I am a front desk agent at a hotel close to my home in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. I have never worked in the hotel industry prior to September of this year. I was shocked at the ways to get discount rates at a hotel, as I have always paid full price. Keep in mind that I work for a chain hotel, and the same may not apply to stand alone motels.
AAA (Triple A) – Your roadside assistance can save you more money than you thought! Ask the front desk agent when you make your reservation if they have a Triple A discount rate.
AARP – Are you a member of AARP? Ask if there is a discount rate of Seniors or AARP. There is a good chance they will have one!
CDL – Have a Commercial Drivers License? Ask if they have a special rate for CDL’s. Many hotels directly off a highway or interstate just may be able to give you a steeper discount than any other discount!
Military – Are you in the Military. or work for a Government Agency? Many hotels will offer a discount rate for this, especially those close to a base/fort/training facility.
Coupons – Many of the best rates come from coupon books. If you see a hotel that is near a fast food restaurant, stop in and see if they have a Travel book in their lobby. Try a nearby Truck Stop as well. These books often carry coupons where you can find the best rate and the lowest price hotel. But beware, these coupons are based on availability and cannot be used for reservations. If the hotel is almost at maximum capacity, they may not accept it.
If none of the above fit your situation, think of memberships you do belong to. The rates will vary by state, and even county, and some establishments may have many more discounts to offer than others. Ask the front desk agents what discounts they do offer, they will tell you. For any memberships, as with the above, be prepared to show proof of your desired discount rate. (eg. membership card)
So, you don’t have any memberships?
The best thing to do is be nice. Do not walk in to a hotel and slam down your Gold Card and whelp ‘I want your best rate’! This will just ensure you to not get any discount. Greet the agent with a smile. Ask how their day/night is going. Ask for the rate differences by room and number of people in the room. A king size bed might cost more than a queen size etc.
Many roadside hotels/motels do not allow their agents to accept tips. So, offering an extra $5 for them to give you a $20 discount will probably not work. In fact, it will probably help guarantee no discount rate is applied.
So, you don’t have any memberships and you aren’t very good at small talk?
When the agent gives you their nightly rate, which is pre-fixed by either the General Manager or the chain corporate office, ask nicely: ‘Can you do any better than that’? Maybe you have a special situation, perhaps your vehicle broke down half way to your destination and you are now short on cash, explain that. If you are nice going in, the agent will help you if their company allows them to. If you know ahead of time, in the midst of a situation unforeseen, that you have X amount of money to spend on the stay, explain that, again nicely.
If you decide to make your reservation on-line, through the chain website or a discount travel site, before you enter your credit card information, call the hotel directly and ask them what their current rate is for the date you are seeking. On-line can save you money, but sometimes calling the hotel directly can save you even more. Let the agent on the phone know that you are on XX website and they are giving a rate of $XX. Then ask if that is the best rate they can give for that day and length of stay.
If your stay is going to be lengthy, say a few weeks or longer, call the hotel and ask to speak to the General Manager. Many times, if work is going to have you staying for an extended period of time, or another situation where you will have a lengthy stay, the GM will give you a better rate to keep you there and keep that room sold for that period.
Even if you are away for work, but it won’t be a few weeks, make sure to mention that you are working at XXX Company in the local area for the week and were wondering if the hotel had a business rate. Again the GM will be likely to try to help you out, if you just ask.
Flying in 20 guests for a wedding, Christmas party, or family get together? Again, call and ask to speak to the GM about a special Group Rate. Many times if you have a large group, three or more double rooms, they will be more willing to cut your cost for the overall stay.
If you are willing to take the chance, and know there is a backup hotel in the area, try checking in late at night. The late crew is going to be more willing to cut your cost because you are checking in so late and will have less of a stay than those that checked in that morning. Always keep in mind that you are not guaranteed a room without a reservation, so there is a chance, during the busy season, they may be sold out and they have no room to sell you.
The best advice to give when looking for a cheaper rate at a hotel, is be nice. Do not insist, do not pressure, do not push. The front desk agent is a person, too. This is their job, and they have feelings, too. Yelling at them because they can’t cut your rate due to being near maximum capacity, or a big group in the area, is not going to get you a better rate, or make you feel good about yourself. It may even get you rejected from the hotel forever.
The nicer your are, the better chance the agent will tell you about a discount that you may not have known about, or that may be a local rate just for that hotel. Many hotels carry local negotiated rates for certain demographics, such as some of the above.
Keep all of the above in mind, be yourself, and treat the agent how you would want to be treated in the situation, and you are almost guaranteed to get a discount on your travel, now and in the future. Always remember, a penny saved is a penny earned, and using the above knowledge is like money in the bank!