How to save on hotels for summer vacations
Hotels have gotten more expensive as the economy recovers, but there are ways to get deals
The Associated Press
Northwest travel guides
Summer vacationers looking for deals on hotel rooms are going to have to search a little harder.
The average cost of a room in the U.S. now stands at $110, up 4 percent from last year and 8 percent from two years ago, according to travel-research company STR.
Here are some tips to save on your family’s summer lodging:
Check the extras
Booking a hotel isn’t as simple as just looking at the rate and taxes. Some hotels include Wi-Fi, breakfast, bottled water and parking. Others add on hefty fees for some or all of the above. Most hotels disclose the fees on their websites, but you often have to hunt around to find them. You can always pick up the phone, call the front desk and inquire before booking.
Room to cook
Amenities such as a kitchenette won’t directly save you on the room rate but can make your vacation cheaper if you prepare some meals in your room.
Extended-stay hotel brands such as TownePlace Suites by Marriott, Starwood’s Element and Homewood Suites by Hilton offer in-room kitchens.
Many hotels let you cancel up to 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. the night of check-in. Read the fine print, then use that to your advantage. Hotel rates are constantly changing. Reserve at a fully refundable rate, and consider that the most you will need to pay for your lodging. Then, watch the price. If it falls, rebook at the new, lower rate.
Tingo.com is a booking website that plays the cancellation game for you. The site requires prepayment for the room but focuses on fully refundable rates. Each day, Tingo automatically checks to see if hotels lowered prices for the nights you booked. If the price falls, Tingo cancels the original reservation and rebooks you at the new, lower rate.
You have until 4 p.m. to cancel that hotel, right? Well, a handful of new services are offering deals for people checking into hotels that night.
• HotelTonight offers discounted rooms at more than 10,000 hotels via its iPhone and Androids apps. Each day at 9 a.m. local time, a slate of rooms is released for each of the big cities it serves.
HotelTonight users can’t request room types, so it is best used by solo travelers or couples. Rooms can be booked for up to five nights, but check-in must occur the day of booking.
• Priceline has also jumped into the same-day hotel sale frenzy. Offers start to post at 11 a.m. Unlike Priceline’s traditional service where travelers bid on unknown hotels, here the hotel names are displayed along with descriptions, maps, photos and customer-satisfaction scores.
• Last Minute Travel recently launched a mobile app that can help with last-second bookings. The app integrates TripAdvisor ratings and reviews. Unlike the other apps, hotels can be booked at any time in advance of your trip; you don’t have to wait until 11 a.m. or noon that day of arrival.
Hotels know that some people cancel and rebook at a lower rate. That leads to uncertainty about how many guests will actually show up on a given night. To get a better sense of their future business, hotels offer discounted rates to travelers willing to lock in that rate in exchange for giving up the ability to cancel.
Sometimes these can be a great deal, but only for travelers who are certain that flights won’t be delayed or their plans won’t change in any other fashion. And occasionally, fully refundable rates will fall and become cheaper than the nonrefundable ones (especially those booked months in advance).
If you are a member of AAA, inquire about a discount. Most hotels offer one, though you sometimes need to hunt around to find it online. Professional groups, athletic associations and senior-citizen associations also often have hotel-discount codes. And don’t forget about your employer. Many large companies negotiate discounts with hotels and typically allow workers to benefit for the savings for personal trips.
Join loyalty programs
InterContinental Hotels — the parent company of Holiday Inn — as well as Omni, Fairmont and Kimpton — all give program members free basic Wi-Fi, even those who have yet to spend a night. Fairmont gives its members free access to its health clubs. Kimpton gives a $10 credit toward snacks in its minibars.
Several programs also run seasonal promotions providing free nights for members. For instance, Choice Hotels and Marriott often provide a free night a certain level hotels after two check-ins during the promotional period.