Hotels

The Definitive Guide to Maximizing Your Hotel Savings When Traveling

If you are like me and wish you could travel pretty much all of the time, then you have no doubt looked into ways to make travel cheaper.  After all, the top two things that typically keep people from traveling more than they would like to are the number of available vacation days that they have and the amount of money they can afford to spend on travel.

While I don’t have any solutions for solving any dilemmas with available vacation days at the moment (I am working on it), I do have some great tips on how to save money on travel.  If you haven’t checked it out already, I would start by reviewing my general Tips for Making Travel Cheaper before you read this article.  It includes some really great tried-and-true principals for keeping travel affordable.

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In this article, I am going to focus on showing you how to maximize your savings on hotel or hostel bookings.  By using this guide as a reference, you should be able to use all of the tools available to you to maximize the amount of money you save on accommodations, thus making your travel expenses much smaller.

I will discuss some general guidelines that you can use to help ensure that you find the most affordable accommodations, then give you a list of the booking sites that I typically use to book hotels and hostels.  With this information in hand, I will show you how I compare the cost savings and pricing for the same hotel using these sites to minimize the amount of money I spend on accommodations for my trip.

General Guidelines

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Before I get into which booking sites I use to book hotel stays and how I compare the cost savings I can get from each site, I think it is important to review some of the general guidelines you should use for saving money when looking for hotel and hostel accommodations.

  • Consider planning your travel during the shoulder seasons
  • Plan your stays for mid-week instead of on the weekends when hotels charge more
  • Search multiple sites for the best rates
  • Be on the lookout for rate sales
  • Use hotel and booking site rewards programs to your advantage
  • Consider getting a credit card with a great travel rewards program

Which Sites I Used to Book Hotels

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There are a lot of great travel booking websites out there, and chances are that I have left a few that you like to use off of this list.  The list below is of the sites that I use most frequently and have had the most success with.  I didn’t want to make this exercise too exhaustive or else it would be too difficult to follow.  I am always looking at other sites to compare the deals that they offer and the rewards programs that they have so this list may get updated in the future if rewards programs should change.

I love Hilton’s hotels, so I typically search them out when I travel and try to stay at their properties when cost permits.  For that reason, I frequently book thru their site to take advantage of their HHonors rewards program.  Other hotel chains have excellent rewards programs as well, so it is all up to your personal preference as to whether you would like to include searching directly thru a hotel chain in addition to searching thru Internet travel sites.  If you would like to learn more about which hotel chains have the best rewards programs, ThePointsGuy has a wonderful article on the subject.

What to Look at When Comparing Sites

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When you are researching hotels or hostels, it is critically important that you don’t get tunnel vision and just focus on the cost of a room.  You are going to need to stay at the accommodation you book, so you are going to want to make sure that you feel safe and comfortable while you are there.  I have included a list of general factors that you should consider when looking at hotels or hostels below.  Some are related to cost, and some are not.

  • The location of the hotels
  • The cost of the hotels you are looking at
  • The amenities offered (WIFI, pool, etc…)
  • Whether a complimentary breakfast offered
  • When check-in and check-out are
  • Whether you need to pay in advance or at the time of stay
  • Whether there is free cancellation
  • If a hostel, whether your sleeping quarters are private
  • If a hostel, will you have to share a bathroom
  • If a hostel, what type of security is provided
  • The rewards savings
  • User Reviews

An Illustration – My Trip Scenario

Sydney

To illustrate the process I go thru to compare the cost and savings of the same hotel on the different booking sites I like to use, I am going to use a hypothetical trip.  The details of this hypothetical trip are listed below.

  • I will be visiting Sydney, Australia
  • I will be staying for 13-days and 12-nights
  • For simplicity sake, I will focus on one hotel to illustrate my comparison process
  • Because I will be comparing the cost of my hotel on Hilton.com, I will use the Hilton Sydney in my example.

Booking Directly with Hilton.com

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One of the options I look into when booking hotels for my trips is to look directly on Hilton.com.  There are some benefits to booking directly with Hilton that I have listed below.

  • You can get discounted rates for HHonors members, double points on select rooms, and discounted rates for paying in advance
  • You must book with Hilton.com to be eligible to earn HHonors points and take advantage of member benefits like free WIFI, complimentary water, late checkout, etc..
  • HHonors members earn 10 points for every dollar spent, plus you get bonus points per dollar for every level you advance in the HHonors system.  For instance, silver status gets you 12pts\dollar, gold gets you 18pts\dollar, and diamond gets you 20pts\dollar.
  • There is a 2.5% cash back with Ebates for non-Hilton HHonors members and a 1% cash back for members.
  • Learn more about the value of Hilton HHonors Status.

