Washington, DC hotel prices can cause visitors serious sticker shock. But they don’t have to! These are our top tips to help you find the best hotel deals in DC. Plus check out our curated list of recommended hotels.
Date flexibility is key!
Hotel deals in DC can vary. Like everything in life, the price for hotel rooms is driven by supply and demand. In a given year, the supply of hotel rooms in DC is fixed, but demand fluctuates, sometimes significantly from day to day.
The key to navigating this is to understand that hotel pricing in DC is a function of the number of leisure travelers and the number of business travelers in town on any given date. Leisure travel is easy to predict. Most tourists come to Washington, DC when kids are off from school. This means spring break, summer break and holiday break have heavy tourist crowds.
On the other hand, it is very hard for the average person to predict when there are going to be a lot of business travelers in DC. Some conferences and conventions can bring thousands or tens of thousands of people to Washington, DC for a single event! One of the biggest mistakes some visitors make is that they jump on an airfare sale when they see cheap plane tickets but lock themselves into dates with high hotel prices.
Use “flexibility date search” to identify the best dates
Some hotel chains will allow you to perform a “flexible date search”. Others will show you daily rates on a calendar. This doesn’t work for every hotel chain but it works fairly well for Marriott hotels. When you search this way it should become clear fairly quickly which dates are going to be slow and which you should avoid at all costs.
Book your hotel direct
Forget about the third party websites. They can be useful for doing your research and looking at reviews and traveler photos; but when it comes time to book, go directly to the hotel chain where you want to make a reservation. Hotels really do not want you to use third party websites because when you do, the hotel has to pay commission. Some hotel chains are actually taking this a step further by offering lower rates on their own website if you create an account with their rewards program and log in before you book.
Choose refundable rates
Make sure to choose a refundable rate. This may seem counter intuitive because non-refundable rates are always cheaper. However, unlike airfare, where the difference might be hundreds of dollars per ticket, hotel discounts for non-refundable rates are usually much smaller.
Even if you wind up paying a little more, think of it as an insurance policy. If you book the non-refundable rate and something comes up and you can’t make the trip, you are not getting any of your money back.
The other reason to book refundable rates is that, just like airfare, hotel rates go up and down. Once you’ve booked a non-refundable rate, you’re locked in. If you booked a refundable rate, and the rate drops or another hotel starts running a huge sale, you can rebook and pocket the difference.
What about Priceline, Hotwire, etc.?
Lots of people have saved a ton by naming their own price, or by taking a gamble on Hotwire. It’s true that in some cases these can result in big savings, and it feels great when you get lucky and it works out. Kind of like how it must feel to win the lottery. However, these websites come with some pretty big risks. The most obvious one is you don’t actually know which hotel you are booking. So, you might not be happy with it after it’s revealed.
The other reason it’s not ideal is the hotel is not going to go above and beyond for you. They are not going to give you an upgrade. They are not going to put you in a room with a good view. They are probably going to give you whatever room they had left over.
Most importantly, if something goes wrong, it is much easier to deal with a problem if you book direct. The on-site staff is usually able to help with it right there, or provide a you a refund or a partial refund if you need one. Whereas if you book through a third party website you have to deal with an extra middleman.
Check out our recommended hotels
With over a hundred hotels in Washington, DC and even more in the suburbs, trying to research which is best can feel daunting. We’ve curated a list of some great options in eleven different areas of the city. Even if you decide not to book one of these hotels, it’s a good place to get started.
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