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The Hotel Insider:
15 Tips to Save Money, Stress & Your Health at Hotels

This year, the week between Christmas and New Year's is slated to be the busiest travel period of the year (even busier than the Thanksgiving weekend), according to a poll of American Express travel agents.

You may want to remove the bedspread before lounging on your hotel room's bed; studies have found they're often loaded with contaminants because they're not always cleaned between guests.

"Holiday travel has evolved considerably from the local family gathering to new, exciting adventures as travelers seize the opportunity to create lasting holiday memories," said Audrey Hendley, vice president of marketing, American Express Travel.

But whether you are jetting off to an exotic holiday getaway, or simply staying at a hotel while visiting your in-laws (about 42 percent of people would rather stay in a hotel than with their families during the holiday season, according to an Expedia survey), there are a number of ways to save yourself stress and money while on the road.

Top Recommend Ways to Have a Happy, Healthy, Low-Cost Hotel Stay

1. Ask for a Discount. Always be sure to ask for the lowest possible rate for the dates you need, and don't forget to check for discounts for corporate stays, AARP memberships, military duty, local residents, auto clubs and more.

2. Avoid Peak Seasons. Plan your stay either before or after peak periods. You'll save money and avoid crowds. Most hotel Web sites and travel guidebooks have information on peak timeframes.

3. Try to Stay Below the 8th Floor. Modern firefighting equipment does not have the capacity to easily fight fires or rescue people above the eighth floor. You can request this when you make your reservation.

4. Look for Reduced Rates for Convention Attendees. If you are traveling because of a convention or trade show, always check the event's Web site to find out if a discounted rate is available. However, even if you weren't planning to attend the trade show, it may be worth your while to do so just to receive the reduced hotel rates.

5. Germ-Proof Your Room Properly. Studies have found everything from viruses to urine to bedbugs left behind in hotel rooms, so it's important that you do a little quick cleaning before settling in. We like the PerfectClean terry cloths and super silk cloths for this purpose because they have an ultramicrofiber construction that enables them to reach deep into microscopic crevices to actually remove microscopic dirt and bacteria. Use them to wipe down surfaces that may contain germs, such as the TV remote control, light switches, phone, bathroom faucet, and coffee maker handle. You should also run hot water into glasses before using them (or bring your own disposable ones), because maids don't always change them between guests.

6. Always ask About Construction. Before your room is assigned, find out if any construction or remodeling is going on in the area. The last thing you want is a noisy wake-up call at dawn or scaffolding blocking your ocean view. Likewise, if you want a quiet stay, insist on a room that is not near an elevator, pool, bar, ice/vending machine or other noisy area.

7. Stay Outside of Urban Areas. Hotels that are just outside of major city limits are often less expensive and more likely to offer free continental breakfasts and wireless Internet access.

Resist the urge to prop your hotel room door open while you go down the hall to the vending machine. It's safer to keep your door closed and locked at all times.

8. Take off the Bedspread. Studies have found hotel room bedspreads to be full of contaminants, likely because they are not usually cleaned between guests. To be on the safe side, remove it from the bed and just use the blanket and sheets.

9. Keep Your Valuables Protected. Ideally, you should leave all of your valuables at home. For those that you must bring with you, resist the urge to "hide" them in dresser drawers, which is the first place a thief will look for them. Instead, secure them in the in-room safe or in the safe-deposit boxes behind the front desk.

10. Negotiate Rates for "Extras." Hotel managers usually have the ability to adjust the rate you pay for phone calls and other extras. Ask and you just may receive.

11. Get a NEW Key if You Lose Yours. Simply getting a replacement key means that your old key, which may have fallen into the wrong hands, can still open your room's door. Instead, insist on getting a NEW key, which will reprogram the lock and make your lost key unusable.

12. Keep Your Door Locked. This may sound obvious, but it's tempting to leave your hotel room door propped open while you run down the hall to get some ice. To stay safe, never leave your door propped open, make sure it's pulled securely shut when you leave, and use all the bolts, locks and chains when you're inside.

13. Call the Hotel Directly (Don't Use the Toll-Free Number). Although major travel Web sites, and bidding Web sites, often have great hotel deals, it's still possible to find the best deal by using the phone. The trick is to call the hotel's direct line to ask for a price. Often, they'll quote you a much cheaper rate than you'll get from calling the hotel's main, toll-free number.

14. Request a Late Checkout. Most hotel managers will give you an extra hour or two to checkout of your room, free of charge (especially if your room is not booked for that day). However, if you don't call and request this in advance you could be charged for the extra time, or even an entire day.

15. Check to Make Sure Everything's Working Right Away. Though you may want to drop off your suitcases and go, take a few minutes to check the lights, TV, faucets, radio and shower to make sure everything works. If not, report the problem immediately. Also, you should request any additional items you may need (an extra pillow or towel, an ironing board, etc.) right away so you have them when you need them.

Recommended Reading

Glowing Pillowcases, Bacteria-Repelling Floors: A Glance at the Hotel Rooms of the Future

Save Big on Airfare: 8 Top Tips to Reduce the Cost of Your Airline Tickets


American Express November 17, 2006 November 16, 2006

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