Make yourself known
If you’re fishing for a deal, you have to get in the water. Joining a hotel’s loyalty program, which is free, often automatically gives you a discount on rates starting around 5 percent, depending on your status, if booked directly with the hotel.
For smaller or independent hotels, sign up for their newsletters, which often contain discount offers. Recently, I received an email from the stylish 40-room Lora hotel, lodged in a former brewery in Stillwater, Minn., offering rooms from $140, including valet parking (normally $30) and a $30 restaurant credit in May.
In your destination research, find out if any new hotels are opening and sign up for email updates (call up a city’s tourism website and search under news). Often these will offer introductory rates. For example, the new Hoxton hotel in Chicago offered $77 rooms on pre-opening bookings; the hotel, which opened in April, now has rooms from about $150 (the company promises similar future bargains on upcoming openings in Los Angeles and London).
Another, more direct, method is to call the hotel and ask for a better rate. That’s not likely to help at a chain hotel with receptionists who aren’t empowered to cut a deal, but several small inns reported that they appreciate working directly with guests to suggest alternate dates, smaller rooms or packages that offer more value.
“Call us directly and we will be happy to give you a free upgrade if it’s available,” said Amanda McSharry, the co-owner of the Sailmaker’s House in Portsmouth, N. H., and Water Street Inn in Kittery, Me. “That doesn’t happen via computers.”
Pros: It’s easy, free and rewarding to join loyalty programs or register for updates.
Cons: None, although you may need a separate e-commerce email to keep your inbox tidy.
Book in advance
Hotels raise their rates as bookings increase over time. That’s why, often, a room searched the week of travel costs more than booking one month in advance.