Getting the Cheapest Room Rate
Throughout the Caribbean, the year is divided into tourist seasons. The peak tourist season goes from mid-December through April. Room rates are at their highest during these months, especially during the holiday periods and on weekends.
During the off-peak season, you can often find the same rooms at savings of 40 to 50 percent, particularly on weekdays. As with any other product anywhere in the world, room prices are set by demand. When hotels and resorts are close to or at capacity, rates increase. You'll might be able to find better rates if you shop around and have somewhat flexible travel dates. If you can leave on a Wednesday or Thursday and return on a Monday or Tuesday, for example, you'll miss the high-traffic travel days. This might end up saving you a fortune when it comes to booking hotel/resort accommodations, not to mention on your airfare.
Once you know what kind of accommodations you're looking for, you can make a list of places you'd like to stay. At that point, you're ready to start shopping for the best bargain out there. To find the lowest room rates, you can try several things.
If you know exactly where you want to stay, you can call the hotel or resort directly. Tell them when you'll be visiting and ask for the room rate. Be sure to ask for any special discounts available. Don't be surprised if you're quoted different rates for different nights during your stay. For example, if you're staying in the same room on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night and checking out on Sunday morning, the rate on Thursday might be lower than what you're quoted for Friday and Saturday. Some places require you to stay for a full weekend (Friday through Sunday). While you're on the hotel or resort's Web site, be sure to hunt down any special “Internet only” rates or special promotions that may be offered during the dates you'll be visiting. Be prepared to take advantage of those immediately, as they may expire without warning.
If you don't have a particular property in mind, try visiting the discount-travel Web sites to shop for the best deals online. These Web sites—which include Hotwire.com, Travelocity.com, Orbitz.com, Expendia.com, and Priceline.com—usually offer special package deals if you book your airfare and hotel/resort reservations at the same time. Some travel-related Web sites, such as Hotels.com, focus exclusively on finding the lowest hotel rates possible. You probably won't find much price variation among those sites for rooms at any given hotel or resort. You might be able to get a bargain, however, by doing a “blind” booking—you get to choose the hotel by rating only (from economy to luxury), not by name or even precise location. In exchange for this leap of faith, you can sometimes get a fabulous deal at the perfect place!
Other sources of possible bargains include the travel section of your local newspaper as well as travel magazines. Be on the lookout for ads that promote specials and discounted package deals. Don't overlook the resources offered by your local travel agent, either. If you're not having any luck finding price breaks, or if you don't have the time to investigate all your options, call a travel agent and let a professional do all that legwork. Ask for the best room rates for a variety of options, based on your specific needs.
You can also visit the department of tourism Web site for the Caribbean island you plan to visit. Search for accommodations based on your needs, paying special attention to any package deals and promotions being offered. Appendix C includes a listing of these official Web sites.