The Ultimate Guide to Save Money on Hotels When Traveling


One of the things that tends to hold people back from traveling the most is the cost of travel. Let’s face it, depending on where you want to visit, it can cost a lot of money to travel. This is especially true if you are traveling internationally. When it comes to these costs, one of the largest expenses is what you spend for accommodations. Hotels aren’t cheap, and it’s an expense you need to incur for each day you travel. This can make strategies for saving money on hotels really useful tools for travelers.

Save Money on Hotels

In this article, I am going to share some easy and effective ways that you can save money on hotels. Some of these tips I have learned from other travelers and some I have learned from my own travel experience. However, all of these tips I have tried personally in the past and many I use regularly to save money on hotels.

I can personally attest to the effectiveness of each and every one of these tips. Like most things in life, you need to put in a little work. However, there are significant hotel savings that you can find if you put in the effort. Following these easy and effective tips for saving money on hotels is a great start.


Be Flexible in When You Travel

Save Money on Hotels - Be Flexible on When You Travel

One of the best ways to save money on hotels is to adjust when you are traveling. It is no secret that hotels need to keep their rooms full to do well financially. During peak tourism season, this isn’t hard for them to do because of demand. Hotels can afford to charge more during peak season because some people will pay.

However, during the tourism offseason, there isn’t as much demand for rooms. This is when you can find some really good rates on hotels that may otherwise be outside your price range. In fact, some hotels may be so motivated to fill their rooms during the offseason that they offer additional perks. This may include free breakfast coupons, spa credits, or discounts on local tours.

Be Flexible in Where You Stay

Save Money on Hotels - Be Flexible in Where You Stay

Another tried and true method for saving money on hotels worth considering is adjusting where you stay. It’s no secret that hotels that are closest to major tourist attractions are more expensive. People love convenience and are often willing to pay more to be closer to what they want to see. However, if you don’t mind traveling a little way each day, you can save a lot of money.

A good rule of thumb for saving on hotels is to look for accommodations at least three blocks from major tourist areas. This wonderful rule can also apply to restaurants and shops as well. However, before booking a hotel further away, you should consider your transportation needs. If you have rented a car for your trip, staying further away is no big deal.

On the other hand, if you are relying on public transportation, it will require some forethought. Not only should you consider the availability of transportation, but you also need to consider the cost. If it will cost you more to travel to-and-from your hotel each day than staying closer, you aren’t really saving money.

Reach Out to the Hotel

Save Money on Hotels - Contact the Hotel

The Internet has made it quicker and more convenient than ever to book hotels. However, it may not be the best way to get a great rate. Prices at hotels can vary quite a bit throughout the year, depending on peak tourism season and events that are happening. Often times, discounted rates can be found on online reservation systems. However, sometimes it pays to reach out to the hotel directly.

If you call a hotel’s onsite reservation desk and talk to a representative, they may be able to assist you further. Most likely, they will be able to tell you when the hotel is typically the least busy. And if you ask, they may be able to provide you with additional discounts or perks for booking during this period.

Don’t Forget About Fees When Trying to Save Money on Hotels

Las Vegas Hotel

One thing to look out for when trying to save money on hotels is hidden fees. These fees may not be included in the rate, but can drastically impact the price of your hotel accomodations. You may find an incredible low rate on a hotel online, only to find out it wasn’t such a great deal later. These fees can include the following:

  • Resort Fees.
  • Extra Person Fees.
  • Wi-Fi Usage Fees.
  • Parking Fees.
  • Early Check-In or Check-Out Fees.
  • Fee to use the Room Safe.
  • Fee to use the room’s coffee maker.

So, before you take advantage of a great rate you find online, make sure you look into the associated fees. By the time you are done paying them, that great rate may not be so great.

Consider Booking an Airbnb or VRBO Accommodation Instead

Save Money on Hotels - Check Out Rental Accommodations

Travel accommodation marketplaces like Airbnb and VRBO are much more mainstream these days. However, it still amazes me how many people still don’t utilize these great resources for accommodations. If you aren’t familiar with them, these are online marketplaces for short- and long-term homestays.

People rent out their houses, condos, or rooms to people in need of a place to stay. While you won’t always find the best deal searching these marketplaces, sometimes you can find an absolute steal. We stayed in a VRBO rental while in Wanaka, New Zealand, and it was one of the accommodation experiences I’ve had while traveling. We had our own fully furnished private house, and we saved a bunch of money.

