By Zach Everson, CNTraveler.com
As hotel rates keep going up, these smart strategies can help you save big on your next booking.
The Schaller Studio hotel in Bendigo, Australia | Photo: © Aubrey Daquinag
Some of the best hacks for saving on airfare have been so publicized that they're now obsolete. (So long, searching only on Tuesdays!) Not so with hotel hacks: There are still many effective ways to find excellent deals as long as you know where to look. And with hotel rates up for the fifth consecutive year, according to the Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, these six insider tricks to find the best hotel deals have never been more valuable.
For last-minute deals, look in your hand
Last-minute hotel deals are more likely to show up on mobile apps than websites, according to representatives at both Travelocity and Hotels.com. "However, this generally works for bookings at non-peak times and places," said Keith Nowak, director of marketing communications at Travelocity. So don't try this hack, say, heading into Washington, D.C. on July 3.
Aggregators offer original deals
When looking for airfare, you've likely been advised not to login to your frequent flier account on an airline's website, as the company may think you're a dedicated customer and, as a result, show you higher fares. Similarly, hotels sometimes offer better deals on booking aggregators -- think GoSeek and Kayak -- than on their own websites. In fact, I recently found a great price on Kayak then called the hotel to see if it could beat the price. The operator seemed so shocked at the rate that I was afraid she might try to swipe the room out from under me.
Catch deals in a filter
One of the best ways to find hotel deals remains subscribing to email alerts from hoteliers and booking sites. But rather than having an inbox inundated with deals, create a filter or rule that automatically files these alerts to a separate folder as soon as they arrive in your inbox. (Here are the instructions on how to do that in Apple Mail, Gmail, and Outlook.) Then, when looking to book a hotel, start in your alert folder, either searching for the city you have in mind or simply browsing through the most recent emails to let a deal determine your destination. The earlier you act on an advertised deal, of course, the better your chances of actually getting it.
Play the refund game
Take advantage of refundable rates. If you find a good price, and the booking is refundable, lock it in while you continue hunting for an even better deal, suggests Neha Parikh, vice president and general manager for Hotels.com North America. "There's really no risk in going ahead and reserving it while you continue your search," she said.
Reprogram your rewards programs
Some aggregators are now awarding travelers for reserving rooms through their sites. Travelers who book at select hotels on Rocketmiles, for example, earn 1,000 to 5,000 frequent flier miles per night. Currently 26 airlines participate, up from just five when we wrote about Rocketmiles in 2013. Enroll in the Welcome Rewards Program from Hotels.com and for every 10 nights you stay at a hotel booked through it, you'll earn one free night. And with Expedia+, travelers can earn rewards points with no blackout dates and access members-only deals.
Go to Asia
Hotel prices were up three percent worldwide last year, according to Hotels.com, with rooms in North America up a world-leading five percent. But in Asia, room rates were down two percent on average. It many not work for every trip, but for across the board savings, look to destinations like Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taipei.
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