There is one advantage to the dreary winter weather of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia: You can get good deals on hotel rooms...

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There is one advantage to the dreary winter weather of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia: You can get good deals on hotel rooms for a close-to-home getaway.


Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., roll out lodging discounts in autumn and winter after the tourists have gone home and business conventions slack off. Smaller cities such as Bellingham and Victoria, B.C., also offer hotel discounts.


The lower rates may let you splurge at a luxury hotel, and some off-season hotel programs also include discounts on restaurants, shopping and more. The Vancouver, B.C., program even includes a gas voucher for visitors from Washington.


Some programs now run year round, but the best discounts usually are from November until March (just don’t expect deals around Christmas/New Year; room rates are higher then). This past week, you could get a budget room in a downtown Victoria, B.C., motel for around $50 a night, or stay in a luxurious boutique hotel in downtown Portland for about $150.


The various cities’ tourism/convention bureaus post the details on their Web sites, and there also are central reservation phone lines. It’s usually easiest to book online since you can quickly compare hotel prices for a given date.


The discounts sometimes aren’t as clear-cut as they used to be since room rates, like airfares, are a moving target that varies according to demand. A few years ago, the Seattle Super Saver hotel-discount program offered fixed rates for rooms (which you could compare to the standard rate). Now there’s no fixed off-season rate in the Seattle discount program; the price can change according to how full a hotel is on a given date.


If you go



Saving on transport


Planning a quick break ? Here are some ways to save on getting there.


Amtrak


• Discounts on Amtrak trains are offered in conjunction with Portland’s Big Deal hotel program: A free companion fare is available with a regular adult/senior fare. It’s valid from Nov. 15 to May 25; there are some blackouts/restrictions around Thanksgiving, Christmas and other times. Book through Amtrak starting Tuesday, 800-USA-RAIL or www.AmtrakCascades.com and refer to discount code H567.


Victoria, B.C., flights


Kenmore Air has float-plane service between Seattle and Victoria. It’s a speedy way to go — about an hour from Lake Union to the terminal on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, within walking distance of many hotels. (Going by car and ferry to Victoria can take most of a day.) Round trips are about $238, but “Web specials” for last-minute travel are around half-price, although very few seats are available. www.kenmoreair.com


Victoria Clipper


Clipper Navigation has some off-season specials on its passenger-only ferries between Seattle and Victoria, B.C., including free fare for children under 12 with an adult paying the regular fare. The high-speed catamarans go from downtown Seattle to Victoria’s Inner Harbour. 800-888-2535 or www.victoriaclipper.com


Gas voucher


Tourism Vancouver is offering a Chevron gas voucher for $25 Canadian (about $22) to travelers from Washington who book and stay from now until Dec. 15. Reserve a Visit Vancouver room through its Web site, www.tourismvancouver.com, or by phoning 800-435-5622. Ask about the voucher when phoning; if booking online, click on the gas nozzle on the bottom right of the Web page for details. The voucher is issued at hotel check-in and must be used at Canadian Chevron stations.


Here’s a rundown on the programs, city-by-city and with a sampling of room rates (available for last week).


Portland


Portland’s Big Deal offers discounts at almost 40 hotels, from the fancy Benson Hotel (starting at $174 a night) to the economical Days Inn City Center ($79 a night ). For visitors it can be a good deal, since Big Deal rates include free parking at downtown hotels (which can cost more than $15 a night) and a continental breakfast. Big Deal guests also get discount vouchers (upon checking in at the hotel) for many stores and a handful of restaurants. For those who prefer to go by train, there’s also a Big Deal discount on Amtrak service to Portland.


Details: Portland Oregon Visitors Association, www.travelportland.com or 877-678-5263.


Vancouver, B.C.


The Visit Vancouver hotel program offers discounted rates this fall at more than 40 hotels, from budget to luxury. The Empire Landmark, a high-rise hotel on popular Robson Street in downtown Vancouver, has rooms starting at about $69 a night; at the fancier Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, also downtown, rooms start at about $150 a night. Other Visit Vancouver hotel packages include spa services and dining; room upgrades also are sometimes available.


To help with the pain of gas prices, Washington residents who book a Visit Vancouver hotel room will get a $25 Canadian (about $22) Chevron gas voucher, for stays from now until Dec. 15. It’s issued upon check-in.


The easiest way to find a hotel deal is to comparison-shop online at the Tourism Vancouver site, www.tourismvancouver.com. Hotels also can be booked through Tourism B.C.’s central reservations line, 800-435-5622: ask for the Visit Vancouver/Chevron gas promotion program.


Seattle


Take a break very close to home: The Seattle Super Saver program offers discounts at dozens of hotels, including some very upscale ones downtown.


Although the program now runs year round, the lowest rates are mostly from now through March (but not during the Christmas/New Year holidays).



More ways to save on hotels




Hotels allot a limited number of rooms to discount programs. If none is available, or the hotel you want to stay in isn’t a part of such programs, try these techniques:


Other discounts: Many hotels offer discounts to members of AAA (American Automobile Association) and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). Always ask – and try just asking for the lowest rate available in case there’s a special.


Check the WebOnce you’ve settled on a hotel and been quoted a price, double-check the hotel’s Web site since last-minute specials sometimes are posted. Comparison-shop on online hotel-reservation sites, but be aware there may be booking fees.


Talk to a person: If booking with a chain hotel, get a room rate through its general reservations line then call the hotel directly. Individual hotel staff may have more leeway and inclination to offer a lower rate if the hotel has lots of space. If you can’t get a lower rate, see if you can get parking included or a room upgrade.


On the Super Saver Web site, you can search by hotel name, location or price for the dates you want. A standard room at the luxurious Fairmont Olympic was available for $289 last week through Seattle Super Saver, still pricey but less than the $359 starting rate for the same night on a hotel-reservations Web site. A room at the Paramount, near downtown theaters and entertainment, was $179.


For stays near the Seattle Center, rooms at the Comfort Suites started at $84.


Some downtown hotels, such as the Hotel Monaco and Renaissance Hotel, sometimes include free parking.


The Super Saver program includes a discount booklet (given at check-in) for some shops, restaurants and attractions. www.seattlesupersaver.com or 800-535-7071.


Victoria, B.C.


Autumn packages at dozens of hotels are available through Tourism Victoria, from now into early January. There are four price levels, with nightly rates starting at about $53 at a budget hotel such as the Traveller’s Inn. Downtown luxury hotels start at about $131 , and include harborfront hotels such as the Ocean Pointe Resort and the historic Fairmont Empress.


The Tourism Victoria Web site makes comparison-shopping cumbersome: to find the room rate for a specific night, you’ll need to scroll through all sorts of add-ons ranging from Butchart Gardens tickets to travel on the Victoria Clipper from Seattle. www.tourismvictoria.com/packages or phone 800-663-3883.


Bellingham


The Bellingham Best Buys programs offers discounts from now until May, with some rooms up to 50 percent off from summer rates. Rooms at the Chrysalis Inn and Spa, a 43-room boutique hotel by the bay, started at $139 a night last week, down substantially from standard rates. At the 22-room Fairhaven Village Inn, in the historic waterfront Fairhaven district, rooms started at $119 a night, while various motels were around $60 a night. Go to www.bellingham.org (click on “Bellingham’s Best Buys” at the top of the page) or phone 888-261-7795.


Kristin Jackson: 206-464-2271 or kjackson@seattletimes.com