Sep. 4, 2012 at 9:50 AM ET
From Los Angeles to New York to destinations farther afield, Diener shares his money-saving tips like planning ahead and choosing destinations that are most likely to offer free food in their room rates (Florida and California).
Whether traveling for business or pleasure and with or without kids in tow, Diener suggests the free eats can be found at the big chains like Holiday Inn, Residence Inn by Marriott, Courtyard by Marriott, and Hampton Inn & Suites. But Diener notes that even trendy hotels are upping the ante with hipper food options, like Kimpton Hotels, W Hotels, and The Standard.
One of Diener’s money-saving tips that costs more upfront but may pay off in the long run is to book a room on, or get upgraded to, the concierge floor to take advantage of the free food that is served throughout the day.
Diener also suggests partaking in happy hours at hotels in destinations such as South Beach and San Francisco where wine, cheese and other happy hour treats are becoming popular daily rituals.
Thousands of hotels offer 14- or 21-day advance purchase rates, which are 10 percent to 30 percent off the rates; just for booking early. The money you save can be used towards food, drinks or even an extra day of fun.
Avoid baggage fees
Never pay for luggage. Fly Southwest, join the right frequent flyer program, or get the credit card that gets you free checked bags, said Diener. The money saved can be used for inflight meals or a nice dinner at your destination.
Be an early bird
Fly early in the morning for the lowest fares.
“A 6 a.m. flight is often hundreds of dollars less than a mid-morning flight,” said Diener. The money saved could mean fancier meals, more souvenirs or an extra day at your destination.
Find the lowest rate and then always call travel sites, naturally Diener suggests his own getaroom.com but there are plenty of options, for the unpublished rate, which is typically 10 percent to 25 percent less than the lowest online rate.
Try vacation rentals
Vacation rentals are often the same, or are lower in price compared to a hotel room, and provide much more space. Some even have kitchens so travelers can save by cooking their own meals.
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