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3 Sneaky Ways To Save Money on Lodgings When You Hit the Road

Sometimes you have to get creative, and perhaps even bend the rules, when looking to save money on travel. That’s particularly the case for lodgings, as hotel rates have increased a good 5% this year over last (and they were creeping upwards already in 2012). Here are some devious strategies you might try.

Look for a Newbie: It takes a while for a new hotel to get the word out that it’s open for business. That’s why so many hotels throw sales in their first six months. They can’t count on repeat customers yet; instead they have to do their darndest to create them. Of course, the downside to staying at a new hotel is that the staff will just be learning their jobs, so there may be some service hiccups. Or perhaps not: often when you bunk at a brand new property you get better service than usual because the bellmen, desk clerks, maids and other staffers are so excited to be working a new job (and haven’t yet become jaded and bored).

So how do you find the new properties? Call the local tourist board. They track all tourist developments and will be able to tell you which properties have just opened and, most likely, how to contact them.

Rent in the Language of the Country You’re Visiting: A cousin of mine recently shared a rental home outside Toulouse, France with a friend who’s been living in the country for several years. To house their two families (adults and children), they needed a large property, so they booked a lovely, 5-bedroom home. The cost? A reasonable 800 euros per week. My cousin was astounded, particularly when she saw the same home listed on an English-language site for nearly double that amount.

The moral of the story: use online translation tools so that you can rent vacation properties from the organizations that rent primarily to natives; and when you can, deal directly with owners. The uptick in price my cousin discovered resulted from non-native speakers having to turn to a middleman (who charged a fee) to make their arrangements. Since my cousin’s friend spoke French, she could email and bargain with the homeowner directly.

Make Multiple Hotel Reservations in Popular Areas: I learned this lessons recently when researching Gotham hotels for my upcoming book Frommer’s Easy Guide to New York City. A hotelier quite candidly told me that her hotel jacks up prices as high as the market will bear for high season stays. But as the date of arrival gets closer, many hotels in her category start lowering their prices, to try and lure customers away from their competitors. This forces her to lower prices too, though only for new customers (she doesn’t send out an email alerting those who’ve already booked that the price has dropped). The traveler who monitors prices, and re-books, can often save a bundle.

The website does this automatically for travelers, refunding the difference in price if the hotel that a customer has booked lowers its rates for the date of stay. But jumping hotels may offer up even better savings. And there’s little risk involved since customers usually don’t pay for bookings until the day of their stay (most hotels don’t inflict a penalty for no shows until 24-hours in advance of a stay).

Sometimes it pays to be sneaky.