[Travelman] 5 ways to get cheaper hotel rates.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Fri, 5 Jun 1998 13:51:13 -0700

[As I'm hitting the road for my mad drive up to Seattle, I chance on a
common-sense guide to getting cheaper hotel rates from Money Daily. I
read these kind things all the time in Consumer Reports Travel Report or
Conde Nast Traveler but it is helpful nonetheless to keep hearing them
so eventually they'll sink in. It's 1160 miles to Seattle, we got a
full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're
wearing sunglasses. Hit it. -- Adam]

Five ways to save on a hotel room
A Save On... special

By Winifred Conkling

Weekend, May 30-31, 1998

The reservation agents at hotels and motels can be a fickle lot: in slow
times they will try to seduce you with special rates and incentives, but
on graduation weekends and during peak seasons, they can be downright

In recent years, getting the best rate on a hotel room has become almost
as complicated as getting the best deal on an airline ticket. In fact,
hotels now use the same type of computer system to control room
inventory as the airlines use to control air fares. The big hotel chains
set a range of prices for their rooms, depending on the season, the
competition, local events and other factors. Any time you call, you may
be able to get the same room for any of a number of price points. If
you're a shrewd negotiator, you may pay $69 and sleep next door to
someone who paid $119 for the same room.

When negotiating for a room, keep in mind that hotel rooms are
perishable goods; if a room sits empty for the night, the lost income
can't be made up. The goal of the reservation agent is to get "heads in
beds" and you can use this to your advantage if you are assertive and
inquisitive when cutting the deal. Try these tips, and you'll rest a
little easier knowing you didn't overpay for your room:

1. Call a hotel consolidator. You can save 20% to 70% off the cost of a
room by working with a hotel consolidator. These companies work directly
with hotels; they can offer deep discounts because they book rooms in
bulk. The savings can be significant. For example, you can book a room
at the Palace in New York City for a mere $225 a night from a
consolidator, compared to $395 a night if you book on your own.

To get the absolute lowest price, get a rate quote from one or more of
the consolidators listed below. Once you get the best deal from the
consolidators, you might want to call the hotel directly and ask whether
you can get an even lower rate. Before booking with a consolidator (or
with the hotel for that matter), be sure to ask about the cancellation
policy; some consolidators require 72 hours cancellation notice.

* Capital Reservations (800) 847-4832
75 hotels in the Washington, DC area

* Express Reservations (800) 356-1123
40 hotels in New York and Los Angeles

* Hotel Reservations Network (800) 964-6835
18 U.S. cities, London, and Paris

* Quikbook (800) 789-9887
7 U.S. cities

* Room Exchange (800) 846-7000
22,000 hotels in 910 cities in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and the Far East

2. Don't try to cut a deal with the 800-number operator. To track down
the best rate from a chain hotel, collect quotes from both the
800-number reservation line and from the reservation agent at the hotel
where you plan to stay. For the most part, the operator on the toll-free
line doesn't have any authority to negotiate price with you, but the
reservation agent at the hotel can cut you some slack.

3. Ask: "Is that the best you can do?" Never, never accept the first
rate you're quoted. Follow up with questions about special discounts.
Most hotels offer cheaper rates for members of the American Automobile
Association, for senior citizens, for government employees, for members
of frequent flyer programs. If you own stock in the hotel company (such
as Marriott or Disney), ask about a shareholder's discount. If you work
for a large corporation, pull out a business card and ask about a
corporate discount. Also, be sure to ask about promotional rates,
weekend discounts, and off-seasons specials. By asking these simple
questions, you can save from 10% to 50% off the "rack" rate, or the
regular room rate.

4. If you don't like the rate, call again. You may be amazed at the
variations in prices by calling the same hotel more than once. If a
reservation agent offers a room for $129 a night, you may be able to get
the price down to $89 by asking about promotions and discounts. If you
call back later (sometimes just a few minutes later), you might find
that you can get the same room for $79 a night - or that the best deal
going is $99 a night. In other words, the prices are constantly
fluctuating: If at first you don't get the rate you want, call, call

5. Don't forget your confirmation number. Always get a confirmation
number when you make a reservation. This number can be your key to
getting a room at the rate you were quoted if there has been an error in
the paperwork or if the hotel claims to be sold out. (Some states
actually require a hotel to give you a room if you have a confirmation


Special on-the-road .sig double play!

The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was
already spent on extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked
like a mobile police narcotics lab. We had two bags of grass,
seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter
acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of
multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers... and also a quart
of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether,
and two dozen amyls. All this had been rounded up the night before, in
a frenzy of high-speed driving all over Los Angeles County - from
Topanga to Watts, we picked up everything we could get our hands on.
Not that we NEEDED all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a
serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
-- Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

At this time I do not have a personal relationship with a computer.
-- United States Attorney General Janet Reno, New York Times 5/21/1998