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Old 08-02-2010, 11:51 PM
171 posts, read 585,017 times
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Hi, next month I will be embarking on a 21 hour drive from CA-SD and I don't know when or where I am going to stop to stay for the night, I plan on driving until I get a little tired then start looking for a place to stay. Generally what is the difference in price when you just stay for the night at some dive hotel off the freeway on a road trip and does anyone else do this and generally what are your experiences? Would you rather just plan where you're going to stop ahead of time?
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Old 08-03-2010, 12:05 AM
16 posts, read 103,126 times
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It's considerably more expensive, in my experience. I did this last spring and ended up getting quoted $99 as a walkup rate for a Days Inn. A trick you might try: drive til you want to stop, get yourself to civilisation, then find yourself a spot with free wi-fi and book a place in town through Hotwire or Priceline. Much cheaper. Just make sure you stop before it gets too late -- usually you can't make a same-day reservation past 11 pm.
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Old 08-03-2010, 01:00 AM
Location: SW France
14,244 posts, read 14,130,781 times
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Look at it this way- if a hotel has a room free late in the day it will never be able to sell that room for that night ever again.

Therefore it is in the interest of the hotel to sell it and it's up to you to negotiate a price.

I've done it loads of times.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:17 AM
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I would rather plan the trip, but I have stopped in hotels along the way while (long-distance) driving and they charge pretty much the same price.
Most hotels will only give you a discount if you stay at least 3 nights.

If it is a decent hotel they won't try to make a buck out of you just bc you arrived without a reservation.

What I do, when I decide to stay somewhere without a reservation, is call the hotel at least a couple hours in advance and let them know I will be arriving soon. I have specific room requests (non-smoking, dogs allowed) so I have to make sure they have something available within my needs and are not overbooked as well.

It is a reservation anyway.
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Old 08-03-2010, 07:45 AM
Location: San Diego
5,027 posts, read 13,406,704 times
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We've done this in the past. When we lived on the East coast, we drove from NJ to TX. Didn't book a single hotel. When we got tired, we got out the laptop, went on Priceline and bid on nearby hotels. We didn't pay more than $60/night on that trip, since every single hotel was booked hours before we arrived.
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:08 AM
Location: MMU->ABE->ATL->ASH
9,123 posts, read 17,121,718 times
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I was moving from PA to GA few yrs ago, driving my car down. Was not sure how far I was going to get before I stopped for the night. Wound up stopping in Charlotte, NC. I got off at a exit near the airport, A stopped in at one of the hotel and the desk clerk quotes me a 169/Night rate (Rack rate). I looked at him and said you can do better then that its 10pm. He said thats the best he could do. I then call'ed re-loc 24x7 travel and asked them to book me a room at the same hotel. re-loc travel got me a upgraded room for $79/night. I then told the desk clerk the Conf number, he mumbled this is why we cant make any money. I think they tell the desk clerks to quote high because you are standing there are you realy going to want to drive down the street to different hotel and do it all over again? The later it gets the less likely you are to do that. But now with web/smart phones you can hit the hotel booking sites from the parking lots, or highways and find a good rate. Then the phone will tell you how to get there.
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:24 AM
Location: San Diego
5,027 posts, read 13,406,704 times
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OP, if you have an iPhone, get the Priceline app. You save a lot more using that than using Priceline on your laptop! We use it all the time and love it!
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:57 AM
1,492 posts, read 6,955,586 times
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Rest stops often have those 'traveler' or 'roomsaver' magazines you can see about hotels in your state and use the coupon.

One town could be average of X for hotel rooms while the next be XX. I'd really use Mapquest and get your map, then plot where you'll think you'll be around 7pm or later if you want....then look at the nearby towns and then head to the internet for rates (priceline, hotels, motel6, etc.)

Have fun on your trip.
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Old 08-03-2010, 08:59 AM
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Oh...forgot to add...

if it's just you and you want to get to your destination as soon as you can....but not a big hurry-

bring a pillow and blanket and sleep at truckstops for power naps and keep going.

CA to SD...you'll be there in no time! You can get from coast to coast in 48 hrs doing this.....well, I've heard it being done and my sister did it once when she was very young. But it took me 2 and a half days. But you have to be safe...sleep when you need to sleep.
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Old 08-03-2010, 09:31 AM
11,256 posts, read 43,359,526 times
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As a manufacturer's rep, I do a lot of travel where my overnight schedule cannot be forecast before late in a given day. As long as your trip timing avoids local events that book up a town ... county fairs, conventions, conferences, trade shows, regional events, school graduations, etc. ...

You can always negotiate a room rate. Especially if it's later in the evening and the available rooms are a perishable commodity and there's at least a couple of competitors. Walk up traffic pays rack rate only if they don't aggressively seek to get a better deal.

As mentioned by others, use every tactic available to you ... very discounted traveler's coupons and promotions (the magazines are found at regional truck stops, rest stops, C-stores, and tourist oriented retail stores), the 'net for lodging deals (Hotwire has worked great for me; I've stayed in very nice $150/nite places for $39)), any affiliation group that has a traveler discount program (AAA, or any group association that you have an interest in), "business traveler/contractor" (a business card works wonders at many front desks; I've been labeled a "gov't contractor" by the front desk clerk more times than I can count even when I never represented myself as one). When my wife travels with me, she's a county employee ... and wears her ID badge when we check in ... many times, the clerk simply assumes that we're there on gov't business and gives us that rate when we haven't even asked for it.

You still have to be a knowledgeable traveler when you get quoted a rate; ie, the gov't rate in some places is higher than a negotiated discount rate. So always ask for a better deal if it still seems high compared to the rack rate. Sometimes the clerk will let you know of other programs or discounts available that you may "qualify" for at an even better rate. I've had more than one time where I got a quoted rate at a motel with an almost empty parking lot at 8PM and started to walk out when I couldn't get a better deal ... and the clerk then "remembered" another promotion that I could qualify for or pretended to call their supervisor to approve a "special" rate just for me that evening. I've had that happen at everything from a Hilton to a Ramada to a Ritz (Aspen CO) to hotels in Las Vegas (why stay at one of the 50-60 year old fleabags on the old strip when you can get a very upgraded room in a new hotel for the same money?)

The name of the game for a hotel operation is to sell their perishable commodity. They'd rather have a satisfied client at a low profit margin than a total loss for the product that night.
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