Breakdown of Cost and Savings

If I were to book with Hilton directly, I could earn Hilton HHonors points for my stay.  If I were to use an Internet booking website, I would not qualify for any points.  Those HHonors points have a decent value at roughly $.005 per point because you earn at least 10 points per dollar you spend on Hilton hotels.  This value would increase dramatically if you were to stay at Hiltons frequently and earn a higher status in their rewards system.

If you are a Hilton HHonors member, you can also earn 1% cash back thru Ebates on your bookings.  That cash back rate increases to 2.5% for non-members, but that really isn’t a good deal without earning the HHonors points that come with being a member unless this is just a one-off stay.

If I were to book directly with Hilton for my trip, I wouldn’t earn enough points to get a free night, but I would build up $131.37 worth of HHonors points to use for future trips.  This is enough to get a free night at a cheaper Hilton hotel elsewhere in my future travels.  However, the total cost for accommodations on this trip is rather expensive at $2,445.02.

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Current Cost: $2,445.02
Future Savings: $131.37
Total Cost: $2,313.65 for 12 nights stay

Booking with Hotels.com

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My favorite booking site that I like to use is undoubtedly Hotels.com.  Honestly, you really can’t beat their rewards program, especially if you have a Capital One Venture credit card.  I have included some of the specifics of the Hotels.com rewards program below for you to review.

  • For every 10 nights you book with Hotels.com, you get the next night free
  • The value of the free night is the average of the cost of your 10 previous nights that you paid for.
  • When booking hotels with Hotels.com using your Capital One Venture card, you get 10 points for every dollar you spend with Capital One.
  • When booking hotels with Hotels.com using Ebates, you get 10% cash back if you don’t use Hotels.com rewards and 1% cash back when you do use Hotels.com rewards.
  • Learn more about Hotels.com rewards.

Breakdown of Cost and Savings

Right off the bat, you will notice the base rate with Hotels.com is significantly cheaper than it was directly thru Hilton.  This is a big deal.  Also, with every 10 nights that you book with Hotels.com, you get a free night at the average cost of your previous 10 night stays for free.  That is a huge value.  This means that I will earn a free night stay on my 12-night trip.

If you are a Capital One Venture credit card holder, which I am, you can also earn 10 points for every dollar you spend with Hotels.com.  This is a huge reward because each point with Capital One is worth a penny and can be used to erase your travel costs from your credit card bill.  In addition, you can also combine this with Ebates.  If you combine your Hotels.com reward with Capital One with Ebates, you get an additional 1% cash back.  This adds up to some significant cost savings.

This gives me over $20 of additional cash back on each night of our stay, right up front.  Not to mention, I will also bank the final night’s stay as one night towards another 10 nights in earning a free night stay on a future trip.  If you look at the total cost for the trip, $1,889.47 is a much cheaper cost than I could get directly thru Hilton.  Though I go home with less future savings than if I booked directly with Hilton, those savings aren’t enough to warrant paying more money now.

Booking with Hotels-com

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Current Cost: $1,889.47
Future Savings: $19.30
Total Cost: $1,870.17 for 12 nights stay

Booking with Orbiz.com

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Orbitz is another online booking platform that I use to book a lot of my travel.  In addition to hotels, you can also use Orbitz to book flights, rental cars, and vacations.  I have included a summary of the Orbitz.com rewards program for you to review below.

  • Earn Orbucks points for the money you spend on hotels and flights.  One orbuck is the equivalent of one US dollar.
  • Earn 3-percent in Orbucks when booking online and 5-percent in Orbucks when booking using the Orbitz mobile App.
  • Earn 2.5% cash back on hotels booked thru Orbitz using Ebates.
  • Earn Orbitz status and get benefits like insider prices, a dedicated customer service line, free wifi and breakfast at select hotels, along with other benefits.
  • Learn more about the Orbitz benefits program.

Breakdown of Cost and Savings

Like Hotels.com, the base rate for the hotel was cheaper on Oribtz.com than thru Hilton.com directly.  A big advantage that Orbitz has over Hotels.com is that you can use Orbitz to book other travel items besides hotels and earn rewards points for doing so.  This really comes in handy if you are booking a number of flights for your trip as you can turn around and use those points to save on hotels.

As you can see in the chart below, I am earning roughly $9.65 for each night I book with Orbitz.com and I am saving an additional $4.83 by getting 2.5% cash back by using Ebates.  This gives me an immediate savings of $53.13 and a current cost of $2,258.10.  However, I would also have future savings of $115.80 in the form of Orbucks to use on trips in the future.

If I really needed to use my Orbucks now, I could always book my stay in two separate reservations.  I could book the first 11 nights in one reservation and then book the final night on a separate reservation and use my $106.15 (from booking the previous 11 nights) in Orbucks to get that last night for just $82.02.

