How To Stay In Nice Hotels Without Paying Top Dollar

luxury hotel accommodation
UggBoy UggGirl, Flickr

I still remember the feeling of slipping into 600 thread count sheets after months of staying in backpacker hostels where the bedding was often akin to vintage potato sacks and the mattress boasted a giant dimple where thousands of other young unwashed explorers had slept before me. Settling onto an ergonomic, body-cradling bed, resting against down pillows, waking up to a buffet breakfast with more types of pastry than one could reasonably taste-test before 10 a.m. – it was glorious. There’s just something about a nice hotel that you can’t put a price on. Yet, of course, they do come with a price, and it’s typically a hefty one.

No matter your travel style, it goes without saying that you want to stretch your dollar as far as possible. That often means compromising on accommodation – staying in a bare bones room with questionable stains in the carpet – so you can spend your money on what really matters, which is of course, exploring your destination. Still, few of us would turn down the chance to stay at a nice hotel, especially if we could do it without forking over a whole lot of extra cash. And the thing is, you can stay in nice hotels without paying top dollar – you just have to know how to go about it.The first step, of course, is to search around for a good deal on your accommodation of choice and you’ll find no shortage of booking websites offering discounts (Expedia, Kayak, Hotwire and lastminute.com, to name just a few). But why limit yourself to what’s advertised to the masses? Here are a few other ways of scoring nice digs on a budget.

Haggle. It certainly depends on where in the world you’re traveling, but in many countries, haggling is an expected part of any transaction. So go ahead and ask the receptionist for their “best price” – you’ll be surprised at the number of times you receive a discount. This tactic works best if you haven’t already made a booking and the hotel risks losing your business. Of course, use some common sense and make sure you’re not being unreasonable in your demands, especially if you’re traveling in a developing country (where the locals need those extra few dollars more than you) and the price is already pretty good.

Ask for an upgrade. There are lots of places where negotiating would be frowned upon. I mean, you don’t exactly walk into The Four Seasons and start haggling over your room rate. But what you can do at these kinds of establishments, is ask for some kind of bonus, whether it be an upgrade to a better room type, being placed on a higher floor in the building, getting a room with a nice view versus one that faces the parking lot, or a free breakfast voucher. A surprising number of hotels will oblige your request if they have room available. Just be polite when inquiring and remember to tip when they come through with the upgrade.

Seek out new, independent hotels. A new establishment – especially one that isn’t associated with a major hotel chain – needs to work at attracting guests and building a name for itself, which means they’ll likely offer lower rates to get people in the door. As an added bonus, everything in the rooms will be sparkly and new, and the service will probably be better than usual because the owners are eager to impress.

Stay in business hotels. Hotels geared towards business travelers typically fill up during the working week, but come the weekend, they empty out. As a result, many of these hotels lower their rates over the weekend, making them ideal for leisure travelers looking to save a few dollars. The further away from the tourist centers the hotel is located, the cheaper it’s likely to be (many are found near conference centers or the local business district).

Look for a hotel away from the tourist haunts. Every city has its established hotspots that tourists generally flock to but if you can hunt down the emerging districts you’ll be able to nab accommodation at a much lower rate. Don’t be afraid to venture a significant distance from the downtown attractions – as long as there’s a good public transit system or affordable taxis, you won’t have a problem. In fact, chances are you’ll have a more authentic experience overall when sleeping, eating and shopping in the same district as the locals.

Have you ever had success negotiating down the rate on a nice hotel? What other tactics have worked for you?

Would You Let A Website Choose Your Travel Destination?

beach Set to launch November 1, GetGoing is a new website that takes the hassle out of trip planning and budgeting while giving sizable discounts.

Travelers simply input their travel dates and what kind of trip they want, and the site searches hundreds of destinations, including ones they may not have thought of that could be a great fit. Users can input information about the region, like Europe or Asia, or interest, like history, beach or culture. From the generated list of 10 possible trips, users then choose their top two choices, as well as times, stopovers and prices. GetGoing will then choose one the trips and handle the booking.

