Hotels can eat up a lot of your total vacation expenses. However, with the right strategy, you can slash a good percentage of your costs and stay within budget. Here are some tips to follow so you don’t come home with huge hotel bills.
All the following tips will be most useful, and the greatest number of special deals can be found, when bookings are made well in advance. However, when a hotel is needed at the last minute, HotelTonight can find those last minute deals.
Online alerts and deals
The following are some of the top websites for finding the lowest hotel rates online. To get the best deals, be sure to sign up for alerts and newsletters on sites that offer them. Expedia, Kayak, Hotels, Hotels and Discounts, Hotwire and TripAdvisor (this is also a good place for reviews) are the most popular.
Be a frequent visitor
Staying at the same hotel chain often can pay off in terms of a better rate or at least an upgraded room. Many hotels have free rewards programs in which you can earn points toward a free stay. In addition, remember to check for deals on any frequent flier programs you may be a part of.
Search for new hotels
Many new businesses have grand openings, and hotels are no different. They often offer promotions that more established hotels do not offer. Travel agents can help you find new hotels near your destination. Many hotels offer promotions on their websites as well, so deals can be found if you know where to look.
Be flexible about your schedule
Although it can be difficult to take time off work at certain times of the year, traveling during the off-season can save you money. Room rates are often cheaper during these times because they are less busy. For example, visiting the beach in May – before the busy summer season – can save you 50 percent or more. You’ll beat the crowds and the weather is warm enough to take a stroll on the beach or perhaps even a dip in the ocean. If you prefer to take advantage of the best weather conditions, try to schedule your vacation during the week. Weekend rates can be more than double the price of weekday rates.
January is also a good time to travel. Even winter vacation destinations are fairly quiet until mid-January. Trips to warm-weather destinations such as the Caribbean and Florida are extremely affordable during this time of the year.
Find out what is and what is not included
Many hotels offer a variety of amenities, to include free parking, Wi-Fi, complimentary breakfasts, pools, spas and fitness centers. These perks should be factored into the cost of your hotel room. However, if you don’t plan to stay at the hotel much, then you may not need some of these amenities anyway.
On the flip side, you should also be aware of things that are not included. A $200-a-night hotel stay may not even include parking, which can run an additional $20 or more per day. You also may need to pay for use of the pool and fitness center. Some places do not offer breakfast or Wi-Fi as well, so take all of this into consideration when booking your stay, as paying more for a room might come out to less overall.
If you are part of a certain demographic, you may be eligible for discounts from some hotels. Many hotels offer discounts to college students, teachers, emergency workers, military personnel and government employees. Members of certain clubs or organizations, such as AARP and AAA, often receive discounts as well. Check with the hotel before booking.
In addition, anyone can find discounts on coupon and related sites to include Groupon, Hotel Coupons, http://www.livingsocial.com/ and RetailMeNot.
Call the hotel directly
Although travel websites can score you some decent deals, you may be able to get an even better rate by calling the hotel directly. Check online first to see what kind of deal you can get and then see if the hotel can beat that deal or at least offer a perk such as a free upgrade. You may also want to ask if there is anything that might impact your stay. Nobody wants to deal with a hotel under construction or not be able to use the pool in the middle of summer.
Look into a package
If you need a flight and car rental on top of a hotel reservation, then it may be more economical to bundle it into a package instead of paying for each separately. Websites such as such as Priceline.com, Hotwire, Expedia and Travelocity can help you find a package to the destination of your choice.
Consider the hotel’s location
Although a hotel right next to a theme park or other attraction is very convenient, you likely will have to pay for this convenience through exorbitant fees. You may find that a hotel just a few blocks away is half the price. Consider that extra walk a little free exercise!
However, choose your hotel location wisely. You don’t want to stay a hotel too far away because transportation and parking costs can quickly add up.
Look into business park hotels
These hotels are located in the suburbs near business centers. Because they cater to businessmen and other employees who travel frequently, they are often vacant on weekends. This means they would love to have you stay, and you may be rewarded with huge discounts – up to 50 percent – for doing so. Many business park hotels are located in tourist areas such as San Francisco, San Diego, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Dallas and Phoenix.
Discounted gift cards
There are now many ways to buy gift cards at less than face value. These offer ways to save a percentage when paying.
Explore other options
If you need to stay somewhere overnight, a hotel is not your only option. There are many cheaper alternatives. While they are less popular in the US than other countries, hostels are ideal for those who are traveling alone and don’t mind sharing accommodations with others. Many hostels are under $20. Hostels has more information on finding and selecting the best ones.
For those with children or a large group, a vacation rental may be worth the cost if you are staying for a week or more. Many come furnished and have kitchens so you can cook your own meals.
Camping is also an inexpensive option. Camping is not as primitive as it once was. Now, many campgrounds offer showers, pools, game room and activities for the kids.
If you are planning a short road trip, renting an RV may be a cheaper option. You can stay at an RV park or campground for much less than a hotel room.
House swapping and peer-to-peer renting are becoming increasingly popular. People stay in each other’s homes when house swapping (find out more at HomeExchange) and rent places directly to others when peer-to-peer renting.