5 Ways to Book a Bargain Room

Hotel room
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When you find bargain hotel rooms repeatedly, it's easy to become spoiled.

I once paid $57 USD/night to stay in Beverly Hills, just one block from pricey Rodeo Drive. A few weeks earlier, I paid $48 USD/night to stay in the heart of Chicago, within a block of pricey Michigan Avenue.

These are clean, three-star, national-chain hotels. I am not a special guest who is afforded friendly rates because I write travel articles. You could do just as well, or even better!

Interested? There are at least five ways to get it done. Not every idea will work for every traveler, so there is no attempt here to rank the techniques. Still, it's likely at least two will work for you!

Technique #1: Bid for a room


Priceline.com allows you to decide what price you want to pay for a hotel room. As always, there is a catch: they pick the hotel, which you pay for sight-unseen with a non-refundable credit card payment.

But if your plans don't call for pin-point location, it's perhaps the best way to save big money on a nice room. 

Before you bid, be sure to take advantage of Web sites like BiddingForTravel.com or BetterBidding.com for strategies. Bidders post successful (and unsuccessful) bids in your destination city. It really pays to have a Priceline bidding strategy.

Hotwire.com will also allow you to pay, sight-unseen, for a low-cost room. Again, you must assume some risk.

What's in it for the hotels? These are rooms they either cannot sell or are unlikely to fill. They'd rather get something for the room than to have it sit unoccupied.

With that in mind, bidding for rooms doesn't always work out well. I found Priceline wasn't much help in Las Vegas at the time of a huge convention. Very small cities might not show up in the Priceline or Hotwire inventories.

But if you're headed to an expensive destination, it's worth a serious look.

The fear of empty rooms works in ways beyond the auctions. Click "next" to the right and read about it.


Priceline.com isn't the only place where they specialize in selling empty hotel rooms.

In fact, the more empty rooms you find, the better your chance to snag a bargain.

Technique #2: Consult a Consolidator

These are the people who broker empty airplane seats, too. They fill space that would generate no revenue with travelers who pay a fraction of the prices put up by those around them.

Consolidators can be found on the Internet or on the classified page of your newspaper's travel section. Many times, the headline will read something like "last-minute deals" or "available this weekend."

Not everyone is thrilled with this branch of the travel industry. Some find the service end of the equation sorely lacking. Others complain the "deals" don't always measure up to expectations.

Just remember to read the fine print very carefully.

Technique #3: Make the Hotel an Offer

This idea is not for the faint of heart.

I'm actually suggesting it's possible, in certain situations, to go into a hotel and politely offer the manager far less than the price he or she will quote you.

It works later in the evening when the parking lot is half-full and there are literally dozens of empty rooms in a given hotel.

It does not work in large cities where there is always the chance a late-arriving group will fill some of those rooms. It's not effective in smaller towns where there is a nearby major event or attraction.

You must also be certain you can go elsewhere to get a room for the night or be willing to "swallow your pride" and pay what they ask. No one wants to see you sleep in the car!

Just remember you're unlikely to see these people again. If they refuse your offer, what do you really have to lose?

Of course, in most cases you'll be making reservations when you travel. Planning ahead is a basic, effective way to save money on hotel rooms. Click on "next" to the right and find out more.


Some people are not "joiners."

They find frequent flier clubs and room reward clubs to be distasteful, and generators of junk mail or spam.

I suggest those people are spending more money for travel than they should!

Technique #4: Sign up as a preferred customer

There are scores of ways to earn free stays in nice hotels.

Business travelers usually patronize one chain while on expense account, accumulating points for free vacation stays.

But you need not travel frequently to make these clubs pay handsomely.

There are credit cards you can use that will earn points for every dollar you spend--money you'll be spending anyway for milk, laundry detergent, and other mundane necessities.

There are special offers that only club members receive--discounts among them. Not all the clubs are hotel-based. Ask any member of AARP or AAA if they get discounts on hotels.

What you'll have to buy in order to get a free stay will vary by hotel chain. As an example: Holiday Inn's Priority Club offers a free stay in their Express locations after perhaps six or seven nights.

Remember that if you use Priceline, most hotels will not award points.

Technique #5: Tap into volume sales at the search engines

Here's another way the Internet has improved our lives: you now have access to scores of marketplaces where hotels are available at discount prices.

Many of these search engine operations will link you to the hotel's Web site, or show you a synopsis (complete with photographs) that they've prepared.

It might be Kayak, Orbitz, Travelocity or Expedia. Maybe you're a Trivago fan. Perhaps your last good deal came from Hotels.com.

These services deal in volume, which sets them apart from the consolidators we've already discussed. Here, you're likely to pay a bit more than the consolidators will charge. In return, you get more choices, more dates and perhaps a better mechanism for complaints if they arise.

There are volume dealers who specialize in Asia or Europe. Some cater to business travelers or vacation plans.

Give them all a look--even if you intend to use one of the other techniques. They often establish a good budget travel baseline for shopping.

Shopping is the key word. Any place you want to visit has hotel rooms that are overpriced and underpriced. You must find the latter without getting stuck with the former.

Next Page: More Money-Saving Features

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