Holidays are great, but hotels are expensive. Luckily, there are some great ways to save on hotel costs, but you have to be ‘in the know’ to take advantage of many of them since nobody is going to offer them to you just like that.
The list you’ll see tight here should be the most complete compilation of all the hotel booking money-savers on the internet today – so bookmark this page and revisit it when you’re planning your next vacation or business trip. Remember: there’s no need to “pay full” – not if you’re savvy!
Book your hotel with your flight
When you use sites like Expedia and Travelocity for bookings, you’ll often get a way better deal if you book a package that includes both flights and hotels. Travel agents also have access to special rates on hotels, so it’s worth checking with them too.
Booking your own flights and accommodation isn’t always cheaper. Tell travel agents straight out that you’re going to be looking at pricing too, and you’ll only take their package if it’s cheaper, then wait and see what they come up with.
Investigate various locations
It won’t do if you have to stay so far away from where you actually want to be that you have to pay a lot in public transport or taxis to get there, but sometimes, you can luck out with something that isn’t in the most fashionable or popular area, but isn’t far from it. For example, sea front hotels are almost always more expensive than a hotel just a short walk away from the beach.
Join the AAA
Check out the hotel discounts you can get with AAA membership. If you travel fairly frequently or have one really big holiday every year, you might find that your hotel booking savings more than cover your membership fees – and you get all the other car-related perks of AAA membership too.
Find out if a longer stay is cheaper
Even very smart hotels often offer off-season packages to encourage visitors to stay more than one night. Ask if you can get a better rate if you extend your stay. You could even end up getting one night absolutely free of charge.
Sign up for a loyalty program
Some hotel chains offer loyalty programs that get you special treatment – including lower rates – if you stay at one of their hotels. This option is particularly worthwhile if you’re a frequent traveller. Plus, it’s kind of nice getting the VIP treatment! Here’s something a lot of people don’t know: if you already have elite status with one hotel chain, another may be willing to enlist you with the same perks.
Ask about off-peak rates
Obviously, you don’t want to book a tropical island holiday in the monsoon season or hit the ski slopes in summer, but depending on your destination, you may find that arriving just before or just after the main tourist rush saves you a significant amount of cash.
Hotels that usually cater for business travellers may offer better rates on weekends, while those that cater to the weekend leisure market may offer better rates on weekdays. If you don’t ask, you don’t know.
Check out your credit card perks
Some credit card providers offer ongoing travel perks while others offer them as a sign up bonus. If you’re planning a big holiday and have a good credit record, it may even be worth signing up for a new credit card just for those discounts and perks.
Check out your self-catering options
If you’re being frugal, you probably won’t use room service or the mini bar anyway – so why stay in a hotel? And if you’re travelling in a family group or with friends, getting an apartment to share can work out dirt cheap on a per person basis. So you have to fix your own breakfast – so what?
Get in contact with the hotel
When hotels have empty rooms, they’re eager to get them booked, and they’ll often offer better rates than those that are advertised online. Check your Expedia or Travelocity rates, and then get in touch with the hotel’s front desk to find out what rates they can offer you if you do your booking direct.
Browse prices incognito
With the US being considered an economic powerhouse, you may find that hotels are actually charging you more if they know where you’re from when you browse prices. So set your browser to ‘incognito’ and do a little sleuthing – and do remember that you’ll have to add international transaction fees to the prices offered and need to factor that in.
Choose free cancellation options
Isn’t it annoying when you think you’ve got a good deal only to find a better one after you’ve already booked? Cancellation fees can spoil any saving you make by changing your mind, but if you’ve got a free cancellation deal, you can keep your options open.
Mention that you’ll review the establishment
This isn’t asking for a discount, and it isn’t a promise of favourable review, but it will keep your hotel on its toes. Sometimes, hotels will offer a discount in exchange for the publicity, and if they do, you should mention that in your review.
Save on dining
If your package includes breakfast, a substantial, late breakfast means you can get away with a snack for lunch. Food and drink are invariably more expensive at hotels than they are at average restaurants, so make dining part of the adventure and check out local eateries.
If you have reason for complaint, complain
You’re not going to bend over backwards to find fault, but if you had a bad experience, talk firmly to the manager about your issue. Hotels don’t want to get a bad reputation, so they’re often willing to mollify you with discounts and freebies.
