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Insider Tips: How To Save Money On Hotel Rooms

In my previous career, I worked in the hotel industry.  Most hotel chains have an employee rate program starting at $39 – $69 per night to stay at their sister hotels.  Since I’ve left the industry I have had a difficult time transitioning myself to paying the standard rate.  It can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here are my top 5 tips on how to save money on hotel rooms:

How To Save Money On Hotel Rooms

1. Ask your friends & family – Just as hotels have preferred rates for their employees, they also have “friends and family” rates that are typically only $20 – $30 more than the employee rate.  Most hotel employees are used to being asked for this favour, so if someone you know works in the industry, why not ask them yourself?

2. Use your corporate/government/association affiliation – The next best rate to try would be a preferred corporate rate or government rate.  Or if you belong to an association like a professional sales association or an engineering association, ask the hotel for your preferred discount.  Also, if you are a CAA/AAA member, you will likely save 10%.

3. Know your market – Most resort locations and sports destinations will be busy on the weekends, but they start to empty out on Sunday/Monday.  Plan your trip away from the peak times and into the weekdays to save 15% – 40% off your rate.  Conversely, most corporate locations and meeting hot spots are busier mid week (Tues-Thu), especially downtown hotels.  You can book at some beautiful downtown locations on the weekend for 50% off their regular rate.

4. Book in advance – The trend in most hotel chains is to offer an advanced booking discount on their website.  If you book more than 14 days in advance, you may be entitled to a 15% – 20% discount.  Book a week in advance and receive 10% – 15% off your rate.  Please note that hotels build in “fences” where the deeper the discount offered the more conditions apply to your booking.  For example, the 14 day advanced purchase rate will likely have a “no-cancellation” clause, and will capture your funds immediately upon booking, rather than at checkout.

5. 3rd party websites – Take a look at Expedia.ca or Travelocity.ca to get an idea of the rates being offered in the location you are looking for.  All hotels need to offer “rate parity” to these 3rd party websites, meaning that the lowest rate offered on the hotel website will also have to be offered on Expedia and Travelocity.

Now here’s the trick; hotels pay 22% booking fees for every reservation made through these 3rd party websites (similar to travel agent commissions).  Check the lowest rate on Expedia and then call the hotel directly and ask for a discount.  Savvy hotel operators will know that they will net more profit by offering you a $10 or $15 discount over the phone than they will by allowing you to book on Expedia.

Related: Forget The Resort! Why You Should Travel For The Experience

Ex. You book a $100 rate on Expedia – the hotel nets $78.  If you book an $85 rate with the hotel directly – everyone wins!

There are many other ways to save money on hotel rooms, including using Hotwire.com & Priceline.com, and belonging to a hotel rewards program, like Delta Privilege.  Maybe I’ll save those for a future post…

So there you have it, 5 tips to get the best value out of your next hotel stay.  What are some of the ways you save money on hotel rooms?

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9 Comments

  1. Financial Cents on August 30, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Good tips! I use #2 quite a bit. My other tip – just plain ask. Sometimes, asking for a good rate, gets you a good rate!

  2. Tiny Potato on August 30, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    I used Priceline for the first time this summer. Found it to be a great system. However, for longer stays of 3 days or more I would prefer knowing exactly which hotel is booked (instead of finding out after committing to the purchase)

  3. Echo on August 30, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    @Financial Cents – yes, always a good tactic to just ask for a discount. In my experience, the big chains won’t budge on their rate very often unless you have an affiliation…however asking for an upgrade or free breakfast usually works.

    @Tiny Potato – I think that Priceline revolutionized the online sales, since they don’t show the hotel name until the transaction is completed, hotels don’t have to offer the same rate parity that they do on Expedia/Travelocity. They call that an “opaque” rate, and they can be much much lower than their published rates. But I agree with you, if it’s an extended stay I want to know the hotel name before paying.

  4. ronika on September 12, 2010 at 9:41 am

    It’s usually a good idea to join the hotel’s preferred guest program before checking in, as you often get perks (room upgrades, turndown service etc.) and potential future discounts if you decide to stay there again.

    • Echo on September 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

      I agree Ronika, some of the hotel reward programs from large chains are fairly rich and offer other perks besides free nights.

  5. Money Reasons on March 11, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Great advice on a purchase that is easily overlooked. I find that a hotel can really make the difference between a good trip and a great trip!

    I need to do more of #5 🙂

    • Echo on March 12, 2011 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks Money Reasons! You’re right, a great hotel can make all the difference in your trip. Renting a hotel room can be intimidating but there are many deals to be found if you shop around and understand how hotels profit.

  6. London on August 31, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Thanks Echo. Thanks for valuable tips here.

    I have never tried these ideas but after reading these money saving tips I would definitely keep in my mind before next time hotel booking.

  7. Carlos Borges on May 24, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Cool tips! There are also some other ways of saving on hotels depending on your situation:

    – If you are booking early, check out TripRebel.com to get a refund if prices go down after you booked.

    – If you have flexible dates DealAngel.com helps you find the cheapest days in a very easy and user-friendly way.

    – If you book last-minute, apps like hoteltonight.com are great!

    – If you don’t mind not knowing exactly which hotel you are going to stay until some days before check-in, take a look on GuestMob.com.

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