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Five tips to score a steal

Five tips to score a steal

Winter holidays are just 10 days away and you still don’t know how to wing it without breaking the bank. We tell you how.

Winter holidays are just 10 days away and you still don’t know how to wing it without breaking the bank. Our package will tell you how to get the lowest rates on hotel rooms, list a few offbeat locales and introduce hi-tech camping.

Time was when travel ate away into a holiday budget. The advent of budget airlines changed that. But hotel tariffs have soared, making the cost of stay much higher than the cost of travel. Sushmita Choudhury suggests how to bag a bargain.

REPLICATE THE CORPORATE STRATEGY

Corporations leverage the concept of bulk bookings. By travelling in a big group, say more than three families, you stand to reap a similar advantage. More often than not, hotels will fall over themselves to accommodate you because making group reservations leaves them fewer stand-alone rooms to sell.
HOT DEALS

Park Plaza, Jodhpur

Cost: Rs 8.499
Contact: 1800111222

The business boutique hotel, located in the heart of Jodhpur, is offering a two-night/threeday stay at a superior room for couples (along with breakfast). Taxes are included in the quoted rate. The offer is valid till 24 December and then again from 2 January to 31 March.

Shervani Hilltop, Nainital

Cost: Rs 3,790 onwards
Contact: 9811554150

The newly refurbished resort with its terrace gardens and cottages is the perfect romantic getaway in the winter. Avail of their two-night package, on a per person basis, which includes breakfast and dinner. The offer is not valid from 29 December to 2 January.

True, group travel has its associated problems, from conflicting schedules to a lack of consensus on any and every thing. But there are perks too. If travelling individually would, at best, get you a room in a three-star hotel, by travelling in a group you can land five-star accommodation for the same budget.

Do remember that you would do well to negotiate directly with hotels for something comparable to their corporate rate instead of relying on a travel agent. Hotels are better placed to offer special concessions which will not be available through indirect channels.

ZERO-IN ON A CITY BUSINESS HOTEL

Missed the boat as far as a winter vacation is concerned and tired of hearing your grumpy family talk about yet another neighbour going to Goa for Christmas? If you are not particularly fixated on a location, and only care about getting out of your house and daily schedule, perhaps there is a great weekend break in the making right in your neighbourhood.

City occupancies in hotels dip during holidays and among the hardest hit are the business hotels. Contact a couple of them and ask them to better their current corporate rate and chances are they will oblige in a hurry since there are few business travellers to cater to and they don’t need to be told that an empty room is lost money.

So you get a spa, fitness centre, 24-hour room service, fine dining, etc for at least one third of the regular tariff. Depending on your bargaining skills, you can manoeuvre a better rate.

PLAY A GAME OF CHANCE

In case the corporate route to cheaper rooms doesn’t work for you, there is always one last-ditch effort that can fetch you a room at half the rack rate. If you are feeling lucky, you can try walking up to the reception desk for a same day booking.

Hoteliers say there is as much as a 30% chance of hitting bulls eye. While this may be a risky proposition to try in a city 500 km away from home—but that does not seem to dissuade impromptu tourists—you could walk into a room, suite or even a villa at a suburban resort.

Hotel room rates, like airline tickets, start rising closer to the date of stay or travel. But they plummet just hours before check-in or boarding time—if there are any vacant rooms or seats still available. It’s this last minute chance that can sometimes get you the best of deals. This works even better with smaller establishments and bed-and-breakfasts than with five-star hotels.

RESEARCH BEYOND THE NET

Any savvy traveller will tell you that the Net is the first place to go fishing for good deals, but it would be a mistake to stop there. It is always advisable to contact the hotel’s central reservations office, no matter what the Net has yielded. Very few hotel websites are updated every 15 minutes, yet hotels often lower their tariffs at the eleventh hour to ensure maximum occupancy.

So the only place to get real-time quotes and latest promotions is from the reservation desk. That is also only the way you can put your bargaining skills to work.

If nothing else, some smooth talking can get you a free room upgrade or some complimentary perks. Unless it’s a major hotel chain, mentioning that a neighbouring hotel is offering a lower rate will often trigger a competitive response, but you have to do ample research to back you up on this. And let your glib tongue do the rest.

THE CARDINAL RULE

While these tips can shave off big bucks from your hotel bill, the surest way to maximise savings will always be smart timing. Travelling to socalled hot destinations in the shoulder season or to off-beat places during peak season can get you a room at half the regular tariff.

So, this festive season, if you haven’t already booked a flight and hotel, which basically means you have missed your chance at the tourist magnets—you may consider destinations that are off most people’s radar.

Frequent travellers can also consider using loyalty as leverage. If there is a hotel chain you prefer, check if there is a co-branded credit card available. Alternatively, pick a plastic that has a tie-up with a hotel and offers huge discounts.Then there are the hotel loyalty programmes. Participating in such a programme may get you lower room rates or, at least, some perks.