& money saving tips
by Roland Flick
A major hotel in Miami reports that their study conducted over a two year period reveals men generally leave their hotel rooms neater than women. Women are more likely than men to lock themselves outside their room and use more towels than men (four per day compared to two per day for men). At the front desk, the most-asked question by women is for directions to the nearest shopping mall. Most-asked question by men? Where to get a drink.
Hotels love to rent rooms and don't like having vacancies. At 8-9 p.m. every night, most hotel managers know they're not likely to rent a room to walk-in traffic, so if you appear on their doorstep looking for a place to bed down for the night, they' should be eager to make you a room rate offer you can't refuse. The hotel industry itself says that more than 35% of the rented hotel rooms at any given time are being rented for less than the quoted (or "rack") rate. Don't hesitate to tell them how much you have to spend, especially if it's late at night and you're standing at the check-in desk with baggage in hand. If they can't come up with a rate you like, try elsewhere. If you travel by train or bus during the night, you can eliminate the cost of a hotel room for that day. Bed and Breakfast offer just that - a bed and a breakfast. The facilities are cozier than ordinary hotel rooms and the price is often right. The breakfasts range from continental to full American, so you can save a few dollars by not having to pay to eat the morning meal out. There are bed and breakfast directories available covering every corner of the U.S., including Florida. Check our Bed & Breakfasts listings here.
Don't overlook vacation packages, available through some of the airlines. They offer airfare, several nights lodging and use of a car during your Florida visit for far less than you can buy each component yourself. To judge whether a package plan is a bargain or not, do this: if the package plan price is just slightly higher than what you would pay for the airfare alone, it's probably a good value.
If hotel stays or camping is in your vacation plans, check with the chamber of commerce for the city you plan on visiting before leaving. Click here for our complete Florida Camping Guide.
Time permitting, have the hotel send you a written confirmation of your reservation and the rate.
Big-city Florida hotels in non-tourist areas offer their lowest rates on weekends. Weekdays they're usually catering to business travelers who are on expense accounts and can afford the higher rates.
If you're flexible on your vacationing dates, you can save up to 50% at hotels and resorts by traveling off-season. The same is true if you want to rent or buy timeshare. Florida is a great destination at any time of the year, so saving a few hundred dollars (or thousands if you want to buy) is probably worth being flexible with your annual vacation dates. Attraction and theme park tickets also tend to be less expensive during the off-season, so you'll get a good value there as well.
When making reservations, you can get a better rate-quote by calling the hotel direct than by calling the hotel chain's toll-free reservation number. Hotels deal in rate-generalities, reservation operators deal with specifics. Tell them how long you'll be there and what's the best rate they can offer. Think positive - never accept the first price quote.
If you plan on spending several nights at a hotel, ask for a discount. You can often find $50 a night rooms available for $110-$125 for three nights.
For extended stays in some Florida area, consider all-suite hotels or condominium rentals that offer a bedroom, sitting area and kitchen or kitchenette. You'll have more moving-around room and can cook in. In many popular vacation areas, condominiums are available for no more than you'd pay for a first-class hotel room. In some parts of Florida, for example, 2-bedroom condominiums overlooking the beach are available for less than you'd pay for a first-class hotel room. Condominiums offer washers and dryers, swimming pool and other amenities.
Check with the desk after you're settled in your room. Many hotels offer hair dryers, ironing boards and irons, extra pillows, blankets and towels, coffee maker, electrical converters, ice, laundry bags, extra soap, shampoo and conditioners, free newspapers, information on local attractions and entertainment, room service, reservations, medical attention, babysitters, video rentals, good shopping spots and what hours they're open, transportation and shuttle services, etc.
Investigate package plans at your hotel. If you plan on eating all of your meals at the hotel, rooms with meals included are usually less expensive than paying for a room and paying for your meals. AP or American Plan means three meals daily. MAP means Modified American Plan or two meals dinner - usually breakfast and a choice of lunch or dinner. EP means European Plan or no meals included. CP means Continental Plan and includes only breakfast. In many areas, the most expensive meals are served at the hotel, so if you're on a budget, check out the restaurants within walking distance from the hotel. Ask the desk clerks for their suggestions.
Some hotels accept pets (see our pet-friendly travel section). Some pets have fleas, so some hotel rooms have fleas. If the hotel you've chosen accepts pets (it should be in the literature or just ask,) ask for a room that is not used by pets.
Carry a small plug-in night lite with you when you travel. Upon arrival at your hotel, plug it in the bathroom light socket so you don't stumble over furniture on your way to the bathroom in the wee hours.
Because many hotel rooms use low-wattage lights in their bedside lamps (to save on electricity) reading in bed is difficult. If you like to read in bed while on vacation, carry along a couple of 100-watt bulbs and don't forget to take them with you when you leave.
If you sleep with a heating pad or electric blanket at home, you can take them along on vacation. A 25-50-foot extension cord eliminates the need to scramble under the bed or behind the bedside tables looking for an outlet.
If you like your morning coffee in bed and the hotel doesn't provide those amenities, you can buy a small portable coffee pot that fits in your suitcase. Take along some coffee grounds in a zip-lock bag squeezed flat.
Hotel Safety Tips: Close the door immediately after you enter your hotel room and use all of the locking devices available; never open the door to your hotel room without verifying who is outside. Call the front desk if necessary and ask if someone from the staff should have access to your room or to report an possible intruder; always use the main entrance to the hotel, especially after dark. If valet parking is available, use it. Otherwise park as close to the hotel as possible and don't leave your car until you've looked around and found a clear route to the hotel's front door; never display a large amount of cash in the dining room, hotel shops or lobby; place all of your valuables in the hotel safe; make sure any sliding glass doors and connecting rooms are locked. If you spot any suspicious activity, report it to the front desk. For a free copy of hotel safety tips, send a SASE to the American Hotel and Motel Association Tips (1201 New York Ave., NW, Washington DC 20005.).
If you're over age 55, ask about senior discounts when checking into a hotel, motel or resort. Many of the chain hotels and motels offer discounts of 10% or more to seniors. Choice Hotels which consists of Comfort Inns, Quality Inns, Clarion, Friendship Inns, Sleep Inns and Rodeway Inns offers a free booklet "Tips For Travelers Over 50." It's available from Choice Hotels Marketing (10750 Columbia Pike, Silver Spring MD 20901.)
Rooms overlooking the parking lot are usually less expensive than rooms overlooking the beach. The rate they quote you will probably be for the more expensive room, so ask about no-scenery rooms.
Some hotels offer complimentary breakfasts, eliminating the need to eat out and pay for it. The breakfasts range from continental to full-American breakfast and you could save from $1 to $5 every night you choose a b&b over a hotel.