In our listings, we've tried to give you an idea of the kind of deals that may be available at particular hotels: which ones have the best discounted packages, which ones offer AAA and other discounts, which ones allow kids to stay with Mom and Dad for free, and so on. But there's no way of knowing what the offers will be when you're booking, so also consider these general tips:
Ask about special rates or other discounts. Always ask whether a room less expensive than the first one quoted is available, or whether any special rates apply to you. You may qualify for corporate, student, military, senior, or other discounts. Mention membership in AAA, AARP, frequent-flier programs, or trade unions, which may entitle you to special deals as well. Find out the hotel policy on children -- do kids stay free in the room or is there a special rate?
Choose your season carefully. Room rates can vary dramatically -- by hundreds of dollars in some cases -- depending on what time of year you visit. Winter, from January through March, is best for bargains, with summer (especially July-Aug) second best. Fall is the busiest and most expensive season after Christmas, but November tends to be quiet and rather affordable, as long as you're not booking a parade-route hotel on Thanksgiving weekend. All bets are off at Christmastime -- expect to pay top dollar for everything.
Go uptown or downtown. The advantages of a Midtown location are highly overrated, especially when saving money is your object. The subway can whisk you anywhere you want to go in minutes; even if you stay on the Upper West Side, you can be at the ferry launch for the Statue of Liberty in about a half-hour. You'll get the best value for your money by staying outside the Theater District, in the residential neighborhoods where real New Yorkers live, such as Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Murray Hill, or the Upper West Side. These are the neighborhoods where real New Yorkers hang out, too, so you won't want for good eats, nightlife, or Big Apple bustle.
Visit over a weekend. If your trip includes a weekend, you might be able to save big. Business hotels tend to empty out, and rooms that go for $300 or more Monday through Thursday can drop dramatically, as low as $150 or less, once the execs have headed home. These deals are especially prevalent in the Financial District, but they're often available in tourist-friendly Midtown, too. Look in the Travel section of the Sunday New York Times for some of the best weekend deals. They're also often advertised on the hotel's website. Or just ask when you call.
Shop online. Hotels often offer "Internet only" deals that can save you 10% to 20% over what you'd pay if you booked over the telephone. Also, hotels often advertise all of their available deals on their websites, so you don't have to rely on a reservation agent to fill you in. What's more, some of the discount reservations agencies have sites that allow you to book online. And consider joining the Playbill Online Theater Club (www.playbillclub.com), a free service that offers some excellent members-only rates at select city hotels, in addition to discounts on theater tickets. American Automobile Association members can often score the best discounts by booking at www.aaa.com. Travel search sites such as Orbitz (www.orbitz.com), Microsoft Expedia (www.expedia.com), Priceline (www.priceline.com), and Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) offer other discount options. Shop around. And if you have special needs -- a quiet room, a room with a view -- call the hotel directly and make your needs known after you've booked online.
Dial direct. When booking a room in a chain hotel, you'll often get a better deal by calling the individual hotel's reservation desk rather than the chain's main number.
Make deals with the budget chains. With a few exceptions, I have not listed budget chains. In my opinion, they tend to lack the character and local feel that most independently run hotels have. And it's that feel, I believe, that is so much a part of the travel experience. Still, when you're looking for a deal, they can be a good option. Most hotels -- particularly chains like Comfort Inn and Best Western -- are market-sensitive. Because they hate to see rooms sit empty, they'll often negotiate good rates at the last minute and in slow seasons.
You can also pull out all the stops for discounts at a budget chain, from auto-club membership to senior status. And you might be able to take advantage of corporate rates or discounted weekend stays. Most chain hotels let the kids stay with parents for free. Ask for every possible kind of discount; if you find that you get an unhelpful reservation agent, call back and try again. Of course, there's no guarantee.
Two chains with franchises in Manhattan include Best Western (tel. 800/780-7234; www.bestwestern.com), though their rack rates for New York hotels are higher than you'd expect, and Howard Johnson (tel. 800/446-4656; www.hojo.com). There's a Best Western at South Street Seaport and at two Midtown locations, and a Howard Johnson on the Lower East Side. Check their websites for all the details.
At these and other franchised hotels -- such as the ones run by Apple Core Hotels (www.applecorehotels.com), a small management company that handles the Comfort Inn Midtown, the Ramada Inn Eastside, Manhattan's first Red Roof , the Super 8 Hotel Times Square, and the new La Quinta, 7 W. 32nd St. (tel. 212/736-1600) -- doubles can go for as little as $89. Check with the franchiser if you're not quoted a good advance-booking rate directly or through the management company's online reservations system; their global 800 and online reservations systems will often garner you a better rate, which might include a promotion -- or, at minimum, an "Internet User's Rate" that's 10% lower than the standard.
A good source for deals is Choice Hotels (tel. 877/424-6423; www.hotelchoice.com), which oversees Comfort Inn, Quality Hotel, and Clarion Hotel chains, all of which have Manhattan branches.
