How to save money on vacation hotels

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Summer vacationers looking for deals on hotel rooms are going to have to search a little harder.

The average cost of a room now stands at $110, up 4 percent from last year and 8 percent from two years ago, according to travel research company STR.

Here are some tips to save on your family's summer lodging:

Consider the extras: Booking a hotel isn't as simple as just looking at the rate and taxes. Some hotels include Wi-Fi, breakfast, bottled water and parking. Others add on hefty fees for some or all of the above. Then there are those dreaded resort fees. Most hotels disclose the fees on their websites, but you can call and ask.

Kitchens, laundry and privacy: These amenities won't directly save you on the room rate, but can make your vacation cheaper. If you are a large family, you might want to prepare a few meals in your room. Extended-stay hotel brands offer in-room kitchens. Many hotels offer on-site laundry machines for guests to use. To avoid getting two rooms, but still have some privacy, consider a chain like Hilton's Embassy Suites, which offers parents their own room and a pull-out sofa in the living room for the kids.

Cancellation policies: Many hotels let you cancel up to 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. the night of check-in. Read the fine print and then use that to your advantage. Hotel rates are constantly changing. Reserve at a fully refundable rate, and consider that the most you will need to pay for your lodging. Then, watch the price. If it falls, rebook at the new, lower rate.

Discount codes: If you are a member of AAA, inquire about a discount. Professional groups, athletic associations and senior citizen associations also often have their own hotel discount codes. And don't forget about your employer. Most large companies negotiate discounts with hotels and typically allow workers to benefit for the savings for personal trips.

Join loyalty programs: InterContinental Hotels — the parent company of Holiday Inn — as well as Omni, Fairmont and Kimpton all give program members free basic Wi-Fi — even those who have yet to spend a night. Fairmont gives its members free access to its health clubs. Kimpton gives a $10 credit toward snacks in its minibars. Other programs sometimes give rate discounts to their best members. If you are an elite member, remember to log into your account before searching for a hotel.

Several programs also run seasonal promotions providing free nights for members. For instance, Choice Hotels and Marriott often provide a free night a certain level hotels after two check-ins during the promotional period.

Credit cards: There a numerous offers to sign up for a new credit card and get two free hotel nights — or enough points for a few free nights — after spending a certain amount, often $1,000 in the first three months. The cards often waive the annual fee for the first year and offer a free night each anniversary when you pay the fee. The free room is usually worth more than the annual fee, which range from $49 to $95.

But don't get a travel rewards credit card if you don't pay off your entire bill each month. The interest rates on these cards are often higher than other credit cards.

— Associated Press

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