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I found this very useful article in USA Today and wanted to share it with you.
The cost of hotel accommodations typically consumes a large portion of any travel budget. Understanding hotel booking strategies can help save a good bit of money. Of course, hotel rates fluctuate depending on a wide variety of factors, so landing the cheapest deals is not always an exact science. Regardless, travelers will generally do well to use a few reliable approaches when making their lodging arrangements.
No traveler wants to undergo the hassle of searching for an affordable hotel room after arriving at their final destination for the night. As such, The Travel Insider recommends that individuals handle their lodging arrangements before leaving home and as far in advance as possible. Travelers should make reservations at least a month ahead of time in most cases to ensure room availability and avoid last-minute price increases at popular destinations.
Alternatively, flexible travelers can sometimes score surprisingly low rates by waiting until the last minute to book their hotel rooms. Hotels lose money on vacant rooms, so it usually behooves hotel managers to offer last-minute discounts to fill their empty rooms each evening and turn at least a small profit above marginal operating costs. However, some hotels won't dip below a certain price or offer discounts no matter how many rooms they have empty. This is because hotels want to protect their published room rates. If word got out that travelers could consistently take advantage of last-minute deals rather than making reservations in advance, then hotels would stand to lose a lot of money. On top of this wrinkle, travelers should also be wary of waiting until the last minute because hotels in a popular locale may fill up completely or have only a few rooms left. These in-demand rooms would end up costing significantly more than the standard rate.
In addition to the aforementioned considerations, travelers must also take into account other factors like holidays, peak and off-season windows, conventions and major events. Such factors can dramatically affect the rates for hotel rooms. Book far in advance for holidays and peak travel periods, and research the destination to see if any big events will be occurring near the hotel during the trip to anticipate price increases and room availability.
Shop around before booking. Compare rates at various hotels, and compare dates if there is any flexibility in the itinerary. Independent Traveler recommends using online search engines like those found on Expedia and Travelocity. Similarly, Mahalo suggests using price comparison websites such as SideStep, Kayak and Yahoo! Farechase to review multiple options from hotel consolidators and booking services.
Travelers can also land deals by booking directly with hotels via the phone, according to Mahalo. Unlike online booking, making reservations over the phone allows travelers to speak with hotel managers and feel out the best rates based on what each particular hotel has to offer. Special rates may exist that aren't advertised online, and hotel staff can also provide more information about the expected guest volume and local events affecting rates. However, travelers must make sure to call a specific hotel branch rather than a national 800 number. After booking a room, Independent Traveler recommends calling back periodically to check if the rates for rooms have gone down at all. In some cases, travelers may find that prices have dropped since they booked their rooms. If so, travelers can either cancel their reservation and make a new one at the lower rate, or they may be able to negotiate a refund for the difference.