3 Insider Tips to Save on Hotels

Turn on the charm and don't hesitate to complain.

We all want the five-star treatment at hotels. But if you don’t want to pay five-star prices, getting a more luxurious stay depends on who – and how – you ask for one. We spoke with current and former hotel employees to uncover the tactics most likely to work for you.

For the lowest rates, book online. But call a few days before you arrive and chat with the front-desk agent, says Jacob Tomsky, who chronicles his days as a front-desk clerk in Heads in Beds. He or she may be able to set you up with a larger room or suite at the same rate. Another option: Book directly with the hotel, but ask for the rate you saw online.

Turn on the charm. Hotels often overbook certain room types, knowing that if not enough guests cancel, they will hand out upgrades. If you’re at the hotel for a special occasion, such as a wedding anniversary, let the front desk know; you may get a better room. Otherwise, check in early and ask nicely. While not a guarantee, a small gratuity doesn’t hurt in these situations, says Tomsky.

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Don’t hesitate to complain. Charges for pay-per-view movie rentals and items from the minibar are wrong so often that the hotel will remove them, no questions asked. For other complaints, be polite but persistent. Many hotel employees receive bonuses for positive mentions on review sites, so they have an incentive to make you happy. Says one front-desk agent: “For better or worse, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease.”

Ryan Ermey
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Ryan joined Kiplinger in the fall of 2013. He writes and fact-checks stories that appear in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine and on Kiplinger.com. He previously interned for the CBS Evening News investigative team and worked as a copy editor and features columnist at the GW Hatchet. He holds a BA in English and creative writing from George Washington University.