Here is the secret to getting the lowest rates on hotel rooms every time you book: Join a hotel loyalty program. This is by far the best way to ensure you’re getting the best rates on the market. Here’s why…
There are many benefits to booking your stay directly on the hotel’s website: better customer service, more flexibility, potential upgrades, etc. But the biggest advantage is that when you book direct, you can join and reap the benefits of the hotel’s loyalty program. These groups, in addition to carrying benefits like automatic upgrades and late checkout, are the one exception to pricing restrictions across the hotel industry.
If you don’t know what we mean by “pricing restrictions…” Hotel rates are subject to what are called rate-parity rules. This means that the publicly available price for a specific room must be the same no matter where it’s sold. This was created to prevent hotels from constantly undercutting the price of hotel rooms sold via online travel sites (like Expedia, Booking.com, etc.) and vice versa. In a nutshell, it means that the price you’ll pay for a room on Hilton.com will be the same as the price you’ll pay for that same room on Travelocity.com (for example.) No matter where you book your hotel room, it should be about the same price. Except if you’re a member of a hotel’s loyalty program.
Hotel loyalty programs are considered a “closed user group” and are therefore the one opportunity hotels have to sell rooms for lower than the rates set by the rate parity rules. That’s the key. That’s how to find rates lower than what you’ll see on common travel booking sites.
Not many people are aware that hotels give lower rates to members of their loyalty programs. These rates are also the lowest rates you’ll find on the market, so this is easily the most valuable benefit to being a part of one of these programs. You don’t have to hit any stay or dollar minimums before being able to book a loyalty rate. You can even sign up as you book and still get that low rate. From then on, you’ll qualify for the lowest hotel rates available and start getting all the other perks that come with the territory as well.
Life happens, and things come up. That’s why free cancellations are very important for many travelers. Sadly, we’ve heard way too many stories of people not being able to cancel their hotel stays. Most of the time, it’s because they booked through a third-party booking site who actually has very little control over your reservation once they take your booking.
When you book using sites like Expedia or Priceline, your reservation isn’t directly with the hotel, so you’ll have to read each site’s cancellation policy carefully. If you do have to cancel, you could be tossed back and forth communicating with both the hotel and the online travel site, and you may never even get your money back.
Hotel loyalty members never have to worry about this because more flexible cancellation conditions come with membership. Members can rest assured that their reservations are covered, and they can speak directly to the hotel management team should something come up.
Hotels love their loyalty members and treat them like royalty. With that love, you’ll receive a ton of additional perks. Here are some special treatments you may receive by being a loyalty member:
Have you ever checked into a hotel room and noticed you’re right by the ice machine? Or the elevator that opens and closes all night? In some cases, those may be the only rooms available, but if there are better room locations, loyalty members are given priority. As a member, you’re even eligible for free room upgrades if the hotel isn’t sold out. Just ask the front desk during check-in!
Almost all hotel loyalty programs include flexible options for late check-out. If you often find yourself waking up last minute, throwing things into your suitcase, and running out the door to make the check-out time, you’ll really appreciate the flexibility of a late check-out.
Let’s be honest: In this day and age, Wi-Fi is everything. But not all hotels offer free WiFi to every guest. Some now require a loyalty login in order to get online for free. As a loyalty member, it’s nice knowing for certain you’ll have free Wi-Fi access in the comfort of your room.
Similarly, not every hotel offers free breakfast to everyone. Breakfast at the hotel is a go-to option for many travelers because it’s convenient and quick. If you frequent the breakfast buffet or like to indulge in the a-la-carte omelets, sign up for a loyalty program that gives you free breakfast.
Sometimes it’s the little things that make you feel pampered and special. Having exclusive access to a members-only lounge or a VIP snack bar in a hotel can give your trip an extra level of comfort and luxury.
While we can’t guarantee this every time, if you’re traveling for a special occasion, your hotel membership program may include a free dessert or a bottle of champagne in your room when you check in. Loyalty programs are all about making you feel special in every way that a hotel can, especially on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries.
The minute you sign up for a loyalty program, you can start racking up points with each booking. After that, hoard your points and redeem them for a free stay on a future trip. There’s something invigorating about getting free rewards for purchases you were already going to make! Once you really get in the traveling groove and stay multiple nights with one program, you can be bumped up to a higher level of membership status where you can get even more benefits.
There’s literally no downside to becoming a loyalty member. You don’t have to book a certain number of times to become a member, you’re not required to travel a certain amount of days per year, and you don’t have to pay anything to become a member. You just do you and gain instant benefits.
Sign up for as many loyalty programs as you want to as well. This way you can reap the benefits no matter which hotel you stay at. If you’re worried about getting bombarded with emails from multiple hotels, remember you can always customize your email settings to fit your preferences.
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