Wendy Perrin is always so good to point our Luxury Link:
Luxury For Less Tips
by Wendy Perrin | Published December 2010 | See more Condé Nast Traveler articles ›
Hotel rates are volatile, so being flexible can save you money. "People mistakenly think a luxury room costs $600 a night everywhere," says Scott Berman, principal in PwC's hospitality division. "You could pay $2,000 in some places and $200 in others. A luxury Caribbean resort might cost hundreds less in the off-season than it does in winter."
"The range of rates at a given property is substantial," says Berman. "A room could be $250 one week, $550 the next." If a hotel's rates are high, ask its in-house reservations office which period near your travel dates has the lowest occupancy (and thus the lowest rates). You may find a much lower price.
Sign up for the private-sale sites (they are for "members" only, but we've provided the necessary access codes at truth.travel) and for alerts from Travelzoo, which occasionally has low rates at Gold List properties.
Set up a free e-mail account specifically for special offers, then put your name on every airline or hotel mailing list for notification of deals. The alerts won't flood your regular e-mail, and you can ignore them until you're ready to plan your vacation.
Phone the on-site reservations office and see if they're willing to negotiate with you, recommends Joe Brancatelli. "Try for an upgrade by booking one of the higher categories and then requesting a better room. Say, 'I see your standard rate for a superior king is $285. If I book that room, can you guarantee me an upgrade to ocean-view?'"
Conference business has not come back yet, so resorts that cater to corporate groups (think large properties in Florida and Arizona) and hotels in convention cities such as Chicago and Las Vegas are often desperate to fill rooms. For low rates at four-star city hotels, especially at the last minute, try Priceline and Hotwire, and for resort deals that include extras—such as spa treatments, golf, and daily breakfast—try LuxuryLink.
The more you concentrate your business in one hotel loyalty program, the better the rates you'll get. Consider signing up for your preferred hotel company's credit card. Two years in a row now, upon renewing my Starwood American Express card ($45 per year), I've received a certificate for 50 percent off a stay of up to five nights at any of 940 Starwood properties worldwide (which include St. Regis, the Luxury Collection, Westin, and W).
When using your hotel points for free stays, you'll get the most value by redeeming them for rooms either during peak season or in countries where the dollar is weak. Unlike airlines, most hotel chains have not yet made points seasonal, nor do they factor exchange rates into the equation.
Airfares have risen lately, both in coach and business class, and will likely continue to do so on many routes as business travel rebounds. For unadvertised low coach fares, sign up for AirfareWatchdog's alerts from your home airport. For weekly notification of the best business-class fares, subscribe to joesentme.com ($49 per year). For unpublished discounted business-class fares, especially for last-minute trips, try etravelbid.com.