How can I save money on hotel reservations? What should I look out for? These questions are common when booking a hotel room. There are many ways to save money on hotels, from booking early to using loyalty programs.
Hotels are often expensive, especially during peak travel times such as Christmas or New Year. If you want to save money on your next trip, then read our guide on how to book cheap hotels.
1) Book early
Making an early room reservation in a hotel chain usually means saving 10 to 30 percent off the regular rate. A survey conducted by Hotels.com found that travellers who searched for rooms three days before arrival were likely to find the best rates. This is because hotels set their prices based on expected occupancy levels. The same study also revealed that most people check availability at least twice a year, so if you do this ahead of time, you should have no problem getting an affordable deal.
2) Use “coupon code” tools
Many sites allow visitors to track prices over time, compare deals, and sign up for special email alerts about upcoming offers. Tools like Groupon, LivingSocial, OpenTable, Hotels.com, and Priceline offer this feature. Another advantage of online coupons is that they can be shared by friends and family members to create a larger group discount.
3) Pay with Points
Many credit cards (such as American Express Membership Rewards® Card, Citi ThankYouSM Business Credit Card, Chase Ultimate RewardsSM, and Southwest Rapid Rewards®) give points that can be redeemed for free stays in participating properties. As of November 2019, Amex has more than 4,000 hotels participating, including luxury brands like Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, W Atlanta, and Ritz Carlton Tysons Corner.
If you don’t earn enough points to pay for the desired hotel on your card, consider signing up for the airline’s equivalent program and redeeming your points there instead. Most frequent fliers have access to several flight reward programs through partnerships with various airlines. While hotel redemption is limited to specific chains owned by those partners, many flights come with “open season” dates where any eligible guests can use miles earned during that period toward virtually any resort or destination.
4) Find nearby locations and hotels
Try searching for hotels near attractions and restaurants you’d like to visit. Often, local establishments will offer discounted tickets or discounts for groups of friends or families going together. Look into different dining options close to your hotel too. Many stores offer meal packages that include breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and sometimes snacks. In addition, you may be able to score a package deal for a day spa treatment and a round of golf. Check out Groupon Coupons too. Many merchants offer daily specials in addition to weekly and monthly discounts.
5) Stay flexible
Some hotels charge an additional fee per child staying in the same room as their parents. It pays to look around if you anticipate having children with you while you travel. Be sure to ask what sort of fees are charged for extra beds, cribs, rollaways, etc., either upfront when making reservations or right before checking in. And always request a room away from noisy areas — such as street traffic or busy public spaces. Finally, pack plenty of diapers, formula, wipes, baby food, blankets, and toys when you can purchase them cheaply.
What if I’m not planning to stay at the property long? Can I cancel my reservation without penalty?
Yes. When cancelling a reservation, make sure you do so no later than 24 hours before check-in to avoid cancellation penalties. Also, note that early termination fees apply to “no shows” – in other words, guests who fail to show up at all. There is information regarding this on the property website.
6. Ask about deals & promotions
While we hope that prices seem fair when published, they often change upon checkout. So it never hurts to double-check the price before you book. Don’t forget to sign up for newsletters, email alerts (like the one for AAA savings), social media shares, and special offers. Some companies give you the option to save more money off already deeply discounted rates. The bottom line is that there are countless ways to find great value without blowing your entire budget. And the better informed you get, the easier it will become to take advantage of them.
7. Get creative
There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of a freebie here and there, but sometimes it’s worth paying for something just because it’s convenient. How could you pass up a free continental breakfast when offered every morning or a free upgrade to an executive-level bed and bath products? These things don’t come cheap — especially given how much people spend on lodgings alone. But they’ll pay off for you when you have to wait only minutes instead of hours to receive a service or when you don’t have to stress over whether you remembered to bring your toothbrush.
8. Book multiple rooms
There’s nothing wrong with finding a good rate online, but knowing that there are additional benefits to staying somewhere else doesn’t hurt. For instance, many resorts offer free nights on stays longer than four days, plus discounts on future stays. Or, if you’re travelling with family members, consider finding a place where each person automatically receives bonus points toward future stays. In today’s world of discount websites like Hotels.com, Expedia, and Orbitz, knowing that you have options lets you enjoy perks without having to leave the house.
9. Negotiate for a corporate business rate
If you’re travelling for work, why not ask the owner or manager what their “corporate” room rate is? Many corporate accounts are eligible for discounts and specials that aren’t available to personal account holders, so you may qualify for a lower rate than you’d expect. Plus, the extra benefit of billing your company for the lower rate gives you an added incentive to negotiate.
10. Check into the right chain
Sometimes, a particular chain name does enough to warrant a higher price tag than competitors’ places by simply branding themselves as “the most.” That difference in branding means travellers end up paying more for what they’ve heard in brand recognition itself. It’s important to note that this is almost always true of large chains operating several properties rather than a single property. If you’re looking to travel cheaply, then check out smaller independent brands, such as boutique hotels or hostel chains. They can be a far better choice than trying to score a bargain elsewhere.