So, why would one use this service? Along with less thinking on your part, GetGoing promises airfare discounts of up to 40% when you use their services.

Still sound crazy? Not to co-founder and CEO Alek Vernitsky, who explained to NBC News, “Giving somebody the option of selecting two destinations instead of one fits with how people think about vacations. People naturally think in terms of options – do I want to go here or there?”

Using the flip-a-coin philosophy, the company is able to leverage the fact their clients aren’t married to certain dates or destinations, allowing them to get great deals on remaining seats. For now, GetGoing will offer flights from 12 U.S. airports and trips to about 2,000 destinations. Future goals include adding similar offerings for accommodations and local getaways.

Would you use GetGoing’s new travel service?

[Image via Shutterstock]

Liftopia Has Hot Deals On Lift Tickets For The Upcoming Ski Season

Liftopia ends summer with some great deals on lift ticketsAs the last few weeks of summer drag out to their inevitable conclusion it is time to start thinking about the seasons ahead. The crisp air and cooler temperatures of autumn will be a welcome change of pace for many of us who have endured unusually warm temperatures the past few months. But for many travelers and outdoor enthusiasts it is the coming of winter that gets them the most excited. That’s because winter brings fresh powder and the promise of a great ski season ahead.

To help skiers and snowboarders prepare for their winter adventures, Liftopia, the largest online site for purchasing lift tickets, has launched their Red Hot End of Summer Sale. This limited-time event features more than 32,000 deals on discounted passes from over 60 ski resorts across North America. Some of these tickets are being offered at prices that are as much as 86% below their normal price, which makes buying a ski pass in September seem like a really smart idea.

Thinking of heading to Colorado to hit the slopes this year? Liftopia has passes for Aspen/Snowmass at 34% off and Arapahoe Basin for as much as 39% off. Utah’s Snowbird is currently selling at a 45% discount while Idaho’s Tamarack Resort passes are 54% below normal price. Similar discounts are offered for ski destinations in New England, the Pacific Northwest, Canada and beyond.

Liftopia also happens to be the exclusive provider of the Mountain Collective Pass, which is an unbelievable deal for skiers. For just $349, the pass provides two free days at each of the following resorts: Aspen/Snowmass, Alta, Jackson Hole and Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. It also provides 50% off unlimited lift tickets after that, as well as 25% off accommodations. That is an incredibly affordable way to enjoy some of the best ski resorts in North America, if not the world.

If you’re one of those people who just can’t wait for winter to arrive then you’ll definitely want to check out the deals being offered by Liftopia right now. I know it may seem like winter is still a long way off but it’ll be here before you know it. When it does arrive you’ll be glad you saved some cash in the waning days of summer.

These US Hotels Are Helping Guests Celebrate National Yoga Month

yoga September is National Yoga Month and these hotels are helping travelers to celebrate this healthy time on the road. With classes, events and packages dedicated to helping travelers bring out their inner yogi, these properties around the U.S. can help keep you nimble and calm on you vacation.

Hotel Solamar
San Diego, California

As a leader in wellness in the San Diego area, Kimpton’s Hotel Solamar is teaming up with Lululemon Athletica’s San Diego Showroom to offer “Vino and Vinyasa” during National Yoga Month. The program features a complimentary, weekly one-hour session of flowing yoga poses to live music, followed by a wine social hour with $3 glasses of vino. “Vino and Vinyasa” allows participants to practice their poses in the open air, and sunset sessions are available at no cost. Additionally, the hotel will be offering bottles of wine for half off on Wednesdays.

