Tips for Negotiating a Cheaper Hotel Rate

Have you ever negotiated a hotel rate? Yes, I said negotiated.

By negotiating, I don’t mean simply trying to get lower hotel rates—although, that is the intent. I don’t mean applying your discount programs (AAA, Costco, etc.) to get the best possible published rate.

Negotiated hotel rates are not published—or at least I end up feeling that way after agreeing to a rate.

Here are a few actual lodging deals I have negotiated:

  • bartered about the method of payment (in Casablanca, Morocco)
  • a lower rate by skipping breakfast (near Frankfurt, Germany)
  • a camping spot on a golf course (in Tofino, Canada)
  • several standard hotel stays

A couple of days ago, I saved over 37% at a hotel by negotiating a lower rate.

Here are some basic tips to negotiate a cheaper hotel room rate:

  1. independent hotel. Chains will sometimes negotiate if their occupancy is predicted to be under 70%. Independently owned properties, however, are usually managed by the owners, who are willing to negotiate rather than not make any money.
  2. let them go lower. Ask for the rate for a room. After getting the opening rate, ask if they can offer anything lower. Say that the second rate is more than you want to pay. They will ask what are you looking to pay, if you have any discount programs, or just say that is the best they can do. For the first scenario, if they ask what you are willing to pay, that is a negotiating situation. The other two scenarios usually do not result in successful price drops.
  3. compliment them. I typically say that I prefer to stay at independent properties rather than chains (true) or that I read some recommendations (hotel operators like hearing about appearing in TripAdvisor, etc.). In this situation, I first tried a nearby property (with a coupon) but they did not have wi-fi in the rooms. They suggested that I try a nearby chain hotel. Instead, I told the clerk at the independent hotel that I first tried the other property, that they did not have wi-fi, that they suggested the chain, but that I prefer indy properties.
  4. name your price. If the hotel desk clerk asks for your rate, propose something reasonable that you would be content paying. If it is a $300 a night property, they will not accept $50. I usually ask for the lowest rate of nearby competitors (especially from coupon guides) or a percentage (50%-75%) of their rate. NOTE: proposed lower rates have more merit in conjunction with the compliments, I believe.
  5. agree on a rate. A couple of times, the hotel desk clerk accepting my opening rate. Other times they may counter and there will be some true back and forth negotiating, until we agree on a rate.

Background: I went to the visitor’s center in the town (a touristy town in the Southeast US) and picked up a hotel coupon book. I saw coupons for undesirable (to me) chain hotels for $55 (and more) and an independent property for $39. I visited the indy property but the rooms did not have wi-fi. I told them that I really wanted the wi-fi—so I would pass on a room this trip but asked for their recommendation for another property. They suggested a chain from the coupon book. I asked about another independent property–a very quaint-looking motel–I saw along the drive there. The desk clerk said, “Oh, yeah, nice place and they have a new pool.”

Disappointed that the first property did not work out (especially for $39!), I drove back to the charming, quaint motel. Here is my conversation with that desk clerk:

Me: Hello. Do you have an available room for one person?

Clerk: Yes. The rate is $70.

Me: Do you have any lower rates?

Clerk: How about $65?

Me: Oh, that is more than I wanted to pay.

Clerk: What are you looking to pay?

Me: Well, I went to the visitor’s center and they had a $39 coupon for the ABC Indy Hotel. ABC did not have wi-fi in the room, which I really want. The ABC clerk suggested the XYZ Yucky Chain Hotel but I noticed your property on the way there and asked them what they thought. They said it is very nice and you have a new pool.

Clerk: Uh, huh.

Me: I prefer independent properties and really do not want to stay at XYZ Yucky Chain Hotel. I imagine that you cannot match ABC’s $39 rate.

[NOTE: Not sure if it was good to mention this or not.]

Clerk: No, that’s too low.

Me: Would you take $50 total?

Clerk: Sure.

So, I ended up paying $50 total, saving 37% from the standard rate of $70 ($79.10 with tax).

I also stayed a second night at the same rate. A third night was a weekend night (Friday), which they charge much more.

What do you think? Have you negotiated hotel rates? Are your experiences similar or different?

I have negotiated rates with other hotels that were not so fast—more back and forth. I was actually surprised that they accepted my first offer of $50. Of course it made me wonder if I could have paid less.

Perhaps these posts of negotiating cheaper hotel rate will help you for future trips.

Happy travels!

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