NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- If you're headed on a vacation this spring or summer, chances are you're going to pay more for a hotel than ever before.
The American Express Business Travel Monitor reports that international hotel rates climbed 8.5% in 2006, while the rates for American budget hotels in 2006 were up 19% from the previous year.
But just because a hotel asks for a certain rate doesn't mean you have to pay it. You can negotiate your way to a better deal.
Jim Thomas, author of "Negotiate to Win: How to Get the Best Deal Every Time!" says that you won't get what you don't ask for, so it's up to the consumer to ask for a better price. Here's how:
Go to the source. Don't bother dealing with the hotel's toll-free reservations line -- negotiate directly with the hotel instead.
Don't settle for the first rate you're offered. "Hotels have dozens of rates for their rooms, and they usually quote from the top (referred to as the rack rate) down," Thomas writes. So inquire about corporate or other promotional rates, and let the hotel know the price they've given you is still too high.
Trade up. If the hotel still doesn't budge, negotiate for other extras, like a suite for the regular room rate, or a room on the concierge floor. Many hotel staff members are being trained to not let customers get away because of price.
Speak to the manager. He may cave and give you a lower rate rather than letting the room go empty.
Talk money during the reservation process. That's when you have the most leverage and room to negotiate. But if you're checking in, you can still try to score a lower rate or an upgrade -- don't be shy.
By Marshall Loeb