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How to Get the Best Deals on Hotels

2008 Hotel Trends

by Jenny Peters

Book two nights at The Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills and get the third night free
Get a great deal on a room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills

In this time of worldwide economic turmoil, it just makes sense to keep our eyes on the bottom line when it comes to travel. No one wants to give up the idea of escaping from our everyday lives on a fantastic vacation adventure, but now we all want to make smart financial decisions before heading off on that dream trip. The good news is that it is not impossible these days to get great deals on even top-of-the-line hotels; remember, the financial crisis is affecting the travel industry, too, as demand for rooms drops when belts tighten.

The W Atlanta - Midtown
The W Atlanta - Midtown

For example, through April 2009, the Four Seasons Hotels in places like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Las Vegas are giving patrons what they call "a special gift," which is a complimentary third night after two consecutive paid nights. Likewise, the W Hotel chain is offering a third night for free at many of their properties worldwide (including W Montréal and W Atlanta - Midtown) through March 2009 if guests book with them using an American Express card. The Hilton Hotels are offering an “Advance Purchase” option, discounts on rates at even their top-tier properties, as long as you make full payment for your room in advance; but be sure of your travel plans, as they will not refund that payment if you end up canceling. The Kor Hotel Group (with properties including the Viceroy Palm Springs and The Tides South Beach) makes a similar deal, with a 21-day advance purchase discount.

Those sorts of hotel specials are often reported here on, but sometimes the best room prices are negotiated directly, rather than via the Internet. As demand for rooms goes down, a direct conversation with the hotelier can often result in a lower rate than can be found through Internet or travel-agent booking. So pick up the phone and call the property, and make sure you do not use a toll-free number, which could be connecting oceans away from the actual hotel. Plus, negotiating with the hotel itself often reveals specials the toll-free operators do not have access to; also, bookers physically at the property may have what is called a "fallback" price to offer customers who push for a lower room rate, so be brave.

The pool cabana at Viceroy Palm Springs, in California
The pool at Viceroy Palm Springs

Regardless of how you book your rate, to insure that you are getting the best possible deal on a room, you need to make certain that the price you agree on is the all-inclusive, final number. More and more hotels, especially those in the five-star range, are slipping in hefty “resort” fees (charges for use of gym, pool, etc., sometimes as much as $25 per day), parking, and Internet connection charges, which can substantially drive up the room’s bottom-line cost. Check for all those hidden charges before you offer up your credit card, so you can make a fully-informed decision as to what the best deal truly is.

In addition, consider planning your overseas vacation destination with the economy in mind; a visit to a country whose finances are faltering can produce substantial savings. Check the strength of the dollar (or whatever currency you get paid with) against the currency of a few different nations that offer the getaway you desire. Countries such as Fiji, Australia, Iceland and Great Britain have definitely become more affordable to visit due to the economic crisis.

In general, remember to look at the positive side when seeking out the best deal on hotel rooms, too. If the property offers free wireless Internet, includes breakfast, parking, and a swimming pool in the cost of the room, and shuttles you to the airport at no charge, the price you negotiate can be a much bigger bargain than you first imagined. And, in this economic climate, you'll relax more on your trip knowing you won't be flying home with a sizable debt along with your souvenirs.

(Updated: 11/18/08 ET)

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