can significantly reduce your hotel bill by leaving the hotel’s belongings in the hotel. No one cares if you help yourself to the lotions and shampoos but think twice before you hock the hairdryer, coffee pot, or bath towels. The hotel will have no problem assessing the additional fees directly on to your credit card. Be assured the replacement cost of these borrowed things will be much higher than you anticipate.

Skip the Concierge

If you are staying in a hotel in a place where you are not familiar during a business trip or vacation, you might be inclined to seek the help of the on-site concierge. Keep in mind that the concierge gets kickbacks for referring you to the most expensive attractions (aka tourist traps) nearby. If you want free advice that is probably spot on, ask the bell hop, desk clerk, or bartender for input. They most likely live in the area and have a good knowledge of what you can do for a reasonable price.

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Guest's picture
Amanda

Who the heck takes things from hotels? I thought that was just a bad movie/TV show device.

Guest's picture
Jake

I actually got a pretty OK deal from a Hilton about a week ago. I'd been traveling by car from Utah to Maryland, and finally had to take a rest and get a decent night sleep. The hotel only had one room left, and it was one of the deluxe rooms, but the caveat was that it was a smoking room.

The clerk said they usually go for about $140 a night but he would knock it down to $100 because it was the last room. I told him I only needed the room for about 5 hours to shower and get a few hours of sleep, and he knocked it down to $79.

So, it wasn't the $40 room that I was hoping to get, but it was nice to have a bed to sleep in rather than the car at a rest stop! And I got an OK deal out of it. Saving $60 bucks on the room helped too.

Guest's picture

That 30% discount suggestion is very nice. We recently went to a trip and could have used this. We got bookings through a local agency, not a website though, but still, we could have gotten it directly.

~~ Sarah ~~

Guest's picture

Great advice about avoiding the concierge. I always try to make friends with the bartenders because they know all the hot spots.

Guest's picture

I bet you could get hotels in Florida for an absolute steal right now.

I got back about a week ago--there's really not any oil down there--yet.

If you go soon, use this as a negotiating point and I bet it will work in your faovr.

Guest's picture

When I'm staying in a big city (Vegas and NY for example), I like to try the "tip for upgrade trick". I discreetly slide a $20 under my credit card when checking in and just chat up the clerk asking if they have any nicer rooms available. You'd be surprised how often this works and how little you have to actually say (service people are very intuitive :) ). If you're staying for a few days, you can often get well over $100 worth of a room upgrade for only $20.

It's worked for me 8 out of the last 10 times I've tried it!

Guest's picture

Some very good advice in this article, *especially* about dealing with the hotel directly instead of websites and 800 numbers -- but in all candor the advice to avoid the concierge strikes me as pretty bizarre. I'm sorry if you've had bad experiences with them, but as a business traveler for 20+ years, I've generally been very happy with advice obtained from the concierge desk at reasonably good hotels in major cities.

(I'd also be interested in the source for your assertion that concierges are getting kickbacks from tourist traps - I don't think a concierge has *ever* sent me to a restaurant that didn't offer good value for money.)

This is not to say that it isn't a good idea to ask the bellboy, the desk clerk, or any other hotel staffer you meet for advice about where to eat or what to do - and as a few commenters noted, bartenders usually have their fingertips on the pulse of local nightlife - but the concierge's *job* is to understand the needs of travelers and be prepared to present alternatives.

If I need to entertain customers in a city I'm unfamiliar with, and I want to know where an appropriate place would be to take them out for drinks and dinner - I'm gonna ask the bellboy?

Uh, no.