Want to reduce your business travel costs? Or planning a weekend getaway?
While we all hope to get what we pay for, we really love getting a lot more than what we pay for--and that's especially true where hotels are concerned.
Here are some tips for finding the cheapest rates at awesome boutique hotels--and in some cases any hotels--from Cheryl Rosner, co-founder and CEO of Stayful.com, a website that algorithmically determines a fair market price for unsold inventory at hotels and encourages customers to bid with a suggested price. Hotels accept that suggested price approximately 60 percent of the time, and when they don't, still often counter with a lower-than-advertised rate.
(I recently tried Stayful and snagged a great midtown NYC hotel room for 30% lower than the best rate I found through other online services.)
Here are Cheryl's tips for finding a better hotel at a much lower price:
1. Avoid rush hour.
Go where the crowds are not: Stay in hotels located in the business district on the weekends and in hotels located in leisure tourist districts during the week.
This strategy alone will save you a lot of money...and if you frequently travel to the same cities, it will endear you to boutique hotels. For example, staying in San Francisco's Embarcadero area will result in significant savings and help the hotels since you'll be there during the hotel's "need" time.
2. Travel to cities during the summer.
Going to NYC in the summer is incredible. You get great deals on hotels and with so many New Yorkers leaving the city, you can easily get into the most sought-after restaurants and shows. "As a New Yorker," Cheryl says, "this is why I love to stay in the city on weekends in the summer--and invite my friends to visit."
3. Book ahead...but not too far ahead.
The Stayful community typically gets the best deals when they book boutique hotels seven days out. Booking too far in advance gives a hotel less reason to offer significant discounts; book too close to your arrival date and a hotel may be near capacity and therefore unwilling to discount.
4. Don't ask for an "upgrade." Ask for an experience.
While Cheryl stays in boutique hotels during "need" periods she says, "If you happen to have a suite available I would love to experience it." As a result, she often gets upgraded: The hotel knows because she asked for an experience, she is likely to share that experience with others.
5. Try to include a Sunday night stay.
Sunday night is the slowest day of the week and the day hotels generally offer lower rates.
6. Let others negotiate for you.
Hate negotiating? Don't. Sites like Stayful do the negotiating for you. Or, if you love a deal (Stayful searches for the best rate available and allows you to "book now"), then jump on it.
And here's a bonus tip:
7. Know before you go.
Choose your plane. When you have several options around the same time you plan to travel, check the type of aircraft offered. A 767 has fewer middle seats due to its 2-3-2 configuration.
Choose your seat. Seats free up as you get closer to flight time. Check the airline's app on your way to the airport for last-minute seat availability. Plus as upgrades are granted, additional seat options often become available.
Check the cost of checking bags. You rarely need everything you pack, so save money by leaving most of your stuff at home.
Check transportation costs from the airport to your destination. In urban destinations this can mean big savings. If you're going to New York City, flying into Newark Airport can greatly reduce ground transportation fares compared to flying into LaGuardia or JFK. In addition, you can take Air Train, which connects to Amtrak and takes you to Penn Station. The cost is $12.50 versus $50 to $75 by taxi.