This is a particularly effective way of going about getting a really good deal if you are traveling to a city that has several hotels, it is out of peak season and you are flexible in terms of facilities.
It is always worth calling the hotel that you want to stay at on the day that you intend to arrive, or possibly the day before. Hotels will often be prepared to offer substantial discounts on the day, as from their point of view an empty room is a complete waste of money. If you are feeling particularly bold it is even worth telling the hotel what you are prepared to pay and asking them if they have any rooms available.
If you are not feeling quite so bold in terms of leaving it until the last minute, you can phone the hotel a few days in advance. Whilst you may not get the total bargains, you are still in a good position to negotiate, particularly if you are traveling out of season. If you are targeting a specific hotel, check out their cancellation policy. For example, if a specific hotel requires at least 3 days notice to not charge for a cancellation, then this is the point where they are most likely to receive the most cancellations. Hotels will then be eager to fill these spaces.
Another good way to utilize the cancellation policies of hotels is to book a relatively cheap chain hotel that allows you to cancel free up until the day of travel. Then, on the day you can phone around other hotels to see if you can get a better deal. If you do then you can cancel your previous booking without penalty; if you do not then you will still have a roof over your head!
Negotiations over extra free nights or discounts will generally only work with smaller regional hotels, as the larger chains have a central system and they will not normally negotiate directly with a guest. Bear this in mind when you are selecting your targets!
Facilities such as swimming pools, fitness centers, satellite televisions all add to the costs of a hotel. Consider this carefully. Are you paying extra for facilities that you don’t want, won’t need and don’t even notice? If you are after a cheap base, then avoid hotels with extra facilities as this will almost invariably add to your costs.