Hotels: When business travelers are away, the rest of us can save

If you want the four-star treatment but don’t want to break the bank, consider a hotel that caters to business travelers.

These hotels are more expensive for weekday stays when rooms are occupied by travelers in town for meetings, but during the weekend, occupancy drops, and so do rates.

If you want to take a vacation during the winter holidays, you may be able to get a great rate at these same hotels. During the holidays, most business travel comes to a halt, and these hotels often have excess rooms, so prices drop. Savvy travelers can take advantage of the lower room rates by checking prices at these business hotels.

You may not see any discounts at hotels in popular winter vacation spots such as Orlando, Miami or San Diego. But in cities like Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Austin, Texas, or Houston, prices drop at business hotels on weekends and during the holidays.

We looked at the four-star Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles and found rates starting at $354 per night in January during the week. But for a two-night stay over the Thanksgiving holiday, Nov. 26-28, or at Christmas, the nightly rate dropped to $169.

$354Midweek rate for a room at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles in January. The rate drops to $169 at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The four-star Atlanta Marriott Marquis had holiday rooms starting at $92 per night Nov. 26-28 and $118 Dec. 26-28, but rates shot up to $479 per night for a stay Jan. 26-28, when business travelers occupy rooms. The four-star Omni Austin Hotel had rates starting at $161 per night Nov. 26-28 and Dec. 26-28, but rates rose to $329 per night for a Jan. 26-29 midweek stay. The four-star JW Marriott Chicago had rates starting at $179 per night Nov. 26-28, $174 per night Dec. 26-28 and rates were $329 per night Jan. 26-29.

Las Vegas is a popular destination for tourists and business travelers, but you can find deals over the holidays. While it is a very popular spot for New Year’s Eve, hotel occupancy drops during Christmas, and there are deals to be had.

We looked at three-night stays at the Mandalay Bay Dec. 23-26, and the room rate averaged $78 per night, plus a mandatory daily resort fee of $33.60, for an average nightly rate of $112. The rates for a stay over the New Year’s holiday, from Dec. 30 through Jan. 2 were considerably higher. Nightly rates averaged $200 on Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 and $385 for Dec. 31. When you added in the daily resort fee, the nightly rate averaged $295 during the New Year’s holiday, considerably higher than the Christmas rate.

Hotels are offering perks to members of their frequent-stay programs when guests make reservations directly through the hotel either by phone or online through the hotel’s website. Membership in a frequent-stay program is free and hotels might offer free Wi-Fi or free room upgrades, with these offers available even to basic members.

Many hotels have a link on their website to access deals that are only available to frequent-stay members, so check for those offers when booking. Be sure to compare rates, since other retailers may offer cheaper prices, but if rates are the same, you’ll want to get the perks by booking through the hotel.

If you are flexible about your destination, you could nab a great airfare and a luxury hotel for less. When planning your vacation, take a look at the cost of both airfare and lodging to help you decide where to go.

The rates listed above were valid at press time, but are subject to change. They do not include most taxes and fees.

Tom Parsons is CEO of Email him at