How to negotiate, haggle, bargain for a lower room rate
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Want a great deal at a hotel or motel?
It's yours for the asking

"You can get as much as 60% off at a hotel, motel or timeshare rental just for the asking," says Rick Doble, editor of Newsletter. The trick is to talk with the local desk instead of the central reservation office for a hotel chain. This is because the people at the local desk will know how busy their hotel is. Also they usually have more authority to negotiate with you. Here are the steps involved.

  • Do not call the central 800 telephone number for a reservation. Call them instead to get the local number of the hotel where you will be staying. This is the quickest and cheapest way to find that phone number.
  • Call your Hotel in Washington for instance and talk with someone who has the authority to negotiate. These days many desk clerks may have that authority, but at other hotels you might need to speak with the manager.
  • If you belong to the hotel's "club," make sure they know this from the beginning. Wielding the hotel's club card will give you a lot more clout.
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  • Ask for the lowest rate available. This could be a seasonal discount, weekend special, or weekday promotion. Sometimes just asking for the "lowest, rock bottom rate" will get you a good discount. There might be a package deal, such as two nights with breakfast. Members of certain organizations such as AARP or AAA often get reduced rates. Your business card may qualify you for the corporate rate instead of the "rack rate" (the list price in the hotel business). Even doing business with a local company or knowing a student at a nearby university could help. Don't give up, keep trying. Last year, a reader got a special "shopping rate" (she wasn't shopping) which included breakfast. She saved $15 per night -- just because she asked. A surprising number of people will pay the first price quoted. However, you shouldn't even accept the second rate offered. Say something like, "Is that the best you can do?" Keep insisting that there must still be a better deal.
  • Special discounts: Senior citizens (which can mean over 50) often get a better rate. When traveling with your children, you may be able to get an adjoining room at half price. If you plan to stay a week or so, you can usually bargain. People in the military may qualify for a special deal. There are usually government rates for government employees. Also the hotel might have an advertised promotion. If they do, cut out the ad and place it in front of you when you call. Take it with you when you check in.
  • If they won't offer you a lower price after giving you the first discount, ask for extras such as breakfast. If a continental breakfast is included, then ask for a full breakfast.
  • Make sure that you know what your rate includes. Is there a charge for local calls, or charge card calls, or "toll-free" calls? Is parking extra? Are there any other mandatory service charges? How much is the tax? (Cities love to add an extra 5% to 10% tax on hotel bills.)
  • After you've completed your negotiations, get a confirmation number and the name of the person you've been dealing with. It also helps to write down the date and time you called.
  • When you arrive at the hotel, you should always start a 2nd round of negotiations. In addition to the extras listed above (#6), you might ask for a room with a better view, an upgrade to a larger room, or a late check-out.
  • Make sure you get any bonuses, such as frequent flyer miles.
  • When trying to book at a timeshare resort, go onto a resale/rental site like SellMyTimeshareNow first. You can get up to 60% off the resort asking price by renting from an owner, and you can usually negotiate the price to get an even lower price. You'll be able to receive most of the same amenities as the owner of the timeshare, and you'll be staying in a large apartment-like suite instead of a small room. It's a great idea for families or single travelers who just want more space.
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