The Easy Way to Negotiate a Cheaper Hotel Room
Here's something you may not know: Hotel rates are not set in stone. It's often possible to get the best deals simply by picking up the phone and negotiating your way into low rates, upgrades, and freebies. (See also: 20 Secrets of Last Minute Travel)
Very rarely will these opportunities be advertised, so the only way you can find out if a hotel negotiates is by picking up the phone and asking the hotel staff. Just follow the steps below, and remember to be nice, be polite, and charming as hell.
Timing Your Visit
If your trip coincides with the busy season, it's unlikely that the hotel will negotiate their rates. When they can get other guests to pay full price, they're probably not going to give you any discounts.
If you travel during the off-peak season, however, you're in luck. Hotels are more willing to negotiate when business is slow. The front-desk staff should have some leeway to allow discounts for guests who ask.
You'll have a better chance of succeeding if you call as soon as you know your dates. You can try calling at the last minute or even negotiating in person when you arrive at the hotel, but you may end up not getting a room at all.
Regardless of whether you speak with the hotel staff by phone or in person, do it when they're not busy. Avoid check-in and meal times; call in the late afternoon instead. You don't want to speak with someone who is overwhelmed by arriving guests at the reception desk. You want his full attention, so it may be a good idea to ask if it's a good time to talk at the beginning of the call.
Making the Call
Before you call, arm yourself with the hotel's published rate, as well as the rates of its competitors. You can get this information from the hotels' official websites and hotel booking sites. To minimize your searching time, go with comparison sites like Hotelscombined.com and Trivago.com.
If the hotel is part of a chain, there may be a national or even international hotline. The operator at the 800 number will probably not have any power to give you a discount. Call the hotel directly instead and ask to speak with the manager, if possible.
Ask for the Best Rate
Start the negotiation by saying something like, "I found your rate online for $200 per night. Is that your best rate?" You may or may not get a better deal right away.
Follow up by asking, "Is that the best you can do?" or, "Can you do better than that?"
If you still don't get the rate you want, continue by saying, "I can't spend more than $150." Then, see what response you get. It's a good rule of thumb to try getting 25% off your starting rate because hotels generally pay that amount to third-party agents like online booking sites and travel agents for finding guests.
Mention the Competition
You can also try dropping the names of the hotel's competitors. For example, you can say, "Hotel Down the Avenue has a free gym for guests to use and they only charge $175 per night. Would you be able to give me $150 per night?"
Tweak the Dates
If you have some flexibility, ask the hotel manager, "Does that happen to be a busy time for the hotel? Would you be able to lower the rates if I change my dates?" Hotel rates fluctuate a lot, so simply adjusting your travel dates could affect the rates dramatically.
Another trick you can use is to start out with a two-night stay and later say, "I can extend my stay to three nights if you could give me a better deal."
Ask if there are any special discounts. The hotel may call it a special rate or saver rate.
Hotels often have discounts for AAA members, AARP members, senior citizens, government workers, military members, veterans, travel industry employees, hotel shareholders, business travelers, and loyalty program members. Boutique hotels may even offer introductory rates for first-time guests.
Much like the clearance racks at clothing stores, hotels also often have discount rooms that they don't offer to regular customers. There's usually a defect that makes the manager decide to keep the room empty. For example, there may be a stain in the carpet or a lamp may be missing.
Depending on the hotel, you may be able to get this room at a discount. Just ask, "Do you have any out-of-order rooms? I'd be willing to stay there if the price is right."
Upgrades and Special Requests
If you have a special request, leave it for later in the phone call. Otherwise, you may be given a more expensive room. You want to know their base rate so you can decide for yourself if whatever addon you want is worth the extra charge.
Once you get a rate you like, ask, "Oh, by the way, will this be an ocean-view room?" If the hotel manager says it's not and that you'll have to pay more for an ocean-view room, you can judge for yourself whether to pay the higher price.
This is also a good time to ask, "Could you throw in the breakfast?" You can also ask for a room upgrade or free parking.
Before you end the call, get your reservation confirmation code and the name of the person on the other end of the phone. These details will help you if there's any confusion or problem with your reservation later.
Have you ever negotiated a lower room rate? What worked for you?
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