11. Pay for upgrades
This tip involves a bit of risk, depending on the type of accommodation you choose. At luxury accommodations — those offering top-notch services and amenities — paying for an upgrade is common practice. In fact, you should request them whenever you book any kind of accommodation, from five-star resorts to budget-friendly motels. Of course, the value of an upgrade at a resort will vary based on the price range of your stay. A simple room upgrade won’t necessarily bump you up too far in price, but upgrading to an ocean view or club lounge will certainly make a big difference. Upgrades can often mean getting free WiFi or complimentary drinks at the pool, depending on the facility. The key is to understand what exactly constitutes an upgrade before you go, and you’ll be sure to find the perfect option without paying too much.
12. Use your smartphone
Many smartphones offer app stores with various travel apps, including maps, weather forecasts, flight tracking, and budget calculators that can save time when planning your vacation. But perhaps the biggest thing to remember about using mobile devices while you’re abroad is safety. Before downloading something, such as a map app, check reviews to see how accurate, current, and safe the app is. Also, consider whether you want to use your phone while roaming internationally because data plans don’t usually cover everywhere you need to go.
13. Ensure you know what is offered at the final price
Getting an unexpected bill is the last thing any traveller could wish for. However, it does happen, and many travellers feel ripped off when they have to pay undisclosed fees. So, if there are terms listed during the booking process that were not discussed beforehand, it’s essential to ensure that every detail is covered before confirming a reservation. This includes details like WiFi connections, parking fees in a town or local hotel, taxes, and any charges incurred due to changes made to the booking after confirmation.
14. Don’t sign anything upon arrival
At the airport, hotels, or train station, it’s tempting to accept a gift voucher or credit card receipt in lieu of writing down your contact information. But do yourself (and future guests) a favour and ask for a copy. Most companies will provide a form — often pre-filled out or in the same format as business cards — that you can keep track of all your contacts and appointments in one location. They’re also great for keeping track of expenses while away as well.
15. Have a price drop notification
Apps such as Tingo or Yapta come in handy whenever you need a price drop notification for a hotel. These apps allow you to check rates at several different locations worldwide and set alerts, so you never miss a bargain. There’s also Yapto, an app that lets you compare prices and offers from thousands of businesses. For example, say your hotel has a $50 rate available, and a local restaurant nearby has a $20 deal on lunch. By tapping into these deals through the right app, you can save tons on your travels.
16. Take advantage of loyalty programs
With over 140 million members globally, Hilton Honors are the largest point-based frequent flier program. Nowadays, loyalty programs are more popular than ever, and travellers should take advantage of this trend by signing up for reward programs for their favourite brands. Whether you earn points for staying with a specific hotel chain, joining a gym membership program, or taking part in airline promotions, there are plenty of ways to rack up free miles and cash back fast. Just make sure you only join programs that meet your needs. Some include free Internet access or extra perks like priority check-in/check-out. Others may only give you access to lounges that charge hefty entrance fees. If you aren’t eligible for rewards, try shopping around with online travel agencies to see if you can find better prices elsewhere. And remember, most companies give you more options to redeem your miles when you buy tickets through them instead of using your miles directly.
17. Booking sites are cheaper
When booking through a third-party site like Hotels Combined or Hostelworld, there are typically no fees associated with paying via credit card. Many discount websites don’t require a major credit card number to confirm a book. Instead, just input your billing address and email address, then enter how much you want to spend.
18. Use travel hacking strategies
Some people prefer to use software or websites that promise to find cheap flights or hotels. While tools can help you save on airfare or accommodations, finding the cheapest flight doesn’t automatically translate to saving money. Before making any changes to your itinerary, ensure that you’ve accounted for any additional costs — baggage fees, transportation ticket costs, etc. All too often, travellers don’t realize that airlines tack on hidden charges once they pass certain thresholds. Those fees can range in size but could potentially increase the total cost by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
19. Don’t go to big cities off season
Most Americans love summer vacation time. As a result, we tend to congregate our families together during prime beach season, leaving smaller towns with fewer tourists and more affordable lodging. When travelling between June and August, keep that in mind when planning your vacation. Better yet, plan out the week or month ahead, so you know where you’ll stay beforehand and when you’ll need to reserve rooms.
This strategy will allow you to find deals based on demand. For example, if you know you won’t have kids while you visit Florida, look into rentals in Orlando, FL instead of Key West. Cities like New York City, Miami Beach, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Los Angeles also experience high traffic levels year-round, meaning lots of visitors and inflated prices. So rather than waiting until mid-April to visit Manhattan, head north while the weather is still nice (or check out Puerto Vallarta). That said, cities like Chicago, Boston, and Washington D.C. offer great family activities all year round and have lower average temperatures.
20. Be selective about meals
Many restaurants and food joints offer discounted meal specials. These discounts differ from restaurant to restaurant, based on the type of restaurant you frequent. However, there are several ways you can take advantage of them regardless of the establishment. First, ask friends, colleagues, or business associates who work in similar industries as yourself. They may have inside knowledge of dining discounts offered by local restaurants. Secondly, sign up for email newsletters and alerts specific to your industry, career path, employer, or job title. Once you receive the alert, click through to the website and browse the offerings available. Finally, read reviews of the restaurants you’re interested in. Often popular establishments will offer special discounts based on customer feedback.
Check out these other articles about choosing hotels when you’re on vacation:
- 12 of the Best Hotel Booking Sites for Families in 2021
- Can a Family of 5 Stay in One Hotel Room?
- The World’s Best Family Beach Vacation Destinations
More about our TFVG Author
Karly is a The Family Vacation Guide guest travel contributor.