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June 20, 2012

Save Money on Hotels in the USA

Expat business people in the U.S. are on tight budgets, finding ways to stretch their per diem expenses. To achieve this goal, I would like to share with you important ways in which you can save money on your per diem expenses while on your business trip in the U.S.A.

A Few Free Things:

Free Laundry at Holiday Inn Express Webster, NY!When booking a hotel, ask about the laundry facilities. Some hotels offer a laundry service (a person who will do laundry for you - charging per garment cleaned), while others have coin-operated self-serve machines (in such machines you as the customer will do the washing and drying on their own). Occasionally, you may be staying at a hotel with self-serve washing machines and dryers that are completely free of cost. Recently, on a business trip to Webster, New York, I was excited to find free-of-cost washing machines and dryers at the Holiday Inn Express. Such opportunities are hard to come by especially when you are traveling between cities; these are luxuries that may not be available even in another branch of the same hotel. When you use such a facility, go to a nearby dollar store to buy smaller sizes of laundry soap and dryer sheets to save money. If your trip is for a few weeks, you can even carry these with you in your check-in baggage. You can also share them with your colleagues or co-travelers.

In-Room Coffee and Tea
Coffee Stand at Double Tree HotelMany hotels have a coffee machine in the room with complimentary tea and coffee sachets, though some hotels may charge additional money for this facility. Some hotels have free coffee, tea, and snacks in the lobby throughout the day. Upon check-in, or whenever unsure, ask the receptionist about the charges associated with any food or beverage provided in the room or lobby area. In a recent stay in Double Tree hotel in Lexington, Kentucky, we were thrilled to find out that the cookie which is given upon check-in was available free to guests every day of their stay. All one has to do is ask for it at the front desk.

Some hotels offer free shuttle services. The shuttle services may offer the following:
• Pick you up at the airport or drop you off and saves you the cab fare.
• Take you to work and bring you back
• Take you to the store or laundry facilities

In some hotels, the shuttle services:
• Have only drop off service and will not pick you up
• Run only at particular times of the day

You may need to sign up for your shuttle a day or more ahead. Ask the receptionist at the hotel for all the details.

Things that seem free, may actually be expensive!

Wet Bar
Water Bottle - $4.50 - Watch out!Some hotel rooms, like the ones in the Capitol Skyline in Washington, DC have a partial wet bar in the room. In this case, the customers can drink water from the water bottles left on the dresser. Before opening the bottle, check the tag for the price or ask the hotel receptionist how much the bottle costs. (This is also true for a lot of hotels on the Vegas Strip. Call the receptionist or housekeeper to ask if the water is free before opening it!)

Other facilities that a hotel may or may not have are:
• Extensive wet bars, equipped with a small fridge, and a selection of cool soft drinks and hard drinks
• Packets of nuts and various snacks
Always ask for the cost before using anything in a hotel room if you are on a per diem.

Breakfast Bar
Many hotels offer free breakfast bar of buffet. It is best to ask the receptionist ahead of time if the breakfast is free or included in your tariff. Some hotels, like the Double Tree in Lexington, Kentucky, where we had stayed, had different package rates for different guests. Our rate did not include breakfast, so we had a rude awakening when we sat down for breakfast and were given a hefty bill. If you'd like to know what you will find on the breakfast bar, and what Americans eat for breakfast, click here

To-Go Cups
These are free for the taking!On many breakfast bars, the hotel by default provides paper cups with tops so guests can take their coffee to-go. However, in Capitol Skyline in Washington D.C., we were shocked to find that the cost of to-go cups were more than US$2 a piece. In this breakfast bar, the default cup was ceramic and the price of the to-go cups was displayed in small font. The attendant always does not remind you of the fee while giving the cup to you. (Take note that the hotel I have named here may have changed its policy since writing this blog. Check with them personally if you decide to stay there in the future.)

Saving Money On Room Rates When On The Move 

Many start up CEOs visiting the U.S. securing new clients, move through various cities in the U.S. Many may travel by road from city to city, not always having hotels booked in advance. To save money on room rates on the fly (if booking the day you are staying), stop in gas stations, rest areas, or welcome centers along the highway, and pick up a hotel coupons book to save money. In the video below, I talk more about this free resource you can use today. 

A few photos of hotel coupon books and displays (usually found in rest areas on highways).
Hotel coupons - get good deals on hotels in the USA.

Hotel coupons - get good deals on hotels in the USA.

I hope these few tips will help you better coordinate and plan your expenses for your next trip to the United States of America. Remember never to take anything for granted. Always ask questions. Do not be afraid to ask the receptionist any question you may have about anything in the hotel. This will help you budget your expenses in the most economical way.

Photo credits: Water bottle, Shyju Sankaran, Coffee bar, Dallas_Foodie @flickr, all others, Jennifer Kumar.

Jennifer Kumar, the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys in Infopark, Kochi supports Indian executives in preparing them for successful client interactions with US-based clients and colleagues. Successful client meetings start with meeting with Jennifer to learn more about American culture etiquette and small talk. 

Chris Sufi is a freelance editor who lives in Bangalore, India. Her personal interest in language and communication inspires her to contribute through proofreading and editing.

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*Note any businesses discussed in this post are purely coincidental. Authentic Journeys has no ties with any of these businesses nor is Authentic Journeys receiving any advertising revenue from mentioning them here.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.