Even with these great rewards, you can see that my total cost savings really aren’t enough to compete with the savings I can get by using Hotels.com.  However, if I were to book expensive flights for a family of 5 for this trip, I could earn a nice chunk of Orbucks for booking those flights.  That may be enough to tip the scales in favor of using Orbitz.

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Current Cost: $2,258.10
Future Savings: $115.80
Total Cost: $2,142.30 for 12 nights stay

Booking with Expedia.com

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The last site that I typically use to book travel is Expedia.com.  While the rewards offered directly from Expedia aren’t as significant as the rewards the other sites offer, Expedia does have an exceptionally large cash back offer on Ebates.com.  For details on the rewards available when booking thru Expedia.com, I have included a summary for you to review below.

  • Earn 2 Expedia points for every dollar spent on hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages and 1 point for every five dollars spent on airline tickets.
  • Earn status and enjoy point accelerators.  For instance, silver gets you a 10% bonus and points earned and gold status gets you a 30% bonus.
  • Redeem 140 Expedia points for $1 off your next travel purchase.
  • Earn 10% cash back on Ebates when purchasing thru Expedia.com.
  • Learn more about Expedia’s rewards system.

Breakdown of Cost and Savings

In addition to having a cheaper base rate than going directly thru Hilton.com, the other big cost savings measure you can use with Expedia.com is to take advantage of the large 10% cash back offer for Expedia on Ebates.  As you can see in the chart below, this results in some fairly significant cost savings of $19.30 per night.  However, at just $2.76, the rewards you earn from Expedia directly aren’t nearly as significant as the rewards you get from Hotels.com, Orbitz.com, or Hilton directly.

Overall, even though the rewards that are offered thru Expedia.com directly aren’t as significant as what is offered by using the other sites, the cash back offer from Ebates is enough to make using Expedia.com the second cheapest option for booking the hotel.  With a cost of just $2,084.40 and future savings of $33.09 to be used on future trips, using Expedia.com is an attractive option.

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Current Cost: $2,084.40
Future Savings: $33.09
Total Cost: $2,051.31 for 12 nights stay

Booking with Combination of Sites

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While booking everything thru one site is always an option, you are typically able to generate even more savings by combing booking between several of the sites.  This allows you to take advantages of the strong points in each site’s rewards system.  To illustrate this point, I have included a cost chart below that uses three of the four sites I listed to book the Hilton Sydney hotel for my trip.

To really illustrate how combining sites to book your hotel or hostel accommodations can give you the most cost savings, I am going to make some modifications to the trip I used previously.  I will be using the following factors for my trip in this exercise:

  • I will be visiting Sydney, Australia
  • I will be staying for 14-days and 13-nights
  • For simplicity sake, I will focus on one hotel to illustrate my comparison process
  • I have 55,000 Hilton HHonors points to use that I earned from business travel throughout the year.
  • I have booked my flights for the trip using Orbitz.com and have earned $17.69 in Orbucks for booking that airfare.

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As you can see, using multiple sites to book my travel for this trip allows me to take advantage of the strong points of each site’s rewards system.  Because I had some HHonors points saved up from previous business travel, I was able to get the first night at the hotel for free.  I was also able to bank enough nights thru Hotels.com to get an additional night for free and considerable savings by using Ebates and my Capital One Venture card to book these nights.  Finally, I used the Orbucks I earned by booking our flights to get some immediate cost savings on our final night in the hotel.

Current Cost: $1,888.19
Future Savings: $8.77
Total Cost: $1,879.42 for 13 nights stay

Summary

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In conclusion, there are some significant cost savings that you can find if you do your due diligence and plan ahead.    Here is a summary of the exercise I walked you thru for each of the booking sites that I use to book hotels and other travel.

Booking Site Current Cost Future Savings Total Cost
Hilton.com $2,445.02 $131.37 $2,313.65
Hotels.com $1,889.47 $19.30 $1,870.17
Orbitz.com $2,258.10 $115.80 $2,142.30
Expedia.com $2,084.40 $33.09 $2,051.31

When you are looking at which of these sites to use to book hotels or hostels for your travel, make sure you keep the strong points of each site’s rewards system in mind.  For review, I have included these in a list for you to reference below.  Lastly, don’t forget to consider using multiple sites in combination to book your stays.  Often times, this will allow you to leverage the strong points of more than one site to further maximize your savings.

Summary of Strong Points of each Booking Site

  • Booking directly with hotels allows you to earn points in their rewards system and take advantage of other rewards that they offer loyal customers.
  • You can maximize your savings when booking thru Hotels.com by using a Capital One Venture Card and Ebates to get huge cash back.
  • Orbitz.com gives you great value in the form of Orbucks rewards dollars for booking airfare on their website that can be used to save on hotels and hostels.
  • Expedia.com offers a huge cash back offer on Ebates that you can take advantage of when booking hotels or hostels.

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