Summer hotel deals feel less like a fire sale

If you haven’t booked a hotel for your summer vacation, don’t expect to see the same types of recession specials that hotels were offering last year.

Instead of generous “stay two nights, get one night free” offers, hotels are offering more modest, targeted promotions, often with lots of fine print attached. But the good news is that hotel rates haven’t really risen from last year’s lows — at least not yet.

Since hotels have been making less money and cutting back on services and staff, they are less likely to offer the rock-bottom discounts they rolled out during the worst of the economic crisis, when they were trying to entice anxious consumers to keep traveling. That means this summer’s deals feel less like a fire sale, and have more restrictions buried in the fine print.

The lesson: always compare a sale price with the hotel’s “best available rate” before booking. You may have to call the reservations number and ask for the lowest price, since hotel rates can be cryptic online.

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