19 Tips to Get a Better Deal
on a Cabin or Hotel
I worked in Reservtions for Hotels and Cabins in Pigeon Forge
Here is What I Learned
Among the many jobs I've held over the years, one was booking cabins and one was booking hotels for 2 very different companies in 2 very different jobs.
1.) I did property management for a small real estate company that managed long term and vacation rentals. I took cabin reservations and bookings and had the view behind the scenes of a small rental company.
2.) I also worked in reservations for a local group of hotels owned by a local family (not a national chain).
Here are a few things I learned along the way.
19 Tips & Tricks to get the Best Deal
Ask for a better price. This is my number one rule if you don't remember anything else from this whole article.
When working for both companies, I was given parameters and options I was allowed to be flexible with. This doesn't mean I had the power to do miracles, but I did have some leeway in changing your price. Especially if I thought you might hang up without booking.
This is not always the case, though. I can only speak for the 2 companies I worked for but I suspect this could be the case other places.
“Ask and you might receive”. The answer might also be "no". But it might be "yes". Also right before you are ready to pay, ask a question such as, “Is this the best deal you have?” “Is there any way to do a better price on this?” Or, “Can you throw anything else in with that?”
2. Timing is Everything
Book during "off season" for the lowest rates. January, February and Early March are your best bets. Weekdays are generally cheaper than weekends. (See Why Off Season is My Favorite)
Don’t wait until the last minute. The earlier, the better.
But I still had people calling me a week before July 4th and asking for discounts. If you call a week before July 4th, you may not even GET a cabin or hotel room at all. We'd be solidly booked at top dollar. So if by some lucky chance, you get an availability, expect to pay top dollar.
While my advice is to always ask, in this case, your chances are about “0”. In fact, if someone does make you a deal a week before July 4th, I’d be suspicious….find out why - um, what’s the catch?’
If you get something at the last minute, make sure it's someone else’s cancellation and not a musty room in the basement of a hotel that no one else wanted.
The best day of the week to check in and get the best rate is usually Sunday night, according to statistics.
As a general rule, the lower the demand the better deal you can get. If you get quoted a higher price than you were expecting ask if there is a reason. Is there some event going on in town you don't know about?
3. I was Expected to Sell
We worked for an hourly rate plus got a commission for every booking. This creates a huge incentive for us to get you booked. Not all companies pay their reservationists a commission but usually there is some incentive for a reservationist to book you a cabin before you hang up.
If you asked me a question, I had to tell you what the boss would want me to say.. If you ask me a question for example, "Are the rooms clean? Is this a good hotel? Is this a good company?"
I'm going to tell you "Yes", because that was my job--to sell you a cabin or hotel room. Plus my boss could be listening and I need to keep my job therefore keep this in mind when you ask questions that need an opinion from the worker.
Try to read between the lines, for example, asking an either/or question gives the reservationist a way to guide you without coming out and saying something negative.
For example instead of asking, are the rooms at that location very clean? You might say, "Which location would you book for your own family if you had to choose?"
4. The Person You Talk to May Never Have Seen Your Room or Cabin
As it happens, I DID actually frequent the cabins I took reservations for and I knew them pretty good. Because it was a small company, I was sort of a "Jack (Jaqueline?) of all Trades" and did a lot of everything for the business. This is not always the case with most cabin companies.
At the other job, taking hotel reservations, I never was able to tour the properties or rooms I was booking.
Many times, people would ask me if I'd ever been to the hotel room myself, and the answer in that case was always "no." It doesn't hurt to ask the reservationist if they have ever been in the property.
Location is really important. I remember running into a guest from a neighboring cabin to where I was working. He asked me where he might find a better cabin next time. He and his wife were unhappy due to lack of privacy. It hadn't been clear to him when booking that they would be in a neighborhood setting.
This is a great case for getting the address of the property and using Google Street View.
5. If you Can’t Get a Discount, Ask if They Can “Throw Something In”
Here is an example - If a hotel room does not have a refrigerator, many hotels have small ones they can bring up to a room for you. For example if you have medical supplies that need to be refrigerated, many hotels will bring you a complimentary refrigerator at no extra charge.
With a cabin, maybe they can throw in some free tickets to a show? Or how about an early check-in or late check out?
6. Get the Person's Name
Try to help them remember who you are. If you are Betty from Boston, looking for a pet-friendly room or cabin, tell them! Repeat as necessary so if you call back and talk to the same person, you can say "Hiya Josh, it's Betty from Boston with 2 poodles, remember me?"
This is not always possible because some companies are so large and some have thousands of employees. But if you are able to talk to the same person twice and if you are able to get them to remember who you are with some anecdote, there is a better chance this person will be willing to help you out.
A word of caution if you're going to use this tactic: Do not become a pain or annoyance to the person or it may have the opposite effect and backfire.
Do not under any circumstances ask this person to break rules for you that may cost them their job. many times though if the person likes you they will be more willing to give you their best discounts they have available to them or to throw in little extras as they are allowed to do sometimes.
Also remember if the person does go out of their way to help you and give you an extra then be sure to leave a positive review or positive survey for them. Remember. Karma.
7. Use the Competition
Competition is quite stiff between vacation rental companies. Look at all the options everyone has. Probably the best time to get your deal of a lifetime as during off-season. Competition can literally be cut-throat at certain times of year. If you find out one places having a sale or has a coupon tell the other place about it.