Find out what you get other than your room
Rates that include things like breakfast, WiFi and airport shuttles can ultimately work out cheaper than a hotel that superficially seems cheaper, so remember to investigate your extras when you are enquiring about rates. Then again, if you aren’t actually going to use any of the amenities, there’s no point paying more in order to get them.
Bring picnic gear along
Unless you choose a self-catering establishment, most hotels won’t fancy the idea of cooking in your room – but that doesn’t prevent you from picnicking. Enjoy shopping like a local and load up on delicacies. There’s nothing wrong with a cold meat and salad lunch or supper now and then, and you’ll save on dining.
What are your bed options?
When travelling as a family, you can save by having the kids share your room. Find out if the hotels you’re considering have options with a double bed for parents and single beds for the little ones – and if one of your kids is still a baby, check that you’ll be able to get a cot.
If you’re bringing a large group you have bargaining power
If you’re planning a special event at which friends or family will be joining you at the hotel, it’s in their best interests to offer you a good rate or an upgrade. After all, you’ll be bringing them a lot of business. Use your bargaining power!
Become a faithful follower
Start following hotels you’re interested in on social media – you might be in for a pleasant surprise and get special offers you otherwise wouldn’t have known about. If their website offers a newsletter subscription, sign up for the same reason.
Don’t use the laundry service or phone
Hotel laundry services are shockingly expensive. Rinse out your undies, and find a laundromat near your hotel for the rest of your washing to prevent unpleasant surprises when it’s time to check out. The same goes for the phone. If you’re travelling internationally, getting a tourist sim card will usually be the cheapest option for calls.
When in Europe, consider a hostel stay
The word ‘hostel’ may make you think of bunk beds and shared rooms, but that’s not necessarily the case. Backpackers’ establishments and hostels also often offer private rooms, and although the accommodation is relatively no-frills, you can often get some comfortable extras other than just a bed to sleep in.
Hostels also have a friendlier, livelier atmosphere, and you can meet interesting fellow travellers. Do check reviews first, though – some hostels are much nicer than others.
Bring your own entertainment
If you think you may be spending some time watching TV, bringing your own entertainment helps –especially if you get free WiFi as part of the deal. Most modern TVs will allow you to plug in your laptop and stream movies onto the bigger screen. Alternatively, consider swearing off TV for the duration of the trip.
Use airport hotels to save
Staying an extra night to get a cheaper flight is a strategy many travellers resort to, but have you checked the rates at the airport hotel? They’re usually quite reasonable, and if they’re cheaper than your current hotel and the cost is less than the airfare savings, you can save indirectly by stopping over at the airport before your flight.
Use booking sites with a “best price” guarantee
Expedia is one of the sites that will refund the difference if you find a better offer on a comparable room within a set period of time. Check out the T&C, you never know, you could end up with a nice discount.
Senior discounts, AARP discounts and student discounts
If you’re a senior or a student, there may be better prices in store for you, but if you don’t ask, you may not be offered the discounted rate. That’s just one more reason to talk to the hotel front desk before you confirm any bookings.
Book, then bid
If you can get a refundable booking, you can use your rate as a benchmark and approach other hotels. Tell them you already have a booking at x hotel for y price, but you actually prefer their establishment. Then ask if they can match the rate you already found.
Use a variety of booking sites to get prices
Expedia is US-based, and it doesn’t offer as wide a range of overseas hotels as other sites. In addition, you might get an even better price if you shop around. Try Momondo, Booking.com (very nice search features here), Agoda and Venere.com.
Don’t overlook independent hotels especially when travelling alone
Chains usually assume that you’ll be staying two up in a room, so it’s often a lot more expensive to stay alone. But independent hotels are more likely to offer a “per person per night” rate.
Priceline – maybe, and maybe not!
Blind bidding could cause you to end up in a terrible hotel, but Priceline also offers a standard booking service for group travellers – and it has access to some nicely discounted rates.
Make sure you know what’s complimentary, and what’s not
By now, most of us know that the minibar is pretty expensive, but what about the bottled water? Sometimes it’s complimentary, and sometimes it isn’t. And given the price that a hotel might charge for a bottle of water, it can add up to a cost you’d have preferred to avoid.
Look for coupons
This another of those “you never know until you try” strategies, but it’s not unusual for hotels to offer discount coupons. Search online when you know where your destination will be and see if you luck out.
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