Hotel stays can really drive up the cost of a family trip, especially when you want to stay at a popular vacation destination or need more than one room. With these 9 money saving tips for hotel, you can learn how to live big on your next vacation without breaking the bank.
Money Saving Tips for Hotels
Everyone likes to take a high-end vacation on the cheap. Think that is impossible? Think again.
Hotel costs can be a major portion of most family’s travel spending, but there are lots of techniques for getting your lodging for much less. And I promise you don’t have to bunk with your Aunt Mildred to do it.
Here are 9 tips for saving big on hotels:
1. Collect and use hotel points.
Most travelers are familiar with airline frequent flyer programs to earn and redeem miles for free flights. Did you know that most hotel chains offer similar loyalty programs too? Earning points in these hotel programs can really save your family money on your next vacation.
Don’t stay in a hotel often enough to earn points quickly? No problem. Hotels often have credit card partners you can use to add points to your account. Many cards have generous points signup bonuses and a few even offer a free night benefit just for getting the card.
To make the most of your hotel points, always compare the cash price and the points price. Some redemptions are much better than others. For the best redemptions, watch out for discounted points deals like IHG’s Point Breaks or Marriott’s PointSavers where you can get a room at certain hotels for much less than the going rate.
For even more tips on hotel points, check out these 5 tips for getting started with hotel points.
2. If choosing your exact hotel or location isn’t paramount, book on opaque sites like Priceline and Hotwire.
In order to get the steepest discounts, you won’t know for sure which hotel you will get. Instead, you choose by neighborhood and by hotel star category. On Priceline, you name your own price for a room. On Hotwire, you are given a price for a hotel to be named in a particular area. Often, however, the choices in a particular neighborhood and category are fairly limited and you can make an educated guess at what your likely options will be.
Just be aware that this choice isn’t for travelers who need to guarantee a particular location. But it works well if you have some flexibility.
3. Scour the hotel’s website for package deals, coupons and other promotions.
Many travelers make the mistake of only looking for and booking their hotels on travel agency sites like Expedia and Hotels.com. While these sites often offer good deals of their own, sometimes the deals are better on a hotel’s website directly. Look closely at banner ads and sidebars to check for promotions and packages that might really save a bundle. On my family’s recent stay in Las Vegas, for example, we were able to find a free room service breakfast package for the same price as the room by itself on every other site.
4. Hold a hotel chain to its best rate guarantee promises.
Many hotel chains offer a best rate guarantee. This kind of program gives you a discount or other benefit if you find a better rate at their hotel elsewhere after booking directly on the hotel’s site. With a little research and some luck, you can often find a better rate and save a lot. There are limitations and fine print to these best rate guarantees, so take the time to read up on the details for your hotel chain of choice.
5. Don’t forget about AAA discounts (along with military, senior, or corporate rates for which you might be eligible).
AAA might seem like your parents’ way of saving on travel, but it still has some of the best deals in certain circumstances. Most hotels offer a AAA discount, so run your searches for hotel rooms both with and without AAA options selected to compare (while the AAA rate is often the cheapest, this is not always the case). Many hotels offer similar discounts to seniors and AARP members. Members of the military and government employees often have access to specials, as do travelers entitled to certain corporate rates.
Did you know you can haggle on your hotel stays? If you are planning a longer stay or visiting during low season, call the hotel and see what they can do to earn your business. You’d be surprised at the success rate of simply asking. I once negotiated a rate of $109 a night for an extended stay at a luxury hotel in one of San Francisco’s fanciest locations – the top of Nob Hill. I never would have gotten it had I not called.
7. Forget the hotel. Go with a vacation rental.
Vacation rentals are all the rage right now and with good reason. They often offer much more space and a much lower price, especially for family travelers. While you may miss out on resort amenities like room service, you often make up for it through the convenience of having your own kitchen and laundry.
If you need more, check out this post on how to find a great vacation rental and save money.
8. Wait until the last minute.
While it is often ill advised not to plan ahead when traveling with kids, sometimes travel plans come together at the last minute. An amazing app to score a last minute lodging deal is Hotel Tonight, which heavily discounts last minute hotel inventory that would otherwise go unsold. And unlike Priceline or Hotwire, you can see which particular hotel is being offered before you book.
More and more hotels are offering discounts in exchange for giving up a bit of flexibility. If you are willing to commit to a non-refundable rate because your plans are set, you can often save 10-25% off the regular rate. Just be prepared to lose some cash if your plans unexpectedly change.
What other tips and tricks would you add to this list? Share the most unusual or unexpected ways you have saved on hotels.