As most of you know, I have been away for the last 3 weeks visiting friends and family around the U.S. – by car. I drove from Colorado to Massachusetts to Florida and back, putting over 5,600 miles on my car and spending my fair share of time in random hotels alongside highways in the middle of nowhere. See, when I travel by car long distances I don’t make reservations in advance; I just drive until I am tired and then find a place to stay. And if I just pulled into a random hotel and got a room, chances are that I would be paying way too much for what I could be getting for much less, especially in the middle of nowhere. So that’s why before I go into any hotel, I call from the parking lot outside…and make sure they offer free breakfast with the room rate.
Normally I only get off the highway at places where there are multiple hotel choices, so I have some options at my disposal. I drive into the parking lot of my first choice, look up their number on my iPhone, and give them a ring. I tell them I am on the road approaching their exit and ask 2 questions – “Do you have any rooms?” and “What is your best price for tonight?”. Usually the answer to the first question is “Yes, plenty” and then they give me a standard rack rate for that night. However, I don’t accept that as the price I want to pay and I then ask if that’s the cheapest they can go, as “I will be pulling off the highway here in a few minutes and checking with all the hotels around you, but would prefer to stay with you”. Every single time I asked for lower rate I was given it. $99 turned into $75. $82 turned into $64. And so on.
And then once inside the hotel, to see if I could save even more money, I asked if they accepted any discount clubs – AAA, NARP, American Express – and sometimes I got a few more bucks off my bill. And finally, I always paid with a rewards card so I got points (sometimes double, depending on the hotel brand) to use later.
By the end of my trip, I estimated that I saved about $150 on hotel stays just by asking for a discount each and every night. Too many people just accept that whatever a hotel tells you they want for a night means that’s what they have to pay. Nothing could be further from the truth! Just because the gigantic sign on the highway says $79.95″ doesn’t mean that’s what you have to pay at all. And that is especially true for when traveling in vastly unpopulated areas that have 90% vacancy rates at their hotels. I am sure I could have pressed for even cheaper rooms, but I figured I was at least getting a fair price for a comfortable bed, a hot shower, and a free breakfast. It never hurts to ask!
Photo from Shutterstock