Get More Out of The Occasional Hotel Stay

Next time you check into a hotel, consider signing up for its loyalty program.  Even if you are not a frequent flier, or usually stay with friends or relatives when traveling, you should still make the most out of your occasional hotel stay.

Most large hotel chains have loyalty programs through which you can earn hotel points or airline miles for your stay.  Even if you travel infrequently, you can still sign up for the program and opt to earn miles in the airline program of your choice.  This way, even if you don’t stay at hotels enough to score a free night, you can at least boost your frequent flier account. Continue reading

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For Deals on Hotels, Choose a Neighborhood and Follow the Stars

Negotiating hotel costs may be a great way to keep travel within a budget.  As people take fewer trips or look for cheaper fares and lodging in response to the recession, hotels are more and more likely to honor requests for discounts and accept lower offers.   And even if haggling is not your thing, you can still take advantage of that. 

Besides the standard hotel offers found in internet travel sites, priceline.com also has a “name your own price” option, which allows you to bid for a better deal on flights or hotels.  For flights, you can only choose the dates on which you want to fly and the price you will pay, and priceline.com commits to billing you only if it finds a flight with one stop at most.  But you do not get to pick the time of day for arrival or departure, airline, or length of the layover.

Using priceline.com for hotels is a much safer bet.  You can select the neighborhood in which you want to stay and the number of hotel stars, and, unless you really want to stay in a specific hotel (e.g., for a conference or wedding), that really is all the information you need.  The only catch is that, with both flights and hotels, you are required to give your credit card information when you make the bid, and, if priceline.com finds an airline or hotel that accepts your bid, you are billed immediately.  So this is not a website for researching trips; it is for when you are sure of where and when you want to go.

But if you’ve already settled on your destination and travel dates and are hesitant to make a bid, worrying whether your offer might be too high (overpaying for a hotel) or too low (being rejected and having to wait 24 hours to re-bid), check out BetterBidding.   This is an online forum where people discuss bidding tactics for hotels on priceline.com and guessing which hotels are featured in the site’s closest competitor, hotwire.com.  Importantly, users list the bids they made on priceline.com and whether these were accepted or rejected, enabling other users to make informed offers themselves.  Take advantage of that.  You may think that $120 per night on a hotel that is offered in other travel sites for $180/night is a great deal – but wouldn’t it help to know that someone else snagged a stay in that hotel for the same dates for $100/night?

So if you are planning a vacation and have already settled on your destination and travel dates priceline.com may be a good way to get a deal.  And knowing what other travelers have bid may help you make that into a great deal.

Gas It Up, At Least for this Quarter

For those who carry the Discover More credit card in their wallet, remember to sign up for this quarter’s 5% cashback bonus award (if you haven’t yet).  From now until September 30, 2009, you can earn 5% from purchases at stand-alone gas stations, hotels (booked directly by you via the phone or the hotel’s website, not through other online travel websites), zoos, theme parks, and bookstores.  These are the perfect categories for your summer activities.  Just remember that Discover is capping the cash back bonus at $300 in purchases (or $15 in cash back).  After that, any more purchases made within these categories will only earn you 1% cash back.

Tip: Per our post yesterday, one way to triple dip, for example, is to use your Discover credit card with your Borders card and a Borders weekly coupon when you make purchases at Borders.  This week, Borders is offering a coupon for 25% off your entire store purchase.  Thus, you will be able to earn a discount off your purchase, Borders Bucks for future purchases, and 5%  cashback on whatever amount you pay.