Yoga sessions will be held every Wednesday during September at 6:30 p.m. Room rates start at $200 per night. Click here to book.The Nantucket Hotel + Resort
Nantucket, Massachusetts

The Nantucket Hotel + Resort is a brand new property that just opened on July 12. The property is dedicated to offering rest and a sense of well being for all, from its peaceful island location, to its locally-sourced farm-to-table restaurant menus and complimentary yoga. Until late September, hotel guests can enjoy Hatha Yoga at the Bandstand on Children’s Beach for free from Monday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Room rates start at $295 per night. Click here to book.

w atlanta buckhead W Atlanta – Buckhead
Atlanta, Georgia

To help guests celebrate National Yoga Month, W Atlanta – Buckhead is offering a “Planking on Peachtree” yoga series every Tuesday beginning September 4. The program features free poolside power yoga followed by healthy and low-calorie drinks on the WET Deck. Yoga is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., while the smoothie and sips social is from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Room rates start at $149 per night. Reservations required for yoga. Click here to book.

The Fairmont Orchid
Kamuela, Hawaii

What better place to go for a relaxing spa vacation than Hawaii? In honor of National Yoga Month, The Fairmont Orchid is offering a “Nama-Stay In Paradise” package, which includes luxury accommodations and daily yoga. Along with their seaside yoga classes, they also have Floating Yoga, or Flo-yo, where participants stand up on paddleboards as they pose. It is done in the ocean, so you’ll be surrounded by sea turtles, colorful fish and rhythmic waves. The hour-long classes are offered Monday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m. and include a warm up, sun salutations, balancing poses and paddle techniques followed by 40 minutes of floating yoga. The boards are weighted down with hand weights attached to a leash plug, ensuring the boards stay within one area.

Package is offered from September 1 to 30, with rates starting at $249 per night. Click here to book.

yoga Hotel Palomar Phoenix At Cityscape
Phoenix, Arizona

With the Phoenix area being graced with some of the hottest temperatures in the country each summer, Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Phoenix At Cityscape has teamed up with local yoga studios to make the most of it. Each Wednesday at 7 p.m., yogis of all skill levels are invited to the third-floor pool deck for a complimentary one-hour naturally Hot Asana class taught by a guest instructor. Each week, attendees will be treated to a new teacher, each offering a slightly different work out and signature style. To add to the fun, LUSTRE Bar, the rooftop bar adjacent to the pool deck, will also be featuring a special cocktail each week named after the guest instructor’s studio for attendees to enjoy after yoga.

Room rates start at $149 per night, however, you do not need to be a guest to attend. Click here to book.

Mirbeau Inn and Spa
Skaneateles, New York

If you want to celebrate National Yoga Month while immersing yourself in the peace and natural beauty of the Finger Lakes, Mirbeau Inn and Spa is a great option. During the month of September, the property will be featuring myriad complimentary yoga offerings from Vinyasa to Slow Flow Hatha to Yin Yoga for yogis of all ages, including:

  • Prana Flow Yoga – This “breath inspired journey” offers a complete spectrum of rhythms that meditate, rejuvenate, challenge and empower the participants.
  • Gentle Flow Yoga – An hour-long class designed for beginners that starts with breath work and is followed by an introduction to yoga foundations.
  • Gentle/Yin Yoga – A Chinese yoga that works the body’s energy system, improves sports performance, helps with injury recovery and creates an overall state of wellness.
  • Yoga – This 90-minute Vinyasa class is challenging and features guided meditation to help with awareness and relaxation.
  • Aroma Yoga – A 90-minute Vinyasa flow yoga class that incorporates essential oils to add to the healing and awareness of your body, spirit and breath.

Room rates start at $285 per night. Click here to book.

sky hotel Sky Hotel
Aspen, Colorado

For an unusual yoga experience, Sky Hotel offers guests “Thug Yoga,” a class where laughing is encouraged, posture names make sense and icings are possible. This offbeat yoga style is the creation of Courtney Smith, a yoga teacher and snowboarder in Aspen, Colorado. It was originally designed for snowboarders and skiers who were intimidated by traditional yoga to help them improve athletic performance and keep away injuries. Offered Sundays at 10 a.m. on the patio, students go through a series of postures set to hip hop music or local DJ Berkel Beats.

