Why did you end up paying $100 more per night for that hotel stay than your friend, who was a guest at the same property just a few days earlier? It’s not uncommon, according to Mike Heflin, the senior vice president of the hotels division at Travel Leaders Group, a network of 50,000 travel agents.
“Hotel prices and the perks you get can vary wildly depending on how you book,” he said. There are, however, ways to hone in on a deal and save some money. Here are some of Mr. Heflin’s best tips to do just that.
Don’t Judge By Price Alone
It may seem counterintuitive, but the hotel offering the lowest price doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re getting the best deal. “The higher priced hotel may have inclusions that add up to more value than the lower priced property,” Mr. Heflin said. Keep in mind what comes with the room you book, as well as how it hits your wallet, and what you may spend extra on if you book a bargain basement hotel room.
For instance, a room that is $20 per night lower than the one at the hotel across the street might not have free Wi-Fi, free breakfast or other amenities you may pay out of pocket for anyway. Paid hotel Wi-Fi and breakfast could add up to $50 or more per night, more than what you would have saved if you’d booked the so-called pricier property.
Shop Flash Sales
The travel industry has flash sales throughout the year where you can score discounted hotel rooms. Expedia.com for example, offers discounts of up to 30 percent on hotel stays through the frequent flash sales on its mobile app. Preferred Hotels & Resorts has periodic flash sales on its site where nightly rates for its hotels are an average of 35 percent off usual prices. Andrew Harper has regular flash sales, and individual hotels, too, post flash sales to their sites. Similarly, apps like Hotel Tonight and Hipmunk offer heavily discounted room rates, especially for travelers with flexible schedules or looking to book at the last minute.
With all of these rates and discounts however, it’s worth contacting the hotel and mentioning that you found the rate on a specific app or through a flash sale, and you’d like to know if you can book directly. Most hotels prefer you book directly than through apps that take a cut of the cost, and will match your price or otherwise make it worth your while if you do.
Many hotels reward travelers who join their loyalty programs, like Starwood Preferred Guest, Marriott Rewards, Hilton Honors, Wyndham Rewards and more. Joining these programs is free, but the perks you get such as breakfast, early-check-in and room upgrades can add up very quickly, especially if you stay loyal.
Mr. Heflin also said that loyalty members often have access to special rates. Preferred Hotels & Resorts, for example, has weekly Last Minute Escapes, discounts of at least 35 percent off usual rates, for members of its I Prefer Rewards program.
Use Your Other Memberships for Additional Discounts
Many hotels offer room discounts for guests who are members of affinity groups such as AARP, AAA, frequent flier programs and the military. The discounts vary, but AAA members, for one, can get anywhere from five to 15 percent off usual rates at even expensive hotels and resorts.
Try a Travel Agent
Many travel agents, especially those affiliated with larger agencies, have negotiated preferred rates with a range of hotel brands. Some agents may even be able to get you room upgrades and food and beverage credits.
Even better, it likely won’t cost you anything to use one: “The vast majority of agents don’t charge fees to make simple hotel bookings,” Mr. Heflin said. Just be sure to shop around before choosing one, to make sure you get an agent that’s right for you.