Everyone needs a vacation now and then, but travel often gets tossed into the “too expensive” category. The main factor in a trip’s cost adding up can easily be the hotel stay. Spending hundreds of dollars each night just to sleep can make anyone get a little frustrated. But if you’re willing to take some time to plan ahead, stick to your budget, and if you’re willing to be flexible, you can get a great deal on your hotel stay.
Ways to Save on Hotels
- Compare prices and shop around. Before you book any hotel, compare prices from the various hotel deal sites. Here are some of the sites I use when finding a hotel:
- Expedia.com: Besides finding a hotel deal, you can also package your stay with a rental car, flight, and one or the other. You’ll also find last minute hotel deals here as well.
- Travelocity.com: You can find a deal on your hotel stay either in a package deal or by itself. The site also offers a lowest price guarantee.
- Hotels.com: Find a hotel deal by city, landmark, hotel name, or the zip code you’re visiting. If you book 10 nights through the site, you get a night for free. You can also shop for packages and flights.
- Hotwire.com: Hotwire gives you a hotel deal with a twist. The name and exact address of the hotel is hidden until after you book. You do see a general location description such as the North end of the strip in Las Vegas. You’ll see if the hotel is a three, four, or five star hotel and what rating other customer’s give it.
- Kayak.com: Kayak gives you their price hot hotels and compares them to sites like Priceline, Expedia, Hotels.com, Bookit, and Travelocity.
- Ask for a lower rate. After you’ve done your research on the best hotel prices, call the hotel directly to see what they can offer. I’ve gotten great deals by calling the hotel on the day before or day of my travel since there were so many vacancies. You can also call the hotel’s reward member line if you’re a member to see what’s the best price they can give you.
- Enroll in the hotel’s reward program. Speaking of reward programs, join them! Every hotel or hotel group has a reward program you can join for free. You get points for every dollar you spend at the hotel that leads to free rooms. You can also get points for shopping through their partners. For example, I signed up with Priority Club which includes all the various Holiday Inn hotels, Crowne Plaza, and a few more. Not only did I earn points by staying at the hotel but also by renting a car with Budget Car Rental. In addition to free nights, a membership also makes you eligible for various promotion deals such as staying two consecutive nights gets you a $25 gas card or a third night for free. You can also get express check-in, late check-out, coupons, and get informed about deals and promotions going on.
- Consider the location. The location of any hotel is the biggest influence of the price, and if you’re willing to be flexible, you can save. For example, a hotel in downtown Chicago is going to cost you hundreds more than a hotel a few miles away. If you’re willing to travel, then it may be worth it to explore the outside area to save. Before you do that, there are a few things to consider. First, know the area you’re staying in. Whether being budget conscious of not, you never want to stay in an area that isn’t safe. Second, consider the transportation factor. If you stay at a hotel further away from the area you’re visiting, how much will it cost you to get around? You may end up spending more on cabs or parking if you stay further away. See if the hotel’s location is walkable or if there is public transportation.
- Use coupons. Coupons and deals are everywhere, and hotels are no exception. You can find deals for hotels at Groupon and Living Social. On these sites, you can simply find a deal for one night’s stay or find an entire package deal for a trip. Another great site is Hotelcoupons.com if you’re booking a hotel the same-day. I used this site constantly on a road trip where we didn’t have advance reservations. Type in the location you’re staying in, and you will find fantastic rates for rooms nearby. With any coupons, there are stipulations so read the fine print.
- Use discounts you already have. Before you put down your credit card, think about anything you already have that can score you a discount. If you’re a member of AAA or AARP, you can get a percentage off. But you may also grab a discount for being in the military, a student, a teacher, alumni of certain schools, government worker, or even a resident of the city you’re staying in. It never hurts to ask.
- Pick a hotel with great amenities. A price with the lowest rate may not actually be the best deal. Free breakfast for your family every morning is a tremendous savings that can add up to more than $200. A pool, workout room, or other activities can equal hours of free entertainment. Many hotels offer free shuttles to local attractions that can save you on a taxi, parking, and gas. Before you book, look online to see what amenities are offered. It’s a great idea to go one step further and call the hotel to ask in case there are updates or something not mentioned online.
- Know the hidden fees and costs. Just as important as knowing what’s included in your hotel stay, is knowing what’s not included. I thought I had a great deal on hotel in New York City until I got there and realized it would cost $40 per night to park. Besides parking, you may also have to pay for wireless internet. Instead, just go to the lobby or a local café. Some other hidden costs may be checking in early, checking out late, using the room’s safe, using the room’s fridge, or drinking or eating anything already in the fridge. Ask about fees and costs and go over your bill before checking out.
- Ask the hotel for coupons for other attractions. To get your money’s worth at a hotel, ask about what discounts and coupons they have for local attractions, activities, or dining. It makes perfect sense for surrounding restaurants and nearby attractions to offer deals to hotel guests. You can get reduced admission to museums, zoos, parks, theatres as well as discounted prices for activities like boating or tour busses. A lot of restaurants will give you a percentage off your bill, a free appetizer, or dessert as well.
How do you save on hotels?