2014 could be a tough year for business travelers. Airfares seem to always be on the rise, and a recent study by New York University found that hotel rates for corporate travel are predicted to increase between 5 and 6 percent. These trends, coupled with ever-contracting travel budgets, mean that business travelers will need to be extra savvy in their search for deals on flights, hotels, and car rentals. Here are five hotel booking tips that will help you stretch those precious business travel dollars.
Book Corporate Rates
The rates that are available to the public are not usually the best rates available. Many business travelers are eligible for corporate rates, which are usually around 10 percent lower than regular rates. To take advantage of these low rates, you or your company must usually be registered with the hotel.
Reserve an Extended Stay or Business Hotel
Just because a hotel caters to long-term visitors doesn’t mean you have to stay a month to get the best rates. Extended stay hotels offer competitive pricing and full kitchens so you don’t have to eat out every night, and they generally come with extra perks that help you save money in other places. For example, Residence Inn by Marriott has free full breakfasts every day as well as light dinners (wine and beer included) on select weeknights.
You can also find great rates on hotels that cater specifically to business travelers. For instance, Club Quarters is a chain of business hotels located in downtowns across the United States. The rooms are small, but the properties have all the essential business amenities, and you don’t have to be a member to book a room (though you will get priority booking and lower rates if you join).
Book Rooms and Meeting Facilities Together
If you are hosting meetings during your trip, book the hotel’s conference room in advance. You can often get a hefty discount on your stay if you use the hotel’s meeting facilities as well. Best of all, you might be able to talk the boss into paying for the conference room separately from your travel budget.
Also be sure to check what free amenities the hotel offers so you don’t get stuck paying $10 or $20 per day for Internet access. Although most economy hotels (e.g., Holiday Inn Express) have free Wi-Fi for everyone, many higher-tier hotels still charge extra and these charges can add up quickly. You can often get around this by joining the hotel’s loyalty program; for example, Kimpton’s InTouch program is free to join and entitles members to free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.
Use a Rewards Points Credit Card
If you are a frequent traveler, one of the best ways to save money over time is by using a rewards points credit card for all of your travel expenses. Most of the major hotel chains offer credit cards, and you get extra points for purchases made at the hotel. For example, with a Hilton HHonors card, you can earn up to seven points for every $1 spent at a Hilton property. To maximize your points, invite colleagues for a drink in the hotel lounge and pick up the tab for the whole table.
Stay in a New Hotel
Many hotel chains are busy expanding their brands, and they often offer deep discounts on new hotels to draw publicity and get those important first positive reviews. When searching for your room, check to see what properties may be opening for the first time or following a renovation—you might have to put up with some mild construction-related inconvenience, but the low rates are often worth it.
If you are hitting the road in 2014 for business travel, don’t get too discouraged by the price increases. There are still some excellent deals out there—you’ll just have to look a little harder to find them.
Featured image by Groupuscule [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Common