Summer travel may be just a haggle away

LOS ANGELES The hotel business is hurting, so now is the time to take advantage. If you're willing to get creative and negotiate, then you should expect to get anywhere from 15 to 50 percent off advertised rates at many hotels. And even without bargaining, some hotels are offering free perks and extra night stays.

Sam Fisher has big travel dreams for this summer. There are many destinations he'd love to visit.

"I've always heard good things about Chicago and Orlando. I'd like to see New York, though, and Broadway," said Fisher.

But, like many Americans, Fisher is counting every penny.

"The world is wide open when it comes to values right now," said Nina Willdorf, /*Budget Travel Magazine*/. "When you're quoted a price, that price may not be what you have to pay."

Willdorf is an editor at Budget Travel Magazine, which recently investigated ways to save when you hit the road, especially on hotels. There are several cost-cutting strategies, like negotiating.

"Find two hotels that are in the same neighborhood that are about the same price," said Willdorf. "What you do is you sort of get them to play with each other."

Budget Travel did well bargaining with several hotels in Las Vegas. They found, on average, 15 to 20 percent discounts. Willdorf also recommends asking for free perks if you can't get a cheaper rate.

"Free parking is one thing, free breakfast, use of the facilities like spa, gym, et cetera," said Willdorf. "Places that really add on all those extra fees will be willing to knock them off. And those discounts can really add up."

Experts also say you should always call the hotel's local number. You have a better chance of getting a lower rate.

Fisher tried some of the techniques. He called two hotels in cities he was interested in. He told the hotels that he had been able to get a lower rate at competing hotels and he had some success. He got one hotel to offer a steep discount if he booked right away. He also scored some perks, like a full breakfast.

Joe McInerney at the /*American Hotel and Lodging Association*/ says he's not sure how much hotels are bargaining down their rates, but insists there are great deals to be had.

"They're providing all kinds of incentives for people. Whether it's [that] you stay two nights and you get a third night free, or even golf in some areas. We're in a buyer's market," said McInerney.

Experts say the main thing is to get creative and to not be afraid of asking for things.



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