Hotel rates are at an all-time high and have increased at more than twice the pace of inflation in the past two years, according to Consumer Reports magazine. Whether you are planning a budget vacation or want to splurge, there are ways to save money on your hotel bill. What can you do to find the best rate? Look for group discounts, such as, corporate and senior discounts and discounts for affinity groups, like alumni associations and churches. Call both the toll-free number and the local hotel. Oftentimes, hotel reservationists at the toll-free number are allotted only a fraction of the rooms to sell and may know only one price. Staff at the local hotels has more discretion in setting rates -and they may know of a promotion the toll-free reservationist doesn't. To get a better rate, it's always good to make reservations.
Inquire about weekend discounts, promotional rates and off-season discounts. What will the rate be if you came a day early or stayed an extra day? If you're headed for a resort area, ask about "packages" that might add show tickets and meals at good prices.
Consult a travel agent or travel service. Full-service travel agencies can negotiate preferred rates with certain hotel chains. Booking through the Internet is another possibility. Many hotel chains and travel services have web sites; some give discounts if you make reservations online.
Check out half-price coupon book and travel clubs. To take advantage of these offers, you may have to pay a fee or purchase a coupon book. The company will usually have negotiated deep discounts for rooms, but there may be blackout periods.
Consult a hotel broker, who might be able to offer last-minute bookings at low rates. You may want to also investigate frequent-stay programs. These programs award a free night for every 10 or so paid nights. Some use a point system, where you earn credit from hotel stays and other tie-ins.
Be aware that rates can vary even within the same hotel. It's up to you to be an educated consumer.