Negotiate for great hotel rates

May 4, 2010 8:39:44 PM PDT
Need a hotel? If you haven't booked one in the last couple of years, you're in for a pleasant surprise. With the weakened economy, rates are way down and empty rooms are way up, so there are great deals to be had. Consumer Reports says that in most markets there's no reason to pay full price for a hotel room. But you have to know what to ask. Here's how Consumer Reports' shopping expert Tod Marks got a good deal at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia. He started by asking for the best available rate. That was $209. Then he asked for any discounts, such as a AAA discount. That dropped the price to $177, refundable. Next Tod asked for a nonrefundable rate. That brought the price down to $159. And when Tod asked for any limited-time offers, the price wound up at $134 with free parking thrown in.

And Consumer Reports says you can often get an even better deal if you book at discount websites such as Hotwire or Priceline. The downside is that you don't know the identity of the chain you'll be staying at until after you complete your booking. But the description can give you a good idea of the type of hotel. Turns out that on Hotwire, that Sheraton Society Hill Hotel room went ? not for $134, but for $109.

As for the best places to stay, Consumer Reports rates hotels based on a survey of 27,000 of its subscribers. Several moderately priced hotels scored well, including the Wingate by Wyndham, the Drury Inn, and Hampton Inn and Suites.

Consumer Reports also rated bargain hotel chains. Unfortunately, most did very poorly in the ratings. The only standout: Microtel Inn and Suites. Rooms there range from around $55 to $80 a night.

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