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Hotel room rates can be hard to understand in terms of what is included and what your choices may be.

But usually you'll find the first rate offered to you by a hotel is not their best rate.

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How to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate Part One

Optimize the Dates of Your Stay

Although you should negotiate a room rate before turning up at hotel reception, the same principles apply whether you are a 'walk in' last minute guest or someone booking months in advance by phone.  You should always attempt to get the best rate possible.

Part 1 of a series on How to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate - please also visit

1.  Optimize the dates of your stay

2.  When is the best (and worst) time to make your hotel reservation

3.  What is Included and What is Extra

4.  Hidden extra fees and how to resolve them

5.  Who to Speak/Book With and What to Say



We all know that airlines sell their tickets for hugely different amounts.  But did you know that hotels sell their rooms for widely varying rates, too?

And just like the airlines have various rules to try and restrict who qualifies for which fares, so too do hotels.

Use the knowledge offered in this new series of articles to help you play the hotel's game and get the best rate possible next time you are booking a hotel room.

Step 1 - Optimize Your Choice of Dates

So you've decided you need to stay somewhere for several days, and now you're working out which hotel to stay at.

Stop!  Go back!  You've already gone too far down the track.  The very first thing you should do is - if you have date flexibility - attempt to determine if there are better or worse dates to stay in the place you're visiting, and at the hotel you want to stay at.

Date flexibility might mean changing your travel dates - even if only by a day or two.  Or perhaps it might mean changing the order in which you visit the destinations that are to be included in your travel itinerary.

Impact of Festivals and Conventions

For example, a small town that has a major festival over a weekend is not going to have discounted rates in their hotel rooms.

This can even be true in large cities with major conventions - even a city with as many hotels rooms as Las Vegas will occasionally fill up, such that hotels that sell their rooms for as little as $50 or less a night will instead be asking $250/night during the convention.  So make sure to check ahead if you are booking hotel rooms in Vegas, New York, or other major cities by checking with their Visitors/Convention bureau for major event information.

Holiday Weekends

As well as festivals, long holiday weekends will also distort hotel occupancy levels.

But these distortions happen both to increase and decrease hotel occupancy levels.  In places where people like to vacation, hotels will fill.  In places people travel for business purposes, hotels will empty.

Seasonal Issues

Some places are more popular at some times of year than at others.

They often will have seasonal rates to reflect these variations in demand - for example, summer destinations will be cheaper to stay at during the empty winter months, for example, and vice versa for winter destinations if you're considering traveling there in summer.

The actual seasonal periods may not be obvious to you, however, and may not be as simple as just a high and a low season.  There may be several different seasons.  And the timings may vary from area to area.  For example, some parts of the world have rainy and dry seasons.  And of course, the (weather) seasons in the other hemisphere are reversed to those in your home hemisphere.

Weekday and Weekends

Many hotels - and indeed some complete cities - are variously full during the week and empty in the weekends or vice versa.  Hotels in the central financial district of a city probably are full Monday - Thursday nights, with some residual occupancy on Friday and Sunday, and almost no-one in the hotel on Saturday nights.  But hotels in places where people like to go for weekend short breaks will be full on Saturday nights, semi full on Fridays and Sundays, almost empty on Mondays and Thursdays, and very empty on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  An example of this would again be Las Vegas.

Some hotels in some areas have done a good job of balancing their weekday and weekend business, and other areas have steady business every day of the week because people travel there for longer than short weekend breaks - for example, Orlando.

But in many areas, hotels do have peaks and troughs during every week, and even hotels that have managed to build a steady level of occupancy may be quoting a very different rate for weekend days than for week days.  Sometimes this is apparent, but sometimes if you start your stay on an expensive day, they might 'forget' to adjust the rate for the lower cost days.

Individual Hotel Issues too

As well as these factors, individual hotels can also have changes in their own occupancy level due to hosting groups or conventions.

Maybe they've a wedding group that has filled the entire hotel for the two nights you want to be there, or maybe they have a convention in the hotel for the three night period.

Like most factors to do with hotel occupancy levels, this too has a flip side.  Maybe they've just had that big wedding group or convention cancel, so they've suddenly switched from being full to being empty.

Can You Change Your Dates

So - for your first step, see if you're planning to travel at a good time or a bad time.

If you can adjust your travel dates, even perhaps only by a day or two, or swap the order of places you'll be visiting if you're going to several different places, you might get access to lower hotel rates right from the start of your negotiation.

How to Find Out if it is a Good or Bad Time

You can call the area's Convention and Visitor Bureau and ask them if it is a good or bad time - but you'll need to qualify what you mean by good and bad.  To them, a good time is when all hotels are full!  Ask instead if it is a time when hotel occupancy rates are typically higher or lower than average.

You can also get a feeling by looking at hotel availability through one of the internet hotel booking services.  If you are seeing 100 or more hotels, all with low rates on offer, for one week, and then only 20 hotels, with high rates, for the next week, you can probably guess what this difference in results means.

Consider also calling the hotel(s) you're thinking of staying at directly.  Ask whether they are getting close to full or if they have lots of availability for the dates you're looking at, and if you can get a sense not just for their current booking levels but how they expect this to evolve prior to the actual dates of your possible stay, that would be helpful too.  Maybe the hotel currently has no bookings, but maybe you're arranging nine months out, and it is a corporate hotel that gets 75% of its bookings in the three weeks prior to when guests arrive.  A hotel like that would have no real idea if it will be full or empty until as short as a week or so prior to the dates of your stay.

Read more in the rest of this series

This is part 1 of a series on How to Negotiate the Best Hotel Room Rate - please also visit :

1.  Optimize the dates of your stay

2.  When is the best (and worst) time to make your hotel reservation

3.  What is Included and What is Extra

4.  Hidden extra fees and how to resolve them

5.  Who to Speak/Book With and What to Say

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Originally published 5 Sep 2008, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.


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