Room rates start at $159 per night. Click here to book.

Affinia Hotels
New York & Washington D.C.

Affinia Hotels, who offer various properties in New York and Washington D.C., like to encourage guests to stay healthy and fit while traveling. In fact, the hotel offers complimentary “Experience Kits,” including the “StayFit Kit.” This includes a yoga mat, stretching blocks, yoga, Pilates, and boot camp DVDs, workout bands, wrist/ankle weights and a StreetWise city map. Guests can customize their stay via MyAffinia, the brand’s online customization program, and choose from a variety of amenities including the “StayFit Kit.” The items selected will be waiting in the guest’s room upon arrival.

Room rates start at $209 for NYC hotels and $149 for the Washington, D.C. property. Click here to book.

vanderbilt grace Vanderbilt Grace
Newport, Rhode Island

For a luxurious yet peaceful vacation during National Yoga Month, the Vanderbilt Grace offers various yoga options to guests. For $150 per person there is the “Partners In Wellness” package, which lasts for two and a half hours and includes a private yoga class for two people, as well as a “Vanderbilt Signature Massage” with aromatic compresses for the feet and face. This is followed by a pot of green tea and snacks. Another yoga-focused option is the “Yoga on the Roof” program. For $15, guests can take part in an hour-long yoga class with aerial views.

Room rates start at $495 per night. Click here to book.

The Mirage
Las Vegas, Nevada

For a truly unique yoga experience, The Mirage in Las Vegas offers “Yoga Among The Dolphins.” For $40, guests can flow through peaceful poses while being immersed in a serene, underwater viewing area within Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. The 60-minute classes are designed for yogis of all levels, and are offered Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings. Once the session is completed, participants are given a refreshing smoothie drink.

Room rates start at $71 per night. Click here to book.

Find hotel deals with new booking site Guestmob

hotel deals guestmob collectionsThe Internet has brought us many ways to research and book hotels at prices much lower than the hotels’ published rate. Aggregate sites like Kayak and Orbitz give you the best available rate (BAR) without pre-payment on a specific hotel, while “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to bid for a room below BAR but the actual property remains hidden until after you book and the purchase is non-refundable. Now a new booking site offers you hotel deals well below BAR while ensuring consumers flexibility and a standard of quality.

Guestmob differs from other hotel booking sites by combining high-tech algorithmic pricing and expertly curated properties hand-picked for their high user ratings. The site works by grouping hotels into collections of four to eight properties in a given category and neighborhood. You enter your travel dates and can immediately see a room rate of up to 50% below BAR for each hotel collection. The Thursday before you check in, the exact hotel is revealed but you are guaranteed one of the specific hotels in the collection. Best of all, unlike other opaque booking sites, you can cancel your reservation up to three days before check-in.hotel deals guestmob booking pagePreviously, some savvy travelers have tried to “game the system” with sites like Bidding for Travel, a forum that tries to guess winning bids and participating hotels on opaque sites by sharing successful bookings. Guestmob removes the need for this research by specifying hotels in each collection and immediately offering a deeply discounted price. While room upgrades, frequent guest points and other requests are still at the discretion of the hotel upon check-in, it’s still a great option for travelers with flexibility.

A Guestmob search for a hotel in Chicago on a weekend in mid-May yielded a price of $164 for a 3.5 star hotel on Magnificent Mile (such as a Courtyard or Embassy Suites), or $203 to bump up to a 4 star in the same area such as a W or Westin Hotel. The same properties ranged from $221 to $279 on other sites. Most Guestmob hotels are part of well-known chains such as Marriott or Starwood, or smaller chains like Kimpton and JDV.

Guestmob soft-launched last year in San Francisco and has now expanded to include New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, San Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Portland and Phoenix. The site is well connected to social media so you can get help, learn news or give feedback on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. You can also chat with them right on the site if you have questions.