How to: Get a Deal on a Hotel Room

Not everyone cares to spend their time hunting for a deal. For me, it’s less about the money saved and more about the fun of planning an awesome trip and the rush of scoring a deal. The more time I spend planning a trip, the more I’m thinking about vacations, and the more I’m thinking about vacations, the less likely I am to be grouchy.

Book early. Hotels may offer early bird rates on hotel booking sites like Hotels.com or Orbitz. For instance, I got 50% off a room at in La Fortuna de San Carlos in Costa Rica by booking four months in advance.

Check back frequently. If you didn’t find a deal on your room, check back each week before you leave. Hotels might offer special rates closer to your trip if they have a lot of unbooked rooms. For instance, while researching lodging in and around La Fortuna, I found the Rio Celeste Hideaway—off the beaten path, tucked into the jungle, with awesome amenities. I totally fell in love with the place, but the rate was out of my budget. Now that the trip is getting closer, the hotel is offering 30% off.

Shop around. Most of the time, the prices are comparable across the hotel booking sites. Occasionally, though, one of them will have a much better price than the others. Point in case: Tabacon Grand Thermal Resort is one of the priciest hotels in La Fortuna. The rate on Hotels.com and Expedia for a superior room? $451 a night. The rate on Orbitz for the same room? $207. Why? Don’t ask questions, just book it!

Also check the hotel site directly. Sometimes the rates offered by the hotel itself are much better (and sometimes much worse) than the hotel booking sites. It’s also worth it to compare the cancellation policy, which may be different as well.

Get on the phone. OK, so you booked super early to score a great deal, but now your itinerary has evolved. If you change the dates of your stay you might lose your awesome rate. But don’t worry. Hotels and hotel booking sites will likely be flexible with their policies. You just need to call and ask nicely. After all, they’d rather bend the rules than lose your business altogether. For instance, when I tried to use Hotels.com to change a reservation from three nights to two, the site wanted to rebook me at the current, higher nightly rate. A three-minute phone call later, and customer-service rep Alex hooked me up, letting me keeping the original rate for my new dates. Too easy.

Now that you have some tips for getting deal, check back next week for tips on choosing the best hotel for your money.

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