When you get off the bus in the Andean Mountain resort town of Banos, Ecuador, you'll see several people quickly moving towards you. Some of them will be the actual owners of the hotels in town, and others are working on commission. They'll all claim to have the nicest and the cheapest hotel.
This onslaught of salesmen may annoy you at first, until you realize what it means. There are vacant rooms tonight, and there is real competition! They have tipped their hands, and you are in charge now. Let the contest begin!
When my wife and I were in Banos recently, we let an older woman drag us off from the bus station. She showed us two hotels she owned, and we preferred the second. We were told the room would be $12. It was clean, with cable T.V. and lots of hot water. We offered $6 per night, paying for four nights in advance. She agreed.
The lesson is clear if you want the cheapest hotel room: Negotiate! The owner knew we were ready to walk away, and that there were others waiting for our business. Unfortunately, most owners here in the U.S. would rather let you drive away than knock five bucks off the room rate. Even here, however, we have negotiated decent discounts by paying for several nights in advance. Of course we let them know that we'll be looking elsewhere if they say no.
The Cheapest Hotel Rooms - More Tips
You can use the travel web sites to find cheap hotel rooms, but remember that they only give you rates for the hotels and motels that are in their system. I just did a search for Tucson, Arizona, for example, on several sites. One or two of the sites found decent prices on certain hotels, but I know of several nice motels in Tucson that are $15 cheaper than the cheapest rate they found. Use the internet as a place to start, or when you can't get any other information.
Get coupon books at gas stations along the highways. We've often found good deals using these, and it's rare that a manager won't honor them. Usually only if they're absolutely full will they refuse. Read the fine print, however, because they often charge more for certain dates, or for two people.
There are promotions done where if you "mention this ad" or just use the right words, you get up to 70% discount. Talk, talk, talk. Tell them if you're a member of the AARP, AAA or whatever. Tell the person on the phone that you saw an ad in the "Times," or whatever big paper they might have advertised in.
Get the receptionist to help you. Try asking what the magic words are. Some receptionists will tell you. You might also ask "What do I have to say to get the cheapest rate?" They will sometimes tell you, or suggest other options. Ask about the hotel too, of course. You don't want ANY room. You want the cheapest hotel that has nice rooms.
Steve Gillman hit the road at sixteen, and traveled the U.S. and Mexico alone at 17. Now 42, he travels with his wife Ana, whom he met in Ecuador. For travel stories, tips and a free Travel Secrets e-book, visit: http://www.EverythingAboutTravel.com