Booking direct will almost always lower your rate at hotels. On-site reservation agents know about site-specific promotions and often have the authority to lower rates when you want to negotiate. They also offer more complete information and will accept very specific requests that toll-free reservation lines may not be able to handle. Call the 800 number for general information, their best rate, and the number of the hotel that interests you. Call the hotel directly during times when long-distance rates are favorable or late afternoons when business typically slows down. The discount you get is likely to be far more than the cost of the call.
Never pay full rate unless you are trying to book the last room in town for Super Bowl Sunday. Paying full rate is like paying the asking price at a used car lot. The average hotel occupancy rate hovers around 69%. They need to fill empty rooms. Negotiate -- don't settle for the first offer.
Make your needs clear. If you want specific features, make it known at the beginning of your call. If you are eligible for any standard discount, tell the agent. Ask which rooms are most popular. You may discover important information, such as rooms with exceptional views at no extra charge.
Ask for the lowest rate, then ask for one that's even lower. Ask about rate breaks, promotional rates, and frequent-guest rates (membership is often free, and you can sign up instantly). If you will be celebrating a special event, tell the agent. You may be given a special room or an upgrade. Ask for an introductory rate if you have never stayed at the hotel before. This is particularly effective at independent and boutique hotels. If you travel to the city frequently, let them know that you could be a steady customer. Ask if the hotel is undergoing any substantial renovation. 15% of all hotels are, at any given point in time. You want to book a room away from the sounds of construction, and you want a discount.
If you're booking multiple nights, check on day-to-day rate variations. If you get a rate of $79 for the first night, $139 for the second, and $89 for the third, ask for the $79 rate for each night of your stay in exchange for streamlined daily maid service.
When you get a rate you like, ask for an upgrade, free breakfast, or another added value. When you finalize the deal, note the rate code, confirmation number, and agent's name in case you are charged a different rate when you arrive.
Challenge the reservation agent to find you the lowest possible rate in the quickest possible time. Agents are trained to offer the highest rates first, so ask for the lowest rate -- then ask again.
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