First Responder Hotel Discounts: How to Get Them and Who Qualifies

Sara Kern
June 29, 2023
First Responder Hotel Discounts: How to Get Them and Who Qualifies

Real-life heroes deserve recognition — which is why many companies offer first responders and emergency services teams a special discount, almost as a thank you for putting their lives on the line.

But how do you know if you qualify?

Here’s everything you need to know about discounts for first responders and disaster relief groups and how to get your next hotel stay for cheaper.

We’ll cover:

1. Who qualifies as a first responder
2. Who qualifies as under “disaster response”
3. How to prove to hotels that you’re a first responder or disaster responder
4. What could disqualify you or your group
5. The drawbacks of trying to get first responder discounts
6. What to do if you don’t qualify, or what to do if you don’t have time to negotiate

Who qualifies as a “First Responder” or “Disaster Response Team”?

First responders are easier to identify, as there is a legal list of professions that typically qualify, including:

  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Firefighters
  • Federal and local law enforcement officers and agents
  • 911 dispatchers

However, different companies define it differently when it comes to discounts.

For disaster response teams, for instance, members aren’t as easy to point out. These heroes don’t necessarily wear a badge, but are just as essential and self-sacrificing as those who do. Disaster response teams can be made up of a mix of first responders and other professionals who work behind the scenes to support these individuals — as well as teams that stick around well after the first “emergency” is over.

Some examples include volunteers at the Red Cross Disaster Action Team and Team Rubicon.

Additionally, the federal government runs the National Disaster Medical Team, employing thousands of individuals to provide healthcare, logistics management, and more in desperate times.

Unfortunately, not all disaster response teams are recognized and treated to the same discounts as first responders — even if they deserve them.

FEMA has even begun a program called the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). If you get certified with this program, you may be able to qualify for better room rates from hotels, as well as other discounts.

Finally, military members can often qualify for special rates and discounts. (In fact, many companies have special offers just for members of the armed services.)

For a full list of typically-qualified professions as well as those that do not qualify, check out’s page.

How to Prove to Hotels That You Are a First Responder or Disaster Responder

You can verify your status as a responder in a few ways. The easiest would be to show a valid ID or badge at the time of check-in; However, this isn’t always enough.

Some hotels will require that you have passed a specialized identification process, such as:

What kinds of hotel discounts or advantages can you get as a first responder or disaster responder?

Paramedic at work in an ambulance

Every hotel deals with discounts differently, with the majority of them emphasizing emergency services and first responder discounts over disaster response teams.

Some provide promo codes online, while others require hotel reservations to be made by phone to enjoy these special promotional rates.

Some hotels will reserve special discounts for particular professions. Some have reward programs specifically for military and government personnel, for example, with benefits like free upgrades, access to vacation clubs, or special discounts (with or without blackout dates).

What are the drawbacks to trying to get a first responder hotel discount?

Booking as a first responder can be time-consuming — especially if you need to argue your qualifications. Finding eligible properties with guest rooms available for your specific needs is a chore, and even if you qualify, the process of negotiating your rates (especially for a group) can involve a lot of back-and-forth.

Some hotels have specific policies you’ll need to confirm, which will most likely require calling them directly. If you find that they won’t provide you with a discount, you’ll have to start the process all over again.

What could disqualify you or your team from the hotel’s exclusive discount?

Many hotels limit their savings to government-employed individuals specifically. Some will limit the number of rooms per year you can book at this rate.

Other hotel chains will ask for verification beyond just your word, while a few limit hero discounts to first responders only, leaving disaster relief teams paying full price.

Some military discounts are only available while on active duty, while others are available even for leisure travel. These discounted rates are sometimes extended to immediate family members, but many are not.

If you’re traveling in a group, coordinating those bookings and negotiating a discount will take time — time you might not have. This is especially true if you are responding to an emergency.

If you’re part of a disaster relief effort, you might not be eligible; but you still deserve to get an excellent rate for you and the rest of your group.

What if you don’t meet the hotel’s requirements, or don’t have time to negotiate?


As mentioned, each hotel chain will have its own policies and terms regarding first responder discounts.

If you don’t qualify, have a more complex booking because you’re traveling with a group, or just don’t have time to call hotels to confirm all your travelers qualify for discounts, you shouldn’t have to settle for paying full price.

Heroes should still be able to get a hero’s discount.

That’s where Hotel Engine comes in.

We are proud to offer our members savings of up to 60% over the public rate on individual bookings, and save you over half the time. You can reserve instantly through our platform and save without verifying your identity or meeting miscellaneous policies.

As to rewards: with Hotel Engine you can double up on loyalty points for even deeper discounts and free nights. Filter our partner properties by loyalty programs to find rooms eligible for 15+ programs (e.g., Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, IHG Rewards, etc.) and earn Hotel Engine Rewards on every booking, every time.

Traveling as a group?

Hand off the hassle to Hotel Engine and get back to the critical work at hand. We’ll find the right properties for you and your crew, even if it means we call around for hours.

We’ll help you:

  • Choose a hotel easily: Receive options based on your priorities — we’ll do the tough work of confirming availability, even in locations affected by emergencies or evacuations.
  • Get a great rate: Obtain prices already negotiated on your behalf.
  • Not worry about modifications: Enjoy the convenience of hands-off hotel coordination if your itinerary or location changes.
  • Save valuable time: Access every trip and every folio on-demand, and pay one streamlined, consolidated invoice.
  • Count on support every step of the way: With your dedicated Project Manager and our 24/7 Member Support team standing by.

Hotel Engine already coordinates hotel bookings for lots of disaster response efforts and emergency services teams, working hard to simplify their lodging so they can work hard at more important things.

Related: How Hotel Engine Simplifies Lodging for Disaster Relief Efforts


The choice is yours:

Spend critical hours searching for a hotel with discounts for you or your hard-working team, or book your trip through Hotel Engine and get exclusive discounts without all the legwork.

The choice is yours.

Ready to save? Create your free account today to get a hero’s discount and unsurpassed support on every group stay.

Article written by
Sara Kern

Sara Kern is a Copywriter at Hotel Engine. She worked as a writer in the tech and apparel industries for almost a decade before joining the HE family, but also has experience coordinating business travel for fast-moving nonprofits, so she knows firsthand how hard it can be. She joined Hotel Engine in 2022 and is excited to be a part of the movement to radically simplify trip management for everyone.

Table Of Contents
Guy on his phone
Ready to save time and money on business lodging?
Join for Free
Share This Article: