Getting the Best Deal

The rack rate is the maximum rate that a hotel charges for a room. Hardly anybody pays it, however, except sometimes in high season. To cut costs:

  • Ask for a rate, then ask about special rates or other discounts. You may qualify for corporate, student, military, senior/AARP, AAA, or other discounts. Nail down the standard rate before you ask for your discount.
  • Book online. Many hotels offer Internet-only discounts or supply discounted rooms to Priceline, Hotwire, or Expedia at rates much lower than the ones you can get through the hotel or chain. Some chains guarantee that the price on their websites is the lowest available; check anyway.
  • Dial direct. When booking a room in a chain hotel, you'll often get a better deal from the hotel's reservation desk than from the chain's main number.
  • Remember the law of supply & demand. Business-oriented hotels are busiest during the week, so you can expect weekend discounts. Leisure hotels are most crowded and expensive on weekends, so discounts may be available midweek.
  • Visit in the winter. Boston-bound bargain hunters who don't mind cold and snow (sometimes lots of snow) aim for January through March, when hotels offer great deals, especially on weekends.
  • Avoid excess charges & hidden costs. When you book a room, ask whether the hotel charges for parking -- almost every hotel in Boston and Cambridge does -- and whether there's a charge for staying in the garage past room checkout time on the last day of your stay. Use your cellphone, prepaid phone cards, or pay phones instead of making expensive calls from hotel phones. If you know you'll be online a lot, seek out a hotel that includes Internet access in the room rate (many older properties and hotels that do a lot of expense-account business don't). And don't be tempted by the minibar: Most hotels charge through the nose for water, soda, and snacks. Finally, ask about local taxes, service charges, and energy surcharges, which can increase the cost of a room by 15% or more.
  • Book an efficiency. A room with a kitchenette allows you to shop for groceries and even cook. This is a big money saver, especially for families on long stays.
  • Enroll in "frequent guest" programs, which court repeat customers. Guests can accumulate points or credits to earn free hotel nights, airline miles, in-room amenities, merchandise, concert and event tickets, and more. Many chains partner with other hotel chains, car-rental firms, airlines, and credit card companies to encourage repeat business.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.