Another hotel to try is the Days Hotel Midtown, 790 Eighth Ave., at 48th Street (tel. 800/321-7460 or 212/581-7000; www.daysinn.com).
Investigate reservations services. These outfits usually work as consolidators, buying up or reserving rooms in bulk, and then dealing them out to customers at a profit. You can get 10% to 50% off; but remember, these discounts apply to rack rates -- inflated prices that people rarely end up paying. You may get a decent rate, but always call the hotel direct to see if you can do better.
Quikbook (tel. 800/789-9887 or 212/779-7666; www.quikbook.com) is probably the best of the bunch. Another good bet is Hotel ConXions (tel. 800/522-9991 or 212/840-8686; www.hotelconxions.com). You might also try the Hotel Reservations Network, also known as HotelDiscount!com (tel. 800/715-7666; www.hoteldiscount.com).
Note: Never just rely on a reservations service or an online booking site. Do a little homework; compare the rack rates to the discounted rates being offered by the service to see what kind of deal they're actually offering. If you're being offered a stay in a hotel I haven't recommended, do more research to learn about it, especially if it isn't a reliable chain name like Holiday Inn or Hyatt. It's not a deal if you end up at a dump.
Avoid excess charges and hidden costs. When you book a room, ask whether the hotel charges for parking. Use your own cellphone, pay phones, or prepaid phone cards instead of dialing direct from hotel phones, which usually have exorbitant rates. And don't be tempted by the room's minibar offerings: Most hotels charge through the nose for water, soda, and snacks. Finally, ask about local taxes and service charges, which can increase the cost of a room by 15% or more. If a hotel insists upon tacking on a surprise "energy surcharge" that wasn't mentioned at check-in or a "resort fee" for amenities you didn't use, you can often make a case for getting it removed. All hotel rooms are subject to 13.25% tax plus $2 per night.
Buy a money-saving package deal. A travel package that combines your plane tickets and your hotel stay for one price may just be the best bargain of all. In some cases, you'll get airfare, accommodations, transportation to and from the airport, plus extras -- maybe an afternoon sightseeing tour, or restaurant and shopping discount coupons -- for less than the hotel alone would have cost had you booked it yourself.
Rely on a qualified professional. Certain hotels give travel agents discounts in exchange for steering business their way, so if you're shy about bargaining, an agent may be better equipped to negotiate discounts for you.
Consider B&B accommodations or an apartment. If Big Apple hotels seem too expensive, or you'd just like something a little more like home, consider renting a room in a genuine New York apartment -- or even an entire apartment. These accommodations can range from spartan to splendid, from a hosted bedroom in a private home to an unhosted, fully equipped apartment with multiple bedrooms. No matter what, you can pretty much guarantee that you'll get more for your money than if you book into a regular hotel. However, you need to be rather independent-minded to enjoy this option.
The place to start is with Manhattan Getaways (tel. 212/956-2010; www.manhattangetaways.com). Judith Glynn maintains a beautifully kept and managed network of bed-and-breakfast rooms (from $105 nightly) and unhosted apartments (from $135) around the city. There's a 3-night minimum stay, and credit cards are accepted. Another decent bet is A Hospitality Company (tel. 800/987-1235 or 212/813-2244; www.hospitalityco.com), which owns and manages 300 apartments around Manhattan starting at $139 a night, or $850 weekly for a basic studio. These are rather sparsely furnished apartments, and the company offers very little in the way of service (it took me 5 days to get my broken TV fixed when I was displaced from home by renovation), but the apartments are clean and do the trick. There's no minimum stay, and credit cards are accepted. Optional cleaning services are available for longer stays.
Additional agencies that can book you into a B&B room or a private apartment, with prices starting at $90 nightly, include As You Like It (tel. 800/277-0413 or 212/695-3404; www.furnapts.com); Abode Apartment Rentals (tel. 800/835-8880 or 212/472-2000; www.abodenyc.com); City Sonnet (tel. 212/614-3034; www.citysonnet.com); Manhattan Lodgings (tel. 212/677-7616; www.manhattanlodgings.com); and New York Habitat (tel. 212/255-8018; www.nyhabitat.com). Be sure to get all details in writing and an exact total up front to avoid disappointments.
Landing the Best Room -- Somebody has to get the best room in the house. It might as well be you. You can start by joining the hotel's frequent-guest program, which may make you eligible for upgrades. A hotel-branded credit card usually gives its owner free Silver or Gold status in frequent-guest programs. Always ask about a corner room. They're often larger and quieter, with more windows and light, and they often cost the same as standard rooms. When you make your reservation, ask if the hotel is renovating; if it is, request a room away from the construction. Ask about nonsmoking rooms, rooms with views, rooms with twin, queen-, or king-size beds. If you're a light sleeper, request a quiet room away from vending machines, elevators, restaurants, bars, and discos. Ask for a room that has been most recently renovated or redecorated.
If you aren't happy with your room when you arrive, ask for another one. Most lodgings will be willing to accommodate you.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed accommodations, visit our online hotels index.
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