June 6, 2010

Tip of the day

Saving money on hotel rooms:
  • Sign up for loyalty rewards programs to earn points towards future free stays.
  • Look at on-line websites geared towards saving you money at hotel stays, such as Hotels.com
  • Compare prices for the same hotel by calling the toll free number, looking online, and calling the hotel branch directly. You might see a $10 or more price difference.
  • If you have a larger family, consider opting for a suite. A pull out couch and two double beds can sleep just as many people as two small rooms for less cost overall.
  • Consider the taxes. If you are going to a location and passing through different states, look to see which state charges less tax. Compare city, county, and state taxes. While one place might have a better room rate, it might still be cheaper to stay at another when you add on the extra fees.
  • Bargain/Haggle/Ask. Talk to the manager about a discount. When we stayed at a hotel last in TX, we did not have a good experience. Yet this is the hotel that most of our family recommends. I called and spoke with the manager to tell her about our experience, saying we preferred to give them another chance if they could discount our room and check it to make sure it was in good working order. She discounted the room $50 cheaper than their normal rate, and it was $20 cheaper than the best rate at a hotel down the street. Remember my mantra, "It never hurts to ask."
  • Break loyalties. I opted for a hotel in Meridian last time that was $50 cheaper than the Holiday Inn, our preferred hotel of choice. We stayed at the Country Inn and Suites, and the hotel experience there could not have been better. They were amazing! Everything about the stay there was wonderful, and I was so pleased that we gave another hotel a try. When staying at a new hotel, still sign up for the loyalty card so that you are earning points.
  • Opt for a hotel that offers extras. Free breakfast could save you and your family $5-10 per person over going to a restaurant to eat. The Country Inn and Suites, mentioned above, encouraged us to bring bananas, granola bars, and water with us for our trip. This, in addition to the extra food we had packed, saved us from having to stop for lunch that day.
  • Take advantage of the extras offered at the hotel. Soak in the hot tub, swim in the pool, pump some iron in the exercise room, read the free newspaper, take advantage of free drinks during cocktail hour (you don't have to opt for alcoholic, pick a soda or Shirley Temple instead), enjoy free parking in larger cities, bring the free shampoos and toiletries home (or donate them to a shelter)--don't let the extras that you are paying for go to waste.
  • Tip. Yes, you read correctly, I'm encouraging you to spend MORE money than you have to by tipping those who help you. I've found that when you tip, you actually get more out of the experience. The hostess at the breakfast bar remembers who you are and wants to help you even more. I'm not saying that you'll get bad service if you don't tip, but I've found that I receive above average service when I do.
  • Stay outside of the city, especially if it is a larger city or tourist city. Hotel rates are more expensive in those areas. When weighing the pros and cons of doing this, factor cost of parking into the equation. Parking in a city like Washington, DC or NYC can be very expensive.
  • If going to the beach, you might want to compare the price of a condo instead of hotel rooms, especially if traveling with a large family or meeting friends. Cooking your own meals, housing more people in the same area, and being in walking distance from the beach are just a few of the added perks of a condo over a traditional hotel.
  • Call AAA for hotel suggestions and good room rates if you are a member. The travel agents might be able to recommend packages that save you money overall.
  • Go safe over cheap. Room rates in a shadier part of town might be appealing, but it isn't worth the savings if you put you or your family in a position to be unsafe.
  • Avoid staying at a hotel if you can. Consider driving longer during the day instead of breaking up your trip to save $50-$100 on a hotel. Rent an RV. Camp at a campsite. Stay with relatives.

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