A cheap beach getaway in summer? Snow in Malibu is more likely.
But just last December, snow did fall on Malibu. And although affordable summer coastal stays are scarce, they happen.
To increase your chances, stay on weeknights, slip in on a Sunday, grab extras or a free night, bid online or (yes) lower your sights. Get a last-minute deal at the front desk? Maybe.
Here's a closer look at these strategies. (All rates quoted are without taxes and may change at any time.)
1. Stay on weeknights. Rooms that are booked every weekend and holiday often sit vacant after vacationers head home. So hoteliers may cut prices.
For example, a room marketed for $269 a night for the July 3 and 4 holiday weekend was $110 less per night July 5 and 6 at the Pelican Cove Inn in Cambria, when I recently checked the hotel's website. It was the same story at Fess Parker's Double Tree Resort Santa Barbara: $485 per night for the holiday and $375 for July 5 and 6.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, July 02, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 2 inches; 74 words Type of Material: Correction
Beach hotel room rates: A chart with a June 21 Travel section article about finding hotel deals near the beach gave incorrect room rates for the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica. The chart reported a rate of $219 on the hotel's website and $249 for phone or walk-up reservations. On the date checked, the lowest rate offered was $255 on the hotel's website and $319 on the phone and for walk-ups.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 05, 2009 Home Edition Travel Part L Page 3 Features Desk 2 inches; 75 words Type of Material: Correction
Beach hotel room rates: A chart with a June 21 More for Your Money article about finding deals near the beach gave incorrect room rates for the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica. The chart reported a rate of $219 on the hotel's website and $249 for phone or walk-up reservations. On the date checked, the lowest rate offered was $255 on the hotel's website and $319 on the phone and for walk-ups.
Your best bet for weekday discounts is a small bed-and-breakfast or inn that caters to leisure travelers. Big hotels that also attract business travelers may keep rates constant or even increase them on weekdays.
2. Slip in on a Sunday. Can't afford two nights? Take one.
Arrive at your destination early Sunday, enjoy a full day and night, check out and then explore the area until evening before returning home. Many hotels will store your bags free or for a small fee. You'll avoid the two-night minimums and higher weekend rates.
"Sunday night is usually the slowest night of the week," said John A. Fox, New York-based senior vice president of PKF Consulting, international consultants in the tourism industry.
3. Grab extras or a free night. With room rates of $300 or more, some upscale coastal resorts show few signs of recession. But they are not unaffected by the downturn, which has reduced hotel occupancy by 12% nationwide in the last year, said Bruce Baltin, Los Angeles-based senior vice president of PKF Consulting.
"In some cases, the hotels are not necessarily lowering the rates that much, but they're offering extras with real value, such as meals and spa treatments," he said.
Or even free nights. Hotel del Coronado in Coronado, Calif., and Four Seasons Resort the Biltmore Santa Barbara recently offered three nights for the price of two.
4. Take a chance. Bidding for a room on Priceline.com or booking on Hotwire.com, where you don't know the name of the hotel until after you book it, can chop $50 or more off the rate. The trade-off: no refunds.
"If you're willing to take that gamble, it's absolutely worth it," Fox said of Priceline. Hotel searches can be targeted by class, site or other criteria.
5. Lower your sights. If you insist on staying in an ocean-view suite on the sand on a high-demand summer weekend, "there's no way you're going to get a deal," Fox said.
But move across the street and you might.
Room rates started at $445 at the Hotel del Coronado on the beach but $205 at the Glorietta Bay Inn across the road when I recently checked the hotels' websites for the weekend of Aug. 7 and 8. The first hotel is rated four diamonds by AAA, the second three diamonds.
6. Get a walk-up deal. I struck out in a mini-test of this tactic on a recent Thursday visit to three upscale Santa Monica hotels. Even after 6 p.m., none of the hotels, which are near but not on the beach, would cut its rates for empty rooms for that night, even when I made it clear that I was shopping around. (See chart.)
Had I insisted on seeing a manager, I might have gotten a lower price or extras such as a free breakfast, said Alan X. Reay, president of Atlas Hospitality Group, a hotel consulting and brokerage company in Irvine
"A good front-desk manager is not going to let you walk away," he said.
Next time, I'll try that.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
Seeking seaside rates
*--* Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows Online Phone Walk-up $219 $249 $249 Le Merigot, a JW Marriott Beach Hotel & Spa Online Phone Walk-up $219 $249 $249 Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel Online Phone Walk-up $319 $319 $339 *--*