While sitting in a dark living room binging on candy corn and a “Ghost Hunters” marathon is a perfectly fine Halloween tradition, you might want to do yourself one better this year. Spend the holiday hunting for ghosts yourself — by booking a room in a haunted hotel.
Problem is, rooms can be expensive, and some sites are little more than tourist traps. So how do find the most creepiness for your cash? We asked the experts…
Avoid tourist haunts
Around this time of year, a lot of most-haunted-hotels-in-America-type TV shows start popping up on cable networks, and the hotels and boutique inns featured are incredibly cool. After watching a handful of shows, you’ll probably be ready to book a room — but that may be a mistake.
“Try to stay away from hotels that advertise the paranormal reports too much. In fact, we think those that don’t advertise as being haunted are often the most haunted of all,” says Wesley McDermott, owner of the hotel database Haunted Rooms.
Instead, look for a hotel that includes entertainment with the cost of your room. “Some hotels offer free tours around this time of year, or have various things going on at night, like themed parties,” McDermott says.
If you’re planning on staying a few days, what do you do after taking that one tour? In this case, “a location that offers a good array of ghost walks nearby is a good option, too,” he says.”Often, the hotels have deals with the local tour organizers, so they should be able to get you a discounted rate on ghost tours around town.”
Before you decide on a hotel, head online and see what other guests are saying. Christina Ernst, president of the tour guide company VIP Travel recommends “looking at reviews across many social media sources, such as Yelp, Foursquare and TripAdvisor.” Seeking out more than one review site will give you a better cross-section of former guests.
If the hotel you’re considering includes a tour, look for reviews covering the experience as well. While tours can be a subjective experience, several claims of “cheesy dialogue” in a row are probably true.
Some haunted hotels may try to leverage their popularity on Halloween by jacking up rates. To make sure you’re not getting an inflated price, “look at the online booking calendar, and plug in a future date, say, Nov. 30, to compare rates,” Ernest says.
If the hotel is asking a highly inflated rate, it’s best to move on. But if the rate is only slightly higher, give negotiating a shot. Contact the hotel and ask if you can have the rate shown on a different date. Many will cut you a deal when they get caught.
Look for hidden costs
The price of the room may not be all you end up paying for — many hotels include add-on costs in addition to their standard rates.
“I always look for the top three hidden charges: Internet, parking, and breakfast. Some hotels actually have packages that include some, if not all, of these,” Ernest says. Many hotels will list these charges on their websites, but if no price is listed, call before you book.
If you’re driving to the hotel, don’t assume parking will be free. According to Ernest, parking fees can cost up to $40 a night. To keep your parking costs down, ask before you arrive and look for nearby paid lots if your hotel isn’t in a remote location. Non-affiliated parking lots a block or two away may offer a much better deal.
Hedge your ghosts
“Ghosts may be a rare sighting, so don’t get your hopes high,” Ernest warns. “It’s like going to Alaska on a cruise and expecting to see a whale. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.”
However, you may be able to increase your odds by doing your research ahead of time. Check Haunted Room’s hotel reviews or the hotel’s online guestbook for sightings reported by previous guests. “Look for the number of reports that people have had there and the frequency it happens and where,” McDermott says.