Ask for a price match if you find a better deal.
This is probably not the best method for high season and the busiest times though. Using the competition works best during slower times.
8. Be Nice
Another one that sounds obvious….but….still there are some rude people out there. Realize that anyone you talk to is a person just like you trying to make a living. Being nice to people usually helps you get what you want, as opposed to whining, huffing, rudeness and complaining. Being impatient and making a scene will get you the opposite.
Telling the person thank you for their help and telling them you appreciate them will go a long way in making them want to help you in return.
On the flip side, if you arrive at your room or cabin and something is not right, be sure to notify someone. You don't want to throw a fit, but you also do need to be assertive. There's a fine line between making sure your stay lives up to your expectations vs being a problem guest.
Employees talk to each other. If you have been a complete nightmare to the reservations office there's a possibility that your housekeeper may already know about you before you arrive. Trust me when I say - you do not want this!
9. Ask for AAA, Military/Veteran Discounts, and AARP Discounts
If you have an AAA Auto Club Membership, are a have served in the military, or are a member of AARP, don't forget to ask for the related discounts. 'Nuff said.
10. Know Your Priorities Ahead of Time
Before you call determine exactly what you want out of your vacation. Are you planning on staying in and using hotel amenities a lot or do you think you will hardly ever be in the hotel at all?
Is it just a place to lay your head at night or are you planning on using amenities like on-site pools and game rooms and restaurants? Do you want to be close to area attractions? Do you have kids or would you like to be on the ground floor or would you like to have a view high as you can go overlooking the parkway?
Let the person know if you are there for peace and quiet and to get away from it all or if you want to be near all the action.
These are things only you can decide but having them in mind when you book your hotel and being able to tell the reservationist when you first call will help them guide you to the best room in the best deal Without wasting time had so much fun with them.
Tell them the goals of your trip and why you are traveling. This will help them help you.
Sometimes letting the hotel or cabin company know about a special occasion like an anniversary or other special milestone may get you a free perk you didn't expect.
11. Consider Newly Opened Places
Hotels, cabins and resorts that are brand new sometimes offer discounts to get people in the door and also to create buzz. Being the first of the guests, you could risk a small amount of disorganization or policies that are unclear but management should be super-extra willing to accommodate in order to get off to a good start. Discounts may be in order.
12. Always be Clear on the Cancellation Policy
There is an old saying: "Life is what happens when you are making other plans." So true. As much as we hope things go as planned, knowing what to do it they don't will bring you peace of mind.
Best to have them in writing to refer to if needed. Cancellation policies can vary greatly from place to place and change over time.
13. Ask About Road, Driveway, and Parking Options
I stress this point in the Smoky Mountains because there is way more than meets the eye when finding your cabin or hotel. If you don't ask this question you could get an unpleasant surprise when you arrive. Many roads are maintained, some are not, and some require 4WD during icy conditions.
Also, do you need space to turn around with a motorcycle trailer or camper?
I've driven to and from 100's, if not a 1000 different cabins and resorts doing my inspections work, and trust me when I say parking matters and can vary wildly.
For tips on locations see my pages Cabin Location Tips and Area Guide.
14. Ask Where is the Coffee, Breakfast and Internet?
Cabins may or may not have your coffee in house when you arrive. Ask what will be available so you can bring groceries along for the first morning.
The difference between having to buy your own coffee and breakfast can make a huge difference in the price you're going to pay, not to mention - convenience. I once stayed at a hotel in Nashville that did not have a coffee maker in the room and I thought I was going to die. I did not believe there was no coffee. In my room. Really.
Coffee drinkers know - It was traumatic.
15. Early Check-in and Late Check-outs
Don't assume you will be able to have an early check-in or a late check-out.
While your best chance for a late and possibly free late check out is on Sundays, it simply won't be possible if your room or cabin is booked the next day by someone else.
Don't start off on the wrong foot by throwing a tantrum and expecting to check in early just because you arrived early. Making the housekeeping team rush to have your room or cabin before it's ready is stressful for them as well as office staff.
By demanding an early check in, you may find out your place is not as clean as it should be.
This is not to say you can't ask, as I suggest always ask - politely. Accept your answer with "thank you" either way.
Many cabin companies in the Smokies are extremely accommodating. Need something? They will try their best to get it for you if your request is reasonable and respectful.
16. You Can Be Blacklisted
There is a network that allows guest to be put on a list for the hospitality industry to avoid renting to problem guests. You might be surprised at what people do when they rent a place - yikes! They've been known to destroy property and take things that don't belong to them.
This is common sense. Bad guests cost owners a ton of money when they come in and have no respect for someone else's property.
You should be aware that most places will require a valid credit card for a refundable damage deposit as a precaution. As long as you respect the property, and report damages or missing items you find IMMEDIATELY upon arrival, you should have no problems.
17. When Comparing Deals on Cabins, Check for Fees
Fees can vary a lot from place to place.
They can also go by different names. While some cabin companies advertise "No cleaning fee", make sure you know if there are other fees in your agreement.
When renting a cabin don't go strictly on the nightly rate quoted until you know the final price after taxes and fees.
18. Use a Credit Card
It's never a good idea to send cash, or checks via mail, or wire money to anyone. Using a credit card will protect you from fraudulent charges.
Using a website like TripAdvisor's Flipkey will get you Payment Protection just in case the place is not as described when you arrive. This is a really nice option.