From a man whose first words as a toddler were “is that your best price”, AT’s Peter Robinson has forgotten more about cutting a deal than most people ever knew. Watch and learn . . .

I’ve been honing my negotiating skills by haggling over t-shirts in Asian markets, bartering for villas in the Greek Islands, walking out of shabby London digs, professionally reviewing more than 700 B&Bs and chipping ice off an in-room air-conditioner in Egypt. There have been regrettable incidents along the way. But one thing we’ve probably all got in common is the desire to ditch the cockroaches, nylon sheets and grubby, decibel-damaged dives and get a good night’s sleep without feeling we’ve wasted valuable holiday time and dollars.

Just to state the bleeding obvious, if you’re thinking about heading overseas, your travel dollars will now get you a third less than they did this time last July. This means you must either: earn one-third more in after-tax income (unlikely – be glad you’ve still got a job); get another credit card and go crazy (not recommended); stay home; or spend a whole lot less on your next holiday. AT endorses integrity and value-for-money in tourism, so that last point is our challenge – getting a cheap deal on accommodation. Cast your old-fashioned pride to the wind and start haggling. Yes, you can do it right here in Australia.

To state the bleeding obvious again, keep your eyes open for special deals in the paper and online, or ask if any are available when enquiring. But you can do better than that: be flexible, plan your trips outside peak times, travel mid-week, stay multiple nights for a better rate, check out last-minute sites like Wotif and Quickbeds – the list goes on. A word of warning, though: cheap prices can sometimes reflect a lower grade of room than the pretty photos you’ve seen on the net or in brochures. That’s the shonky side of tourism. If you pay the full rate (nuts, in my opinion), you should be guaranteed a top room. Paying the cheap rate might still get you a good room, but it can just as easily get you the room next to the kitchen, elevators, main highway or the worst in the house for some other reason. The lesson? Be succinct about your requirements when enquiring or booking.

Some people use the last-minute websites for availability and pricing information, then phone the property direct and squeeze out a better deal. When you consider the last-minute website prices have a booking commission built in, it leaves a bit of fiscal fat to be trimmed. Work on that, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Make a lower offer; after all, you’re paying for a room that might otherwise remain empty.

We, the travelling public and insiders alike, know some over-priced super-luxury retreats have built a reputation by attracting the rich and famous. We’ve also seen them collapse in a heap when the heat is on. Here’s the news: the heat is now on. No corporate travellers? No expense-account guests? High overheads? Some top places have already gone on the real estate market or simply closed their doors. Those with astute management will have economic bail out plans in operation by now. Cheap deals are here for the taking, my friends.

Don’t book far ahead if you can avoid it – travel on the spur of the moment and be willing to move on to the next place. Some operators are offended by the idea of discounting their rates and will retreat to a defensive cone of silence when the bargain-hunting traveller approaches. My response? Don’t be annoyed. Get even – by moving on.

In my experience, some loyalty club memberships aren’t worth a cracker. Saving ten percent off a room is a bit like driving for 20min to save four cents a litre off petrol. So what if you’re saving $20 off the rack rate? Do a deal and save at least double that and get them to throw-in breakfast too.

You don’t have to front up to the motel or hotel. Phone them and remain anonymous. Make a couple of calls asking the best rate a couple of hotels can do – a stay of two nights or more will elicit a different price, generally speaking – and tell them your budget is 20 percent less. On a $100 room that’s a fair saving and if the place isn’t busy they’ll take the offer. It’s better than having an empty room.

Offer cash. It won’t work in larger hotels, but owner-operated motels and B&Bs will get that sudden glazed look when they see the colour of your money. There’s no bouncing cheques, credit card fees, invoices or further responsibility with onward processing. Above all, keep your sense of humour intact when haggling. Holidays are meant to be fun.
 

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