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A passion for deals

If you're willing to be flexible and spontaneous, you and your perfect match can find hotel bargains -- and scenery -- to love.

October 26, 2008|Jane Engle | Engle is a Times staff writer.

For traveling couples, good fortune comes in twos. Most tours, cruises and vacation packages are priced per person, double occupancy, with savings to match.

But if you're looking for romance on the road, your luck -- and your money -- can quickly run out. Beach resorts, quaint bed-and-breakfasts and spa tubs for two are rarely cheap dates, especially on weekends.

Here are five strategies for making romance pay:

Stroll across the street: The world-renowned Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., is a splendid seaside resort, replete with Victorian tradition and decor. You're unlikely to regret staying there. But your pocketbook might.

Even in winter, most rooms cost more than $300 per night, plus taxes and a $25-a-day resort charge.

But walk across the road, and you'll find rooms under $200 at the fetching Glorietta Bay Inn, whose centerpiece is a lovingly restored 1908 mansion built for John D. Spreckels, a San Diego railroad and real estate baron. No beach here, but the inn overlooks a bay and the sands of the Hotel Del are steps away.

Stay on a weekday: Taking advantage of high demand, most hotels charge top dollar on Fridays and Saturdays, and some require two-night stays. Not so on weekdays. You can often save hundreds on rooms and airfare by avoiding weekends or starting your stay on Sunday night.

At the elegant Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, rated five diamonds by AAA and known for its dancing fountains, rooms recently started as low as $149 plus tax on weekdays, while some weekend rates started at $199.

The gulf can be wider at B&Bs and romantic inns. At the Inn of the Spanish Garden, a small boutique hotel in Santa Barbara, a deluxe two-queen room that cost $215 plus tax on Monday zoomed to $369 plus tax on Saturday, when I searched the inn's website for December stays.

To find some of the season's lowest rates at many places, stay right before or after holiday travel periods.

Be spontaneous: After all, that's what romance is all about, right? And you sometimes save money too.

An afternoon call to a hotel holding empty rooms can produce on-the-spot discounts.

Airlines typically release bargains for the upcoming weekend on Tuesdays; sign up to receive e-mail alerts. United Airlines, for instance, last week offered $200 round trips from LAX to Albuquerque, N.M., and $150 round trips from LAX to Oakland.

The key to saving is to keep an open mind. Don't set your heart on a destination. See what's being offered.

Seek out extras: What's a sundae without the nuts and cherry on top? A hotel's appeal and value, too, can lie in little things that add up.

Consider the Inn on Mt. Ada on Catalina Island. This imposing 1921 mansion, former home of chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr., is perched on a hilltop with breathtaking views of Avalon harbor -- and rates to match, starting at $360 plus taxes per night.

But besides your room, the rate includes 24-hour rental of a golf cart to tool around town; breakfast and lunch for two with wine or beer; and nearly round-the-clock snacks. These extras are easily worth more than $100.

Splurge for a night: Turn one night's stay into a two-day getaway by arriving early, asking the hotel to stash your bags until check-in and, for a while, after you check out.

Facing the sea, with a charming veranda and Art Deco style that dates to 1933, the Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica fits the bill for romance -- and maybe your budget if you stay one night. Its recent "Suite Deal" totaled $370, with taxes and breakfast for two, for an ocean-view suite. (Rates and availability vary by date; this rate was for a Saturday in November.)

One night away from day-to-day worries? Priceless.


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