What does almost every couple planning a honeymoon have in common? You're all expecting to book at least one night in a hotel. And, no matter what the budget, you want to pay the lowest price possible for the room of your choice. Here, our advice for getting the best rate.
1. Choose your destination carefully.
If you decide to honeymoon in the Caribbean in February, the peak of the high season, chances are good that you won't get a deal on your hotel room. Rates are highest then, and it's unlikely that you'll score a special promotional price. So, if getting a good deal is a priority for you, consider a destination experiencing its off season. Even better, plan your wedding—and your honeymoon—for the week after Labor Day or following New Year's Eve: two of the slowest travel periods of the year.
2. Price out packages.
Because travel packagers buy in bulk, they can often get a better room rate than you could on your own. Packages from airlines, such as those from Southwest Vacations (swavacations.com) to Las Vegas or those from Virgin Atlantic's Virgin Vacations (land.virgin-vacations.com) to London, are good examples of deals that can offer big savings.
3. Go to the source.
Most travelers start by combing the Web's many discount hotel sites, looking for the best rates. But in the past few years several hotel chains—including Marriott, Starwood and Kempinski—have announced that the lowest rate available at their hotels is posted on their own website. If you're looking at a hotel that's part of a major chain, check those rates before you book. And, while you're at the website, sign up for the hotel company's e-mail newsletter (if there is one) so that you're among the first to find out about special deals. Boutique hotels have more varied policies. For a room at the glamorous National Hotel (nationalhotel.com) in Miami's South Beach, for example, you will most likely discover the best rate by calling the property directly, while the budget-friendly Hotel Belleclaire (hotelbelleclaire.com) in Manhattan claims its best rates are at hotels.com. The lesson? You have to do your homework. If you find comparable prices everywhere, book through the hotel, because you're more likely to have a special request—for example, a particular view or a nonsmoking room—honored that way.
4. Pick up the phone.
A 2004 study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine found that travelers got the lowest room rates over the phone as opposed to booking online. Why? Some hotel companies allow their customer service representatives the discretion to access lower rates. Also, if you are a member of AAA or an employee of a large corporation, this is a good time to inquire about specials. Just ask, politely, "Is there a lower price that you can offer me?" You'll be surprised by how well this works. If you're not happy with the results, skip the toll-free reservation number and call the hotel directly, to see if you have better luck.
5. Ask, and you may receive an upgrade.
Why would a hotel company decide to bump you up to a suite if you only paid for a standard double room? If they don't think they can sell the room, the truth is that they're better off giving it to you (and possibly earning your repeat business) than merely letting it sit empty. If you are a member of a hotel's loyalty or rewards program, such as Wyndham's Wyndham By Request or Starwood's Preferred Guest, your request for an upgrade will have even more weight. (Even if you haven't accrued any points yet, be sure to join the club before you leave home.)
In addition to asking for an upgrade to a suite, consider requesting a room with a specific amenity, such as a view or a balcony. Of course, remember to tell them you're honeymooners—that may very well help your case, too.