Planning a family vacation or a short weekend getaway? Here are a few guidelines for getting the best deal for your family.
Ask About Seasonal Rates
When making a reservation at any hotel or resort, ask the dates of the high, low, and shoulder seasons. Smart travelers can save 20%-30% off high-season room rates by traveling during the low season (also called the "off season") or during the shoulder seasons (the times between the high season and the low season).
Keep in mind what the weather might be like during these times, though. The off-season in New Mexico will be very hot and the shoulder season on Cape Cod could be cool and wet.
To take advantage of seasonal rate changes, you may need to be flexible about when you travel, but sometimes changing your family's travel plans by just one day can make a big difference.
Check For Packages & Discount Rates
Check hotel Web sites before calling for a reservation; most hotels post online-only deals. While you're online, be sure to check out the official Web site for the state and the city where you want to stay. You may find a state- or city-wide discount is being offered.
When making a reservation, always ask if there are any packages or promotions being offered during the dates of your stay. Packages may include gift certificates for local shops and restaurants, free meals, a free night's lodging, and fun activities, such as golfing, water sports, tennis, and organized kids' programs. If the online offer is better, the hotel may give you the online offer over the phone.
Another source of discounts are organizations such as the American Automobile Association and the American Bar Association. Many hotels and resorts offer discounts (typically 10%) to members. Be sure to ask when making your reservation if you can get one of these discounts.
Ask About Kid-Friendly Offers
If you are booking two rooms, ask if you can get a discounted rate on the second one. Some hotels may offer a discount on a kids' room when the parents pay full price for their room.
Ask whether the room rate includes breakfast or other free food service (like afternoon snack, fruit, complimentary coffee) or "kids eat free" offers at the hotel's restaurant. Take advantage of these and save money during your trip.
Watch Out For Hidden Fees
Don't use the in-room hotel phone unless you know it's free. Sometimes the surcharge is as much as $2.50 per call. Ask about phone charges when making room reservations or when checking into the hotel. Your best bet is to use your cell phone or to call from the lobby pay phone.
Keep kids out of the minibar. Instead, ask at check-in time if there is a convenience store or a grocery nearby, then stock up on healthful snacks and drinks. If your hotel offers refrigerators in the rooms (ask when you make the reservation and confirm before checking in and again at check in), you'll be able to keep your purchases cold.
Some hotels offer laundry service, which can be costly. Instead, ask when reserving the room if there's a washing machine and dryer on site for guests to use.
Ask when making your reservation if the hotel room has a DVD player. Bring your own DVDs and avoid charges for in-room entertainment.