En español | If you’ve scored what seems like a fabulous rate, call the hotel to see exactly what's included. Like airlines, hotels have started “unbundling” services: You may find yourself paying extra for the gym, the pool, Wi-Fi or even an ironing board.
Always call the hotel to ask for a lower rate than you’ve found online. Ask about current promotions and sales. And if certain amenities aren’t included, ask to get them for free: breakfast, Internet, parking and use of the workout facilities.
You may be entitled to a discount if you’re a member of AARP, AAA or a professional group such as the American Bar Association. Your employer may also provide travel discounts. Coupons may further reduce rates; check for them on sites like Expedia, Hotels.com, Retail Me Not or Coupon Heaven.
Before you join a program, make sure it matches your travel style and offers the sorts of things you want. Some programs award points that count toward future free nights; others emphasize extra amenities or upgrades.
If you get a great rate on an auction site, don’t accept it without investigating the location of the hotel and checking reviews. These sites offer some of the steepest discounts, but it’s often for hotels that might be less attractive — in an iffy neighborhood, undergoing construction or maybe even listed on a bedbug registry.
They’re usually higher, but when you apply a membership or other discount, the higher rate may come down closer to the lower nonrefundable rate. Plus refundable-rate rooms are often nicer and may include extras like breakfast or parking, bringing the total cost of your stay down further.
Make Sure You Get the Real Best Price Guarantee
If you get a “best price guarantee” with a major booking site such as Expedia or Orbitz, keep checking rates for 24 hours after you’ve reserved. If you find a better rate — and you well may — the site will generally refund the difference, and may also offer savings or rewards for future travel.
When You Don’t Have Time for Comparison Shopping
Book a refundable rate through Tingo.com, and pay when you book. Afterward, the site checks rates continuously. If the rate you booked goes down, Tingo automatically refunds the difference to your credit card shortly after your stay. Orbitz has a similiar program called Orbitz Price Guarantee, but it isn't automatic.
Most hotel chains base their rates on the assumption that two guests will stay. Smaller hotels, on the other hand, are more likely to sell rooms aimed at solo travelers or negotiate on the nightly rate if you’re alone.