Saturday, January 09, 2010

Bargain your way to travel savings

With easy access to a plethora of travel booking sites, it can be easy to forget that there are other tried and true methods for scoring deals. Like airlines, hotels and car rental companies have a wide range of rates available that they may charge for the same exact room or car. While hotels publish most rates, some are not, and the differences can be substantial. That is why it never hurts to call a hotel or car rental office directly and see what they are offering.  Independently owned and operated franchises of major hotel chains may have a "Manager's special," for example.  Thus, asking questions such as “Are there any special offers or promotions?” are bound to elicit a positive response. Moreover, to add weight to your negotiation, arm yourself with a sheet of published rates from third parties that may be lower than what the hotel is quoting you.

Even if you have already driven a hard bargain over the phone, your negotiation opportunity does not need to end there. Case in point, over the Christmas break, a relative had already negotiated a lower rate with a three and half star hotel directly using pricing data from Expedia, but when he checked in, also inquired about an upgrade. Since it is a down economy, and presumably, demand was lower than usual, he was able to snag a lower rate than initially quoted, an upgrade to the concierge level, and breakfast for two. Hotels usually reserve these types of perks for elites or other frequent travelers. However, just for the asking, the hotel treated him as an elite would be, and without all of that unnecessary travel in becoming one.

Technology has definitely made comparing travel and other costs and quality easier, but it cannot replace the human desire and ability to negotiate. Tap into yours and see how you can beat the system into working for you.