A little negotiation can mean a good night’s sleep

Published 10:13 pm Saturday, July 24, 2010

The topic of locating an inexpensive hotel room near popular tourist attractions like Sandusky’s Cedar Point came up at a recent meeting.

The consensus was that after spending all day in the heat and humidity waiting in line for a 60-second thrill ride what was wanted was a clean, comfortable, affordable place to crash.

That’s all that these tired amusement park attendees wanted.

We’d pass on the fine French milled soap, designer toiletries, Egyptian cotton 1 million count bed threads and heavenly pillow collections.

Yes, we’ll gladly skip these amenities if you will just offer us a reasonable room rate was the collective cry!

Spending more than $100 plus a night on a rebranded 1950ish Holiday Inn style motel that was desperately in need of a remodel was neither a pleasant thought nor desirable option.

With a personal need for August lodging in Sandusky and Chillicothe I performed a web search on the mega on-line travel agency (OTAs) sites like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity then Hotels.com. While they did provide a broad range of rates for my Cedar Points and Tecumseh dates, I was less than satisfied with the results. Very high nightly rates across the board!

I understand the seasonality of peak season prices but I still felt that I could do better. Then I noticed that some popular brand names missing from these quotes.

Suppliers pay a fee to be listed on the search engines and travel reservation sites. These fees are then passed back to you and me, the product consumers.

You guessed it — a higher rate for end user. Some suppliers buck this trend and do not participate in the global reservation systems or OTAs.

For a variety of reasons some companies opt to stay away from this booking option and tend to go it alone.

You will not find their products, rates, fares and availabilities on the mega “big box” store type of reservation platforms. Additionally there are some independently owned non-chain hotels that you’ll never find on the above sites.

Great local examples are South Point’s Grandview Inn and the Ashland Plaza.

A national chain that was missing from my search results is the “we’ll leave the lights on for you” folks.

Switching to airline mode I doubt if you’ll find the “your bags fly free” gang on the mega sites. These are well known brands that you have to search and book directly on their Web site or via their toll-free reservation phone number.

The need to dig deeper and search out a better rate was driving me forward. It was time for plan B.

Changing my Sandusky search from the OTAs and searching directly on the Motel 6 site managed to reduce my lodging bill from more than $100 a night down to around $50.00.

The hotel was still in the general resort area meaning I still had a reasonable drive back there after a fun-filled day on Ohio’s roller coast.

Had this failed, next I would have explored the locally owned hotels.

I would have visited the local tourism office or convention and visitors bureau (CVB) website to identify these places.

Most, if not all, of these sites will have a “place to stay” page with contact and booking data. On these sites you might even discover a hotel reservation service than can help you locate the properties.

A low-tech approach is to contact these folks and have them mail you there visitors guide. Just plan far enough ahead to allow for mail delivery and receipt of these materials.

Another strategy is to expand your geographic search options. A Chillicothe hotel that cost me $45 last winter was pricing out over $120 a night for the August weekend that I needed.

Looking about 15 miles north up U.S. 23 in Circleville I uncovered a room for $45 a night. Both places were comparable budget hotels so my expanded search area paid off. I’d travel a little farther after the show to my hotel but I feel the savings justify the drive.

With a keen eye on their bottom line I’ve had many hotel general managers and desk clerks hand me their business card and state, “call us direct next time and we’ll save you “X” off of the Internet price.”

I doubt that this would work during the summer season in the Cedar Point region but it is worth a shot.

Although I prefer advance reservations, another tactic that can be applied is to negotiate your rate.

Yes there are online sites that will do this for you but I don’t like their terms and conditions, especially the non-refundable clause.

Negotiating your rate works by presenting yourself at the front desk and asking what they want for a room that evening.

Once you receive a quote, counter offer. Remember the hotel wants to put heads in beds so they may accept, decline or counter bid.

A reduced room rate is still revenue for that day and I point this fact out. Asking for the manager on duty and arriving after 6 p.m. are other successful tactics.

Another option is to work with your travel agent. We have access to special rates and inventory that is not available to the general public.

To the amazement of a Web surfer that couldn’t find space or didn’t like the rates obtained online, I have managed on more than one occasion to get space and great rates in places like Las Vegas, New York City and New Orleans.

Please keep in mind that sometimes, regardless of your strategies and tactics, rooms may be sold out or priced at a premium.

Care to guess what rooms will be selling for in Gettysburg, Pa., over the July 1-3, 2013 time frame? That’s the anniversary of the 1863 battle so prices will be higher than normal.

Travel questions or comments email thetravelprofessor@gmail.com or call 740.550.9540. Happy travels!