Major hotel chains have sophisticated software that dictates room rates based upon expected occupancy, but with a little knowledge and a bit of effort you can ensure that you get the best deal. The key to getting the best possible price is understanding hotel demand and trying different search terms to see which combination of dates yield the lowest prices.
Depending on location and time of year, some hotels have dramatically higher occupancy on the weekend, while others that cater to business travelers are busier during the week. If you want to save money, schedule your trip accordingly.
For example, let’s say you’d like to spend a week dividing time between San Francisco and the nearby Sonoma County wine region. If you want to save a bundle on hotels, hit Sonoma during the week, when it’s nice and quiet and the room rates are low, and then on the weekend stay in a business class hotel in the suburbs of San Francisco or in Silicon Valley.In many destinations, you can find a good deal on hotels any night of the week, save Saturday nights and sometimes Fridays. You can either work around this, as outlined above, or manipulate your search terms to make sure you’re not paying the higher Saturday night rate for more than one night.
If you plan to stay more than one night at a chain hotel, particularly if part but not all of your stay includes a weekend night, definitely split apart your travel dates into one-night increments to see how the price changes. For example, if you search for a room on the website of the Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia for a two-night stay, checking in this Saturday night, you’ll find a AAA rate of $260 per night. But if you split your search term to see the price for Saturday night and Sunday night, you’ll notice that while the Saturday rate is $260, the AAA rate for Sunday night plummets to just $134. The Hilton is quite content to charge you the higher rate for both nights but you’d be a fool to pay it.
This is not an isolated example. I did a quick search for other hotels this weekend and almost every hotel I checked out had a different rate for Saturday night versus Sunday night, but none offered the Sunday discount to the customer booking both nights together in one reservation on their sites. The Renaissance Marriott in Philadelphia offers a AAA rate of $279.95 for a two-night, Saturday, Sunday stay this weekend, but if you search just for Sunday night, you’ll notice the rate plummets to $180.45 – though you don’t get that rate unless you make two reservations.
The Hyatt Regency on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago has a Saturday night rate of $170 versus $116 on Sunday, but again their site doesn’t give you the lower Sunday rate unless you make two reservations. And the same goes for Chicago’s Westin River North, which has a $233 versus $118 split for this weekend.
The split can work the other way as well, especially in the suburbs. For example, the Hyatt House in Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia is $18 more expensive on Sunday night compared to Saturday this weekend. And there are also occasions when the hotel offers a better rate for multiple night stays compared to a single night stay. Again, it all depends on expected occupancy.
This summer, Orbitz got a lot of bad press after admitting that it shows higher priced hotel options to those searching for rooms on a Mac, so many advocate double checking searches on a PC, if you can, but I tested various searches on my PC and my MAC and they all appeared to yield the same results.
The bottom line is that you always need to check and split apart your travel dates when searching for a multiple-night stay. If you can save money by making multiple reservations, go for it, and add a note in the comments section asking them to combine the reservations so you don’t have to move rooms.
Then remind them again when you check in. Or, to simplify matters, call the hotel directly, tell them what you discovered online and ask them to extend the lower rate for your entire stay. They might not do it, but it’s worth a try. Whatever you do, don’t throw away money by failing to explore all your options online before booking.
[Photo credit:Uggboy Ugggirl on Flickr]