When it comes to sniffing out a great hotel deal, Mark Ashley is the man. Here, the cyberstar behind upgradetravelbetter.com, the online bargain trove for the luxury-minded, shares tips for finding cushy rooms—on the cheap.
Set Your Sites
Begin with a targeted Web search. Visit sites like Priceline.com and Kayak.com. Once you know the available discounts, call the hotel to see if they’ll counteroffer; you might get an even lower rate or better room.
Don’t be afraid to ask, "Can you do better than that?"—but make sure you’re talking to someone at the hotel. Off-site operators usually can’t offer discounts, but reservationists—who keep tabs on vacancies—can.
Join Hotel Loyalty Programs
Sign up for one of these free clubs at check-in, before you have been assigned a room. Perks may include a complimentary newspaper, late checkout, even an upgrade to a suite.
Use Reward Credit Cards
Earn points toward free hotel stays: The first purchase on a Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card (American Express) earns up to three nights at many Sheraton hotels.
Push for Second-Room Discounts
In the off-season, try asking for a second room at a reduced rate. As the kids watch morning cartoons, you’ll enjoy the reward of your bargain-hunting: sleeping in.
Know Your Rights
Chain hotels frequently offer (but don’t frequently advertise) discounts for veterans, members of AAA and AARP, and employees of a large corporation or the government; inquire about discounts when you call for a reservation.
Ask For An Upgrade
If you find yourself checking in late—after dinnertime, when most guests have already been assigned rooms—ask whether you can have an upgrade at the same rate. A stay of just one or two nights can also improve your odds of scoring a bigger room or one with a nicer view.