Get best hotel rates for summer travel season

LOS ANGELES /*Consumer Reports*/ just released a survey of the best places to stay, and they say never pay the going rate.

The Ritz Carlton is plenty ritzy, and not surprisingly, it gets high marks in a Consumer Reports survey of 27,000 subscribers. But moderately priced hotels like the Wingate by Wyndham, the Drury Inn and Hampton Inn and Suites scored well, too. Consumer Reports says just about anywhere you stay, you can get a good deal.

"In most markets, there's no reason to pay full price for a hotel room these days," said Tod Marks of Consumer Reports.

Subscribers surveyed say it pays to haggle, and 80 percent who tried got a lower room rate or a room upgrade.

Marks negotiated big savings at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel in Philadelphia. First he asked for the best available rate. The initial hotel quote turned out to be $209.

But Marks said you need to go further. He asked if they offer any discounts, like a AAA discount. That dropped the room rate to $177, and it was refundable.

But Maks didn't stop there. He asked for the best available non-refundable rate. The non-refundable rate was $159.

Marks kept going, asking if there were any limited-time offers. The price wound up at $134, with free parking thrown in.

Consumer Reports says you can often get an even better deal if you book at discount Web sites like Hotwire or Priceline.

"The downside is that you don't know the identity of the chain you'll be staying at until after you complete your booking," Marks said.

It turned out that Sheraton Society Hill hotel room on Hotwire went for $109.

Consumer Reports also rated bargain hotel chains. Unfortunately, most did very poorly in the ratings. The only standout was Microtel Inn and Suites, where rooms range from $55 to $80 a night.

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