We are heading into the season of travel and so many of us are looking for a great deal on a hotel! It is a challenge to save on a hotel, especially when it is in hotel season.
Even as The Thrifty Couple, we love to travel. In fact, in our “unthrifty” beginnings, travel was where much of our accruing debt went to. So once we got out of debt, we certainly wanted to find a way to travel in budget and for less.
When we can save big money on a hotel, it means our travel budget is stretched further and we can do more with the money we have. It often means an extra day of travel or a nicer hotel from the savings!
Before you even begin, you need to have your travel budget in mind and more specifically, your hotel portion of the travel budget. Once you know what you have to work with, you can then get quite creative with that budget.
Here’s your 8 steps to get the best hotel deal!
- First visit sites like Travelocity.com, Priceline.com, hoteldiscount.com, and hotwire.com
- These are the ones we typically refer to for our “price point,” that is the price we need to beat and to help us determine hotels in the area that are the lowest cost with the amenities that we want.
- We rarely actually make a reservation through one of these sites for a number of reasons: we can usually beat the price, the cancellation policies typically involve a fee (vs. typical cancellations with the hotel by 6pm the day of for no charge), plus I like being able to investigate and have a little more control over what we are promised in the reservation.
- Then we start searching on each individual hotel’s site for deals, email lists for offers and then also act as if you are going to make a reservation through their site directly to see what prices you get. Compare with the prices from the popular travel sites above.
- Check coupon books that you may have (like the Entertainment Book) to compare offers. However, please note one trick that we have found with coupons for hotel rooms…… they base the coupon discounts off of the highest room rates, which in turn isn’t often cheaper than using some of the other tricks to get the best deal! So we rarely use a coupon!
- In addition, you should also check Groupon and Living Social discount group buying sites to see offers they may have that you may not be able to beat! Last year, we travelled for the first time from a discount hotel offer to NYC. It was a GREAT experience, we received the rate promised with no issues and this did end up being the cheapest option for us for where we wanted to stay – Times Square. However, this trick does not work every time, nor often. We find this trick to really only be useful for tourist areas and in areas that are highly desired – like Times Square, NYC. What we mean, we could have gotten a better rate staying in another part of Manhattan using the other tricks we provide here, but we really wanted to stay on Times Square and so this was the best option by far for that highly desired area!
- Join the hotel’s rewards club! In order to take advantage of this, you have to stay often at one hotel chain. I am not sure if we have ever earned a FREE night for that reason – but it certainly doesn’t hurt if you have enough points to use it. Many times you will receive snail mailed or emailed special offers just for being a rewards member, even if you don’t have enough points for free nights.
- Call the hotel directly once you have narrowed down an approximate price point, amenities and location. CALL DIRECTLY – not the 1-800 number. You want to call the actual hotel you plan to stay at – you probably have to look this up on dexknows.com as many of the hotel’s websites just have the reservation line listed!
- When you call, see what the “best they can do for you” is! Most often, we find the price to be cheaper than any online source! This is especially the case for smaller towns and areas, or small resort towns or the hotels in suburbs. Then find out if they take an discounts for travel clubs (AAA is a very popular one), airline miles members (e.g., many hotels have discounts for Delta Skymiles owners – even if you didn’t fly for that particular trip), senior discounts, student discounts and military discounts. This is a good time to mention that coupon you may have to see what it can do for you in addition to the rates they quote you!
- When you call, we also have already checked their online prices and have those up on our screen to compare with them on the phone. In our day and age, many websites will have better prices online, but this allows you to get the best price online or over the phone directly with the hotel.
- If you can travel last minute or spontaneously, you may be able to score even greater savings by following the steps above. Many hotels want to be as full as possible and give even deeper discounts last minute to fill empty rooms! We usually plan far ahead, but then check right before we leave to see if something can be adjusted to save more (of course prior to the last date we can cancel for our current reservation) because we can cancel existing reservations usually before 6pm the day of arrival!
- Upon arrival – see if they will upgrade you to a better room, a continental breakfast to a hot breakfast (if offered), a better view, etc.!! Don’t count on it, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!
Tips to consider when staying at a hotel, motel or resort:
- Find a room with a fridge and microwave – this can contribute to many savings for breakfast, snacks and possible lunch like items!
- Find a hotel with a good cancellation policy – like being able to cancel up to 6 pm the day of checkout with no fees to do so – you never know what is going to happen and this could get you if you have to cancel a trip due to sickness, etc!
- Find a hotel with a FREE breakfast – again, this will contribute to a huge amount of savings!!
- Find a hotel where kids eat FREE if you are traveling with your family. This greatly helps to ease the food budget!
- Find a hotel with FREE parking – most are this way, but you will want to double check as that extra $5 -$10 a night needs to be taken into consideration!
- Find a hotel that will give you a FREE rollaway or FREE crib (or factor the price into your total price) if you need this extra bed.
- Always find out the hotel room capacity as you can be fined for exceeding this capacity! Don’t get caught – the state of CA is the most particular about this! (This is where condo and timeshares will come in for a large family.
- Find a hotel that offers amenities that you want to enjoy during your stay and possibly contribute to some savings – like a swimming pool as this becomes a FREE activity.
- Always consider safety and security – this is #1 for us and is a much bigger factor than “just the cheapest hotel you can find”! This was very much the motivation for us wanting to stay on Times Square for our first trip to NYC, the safety factor.
- Factor tipping for your maid service into your budget. They will make your stay much more pleasant! PLUS it is a very nice gesture.
- Consider buying a discounted gift card to the hotel chain you are staying at to pay for your trip. After you make a reservation, you can go to a site like Cardpool HERE and search for the chain you are staying at and order a gift card and then pay for part of it with this gift card that you got for a 4-10% discount! It’s one final way to save more!