Not only can these marketplaces save you money on accommodations, but they can help you save in other ways. When we travelled to Nova Scotia to go golfing, there weren’t any hotels in the area. The only hotel option was to drive over an hour each way to the course. Instead, we found a really nice cabin for rent on Airbnb. It wasn’t much cheaper than the hotels we found, but we saved a boatload of gas and time wasted.

Save Money on Hotels by Becoming a Loyalty Program Member

Save Money on Hotels - Hotel Loyalty Programs

At this point, I think almost everyone knows how effective loyalty programs can be in saving money on hotels. In return for your loyalty, hotel chains give you points that you can redeem for free nights and other perks. That alone is a great reason to sign up for hotel loyalty programs.

However, there is another benefit that many people may not be as familiar with. Hotels are becoming increasingly focused on getting travelers to book accommodations directly thru them instead of online travel sites. With this increased focus on direct booking, hotels have started offering reduced rates to loyalty members who book directly thru them.

In some cases, you can find substantially reduced rates by being a loyalty member. So, if you are really serious about saving money on hotels, make sure you take advantage of loyalty programs. If you are interested, here are some of the hotel loyalty programs I think are the best.

Maximize Points with a Hotel Rewards Credit Card

Hotel Credit Card

Another extremely effective way to save money on hotels is to take advantage of hotel-affiliated credit cards. If you stay at a particular brand of hotel frequently, this can offer substantial savings. Not only will you earn points towards free nights and perks by spending on the card, but there are other benefits.

Most of these credit cards offer bonus points for booking your rooms with the card. Not only that, but many also offer elite status for signing up for the card. For instance, the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card will get you their top-tier Diamond status.

Meanwhile, the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express card gets you to the Platinum Elite status in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program. This elevated status means you will get more perks and earn more points for qualifying stays. All this translates into massive savings on hotel costs.

Save Money on Hotels with Best Rate Guarantees

Burj Al Arab Hotel Sunset

In addition to getting added perks and points for being a loyalty program member, there are other advantages to booking with hotels directly. I mentioned previously that hotels are increasingly trying to get travelers to book directly with them.

When you book a room thru an Internet travel agency like Hotels.com, Orbitz, or Expedia, hotels need to pay a commission to those agencies. However, when you book with them direct, they do not. Because hotels are so motivated to get you to book directly, they will often offer a “best rate guarantee”.

This means that, should you find a lower price elsewhere, most hotels will compensate you for the price difference. This compensation may come in the form of a reduced rate, bonus points, or even both. So, before you book with your favorite hotel chain directly, shop around to see if there is a better rate and then see if the hotel will match it.

Save Money on Hotels by Utilizing Cash Back Websites

Save Money on Hotels - Utilize Cash Back Websites

There aren’t many tips on saving money on hotels that provide greater savings the more you spend, but this is one of them. With cash-back portals, the more you spend on pricier hotels and longer stays, the more money you will get back. The concept of the cash-back portals is pretty straight-forward. Cash-back portals like Rakuten, TopCashBack, or Ibotta will give you cash back on your hotel stay. All you need to do is initiate your purchase thru their portal.

While not all hotel chains are affiliated with cash-back sites, many of the big names are. Using these cash-back sites can a very effective way to save money. This is because it allows you to double up your rewards. Not only will you earn points by booking directly with a hotel chain or online travel site, but you will get cash back doing it. Keep in mind, you will typically need to pay for your room in advance to qualify for the cash-back rewards.

Save Money on Hotels with Hotel Benefits

Save Money on Hotels - Take Advantage of Hotel Benefits

Not all ways in which to save money on hotels relate to the room rate you pay. On the contrary, there are other benefits hotels can offer that can be just as helpful in reducing travel expenses. One of the most notable ways is with the on-site benefits or perks that hotels offer.

For instance, many hotels will offer a free breakfast to all guests. At some hotels, this can be a simple continental breakfast. At others, it can include a nice, made-to-order breakfast that has significant value. Hotel chains such as Embassy Suites, Hampton Inns, Comfort Inns, La Quintas, and Fairfield Inns by Marriott all have wonderful breakfast perks.

However, these perks are not just limited to free breakfasts. Some hotel chains offer separate TV rooms with sleeper couches, free parking, and other valuable perks. When looking to save money on hotels when traveling, you should also factor in these benefits. This is especially true if you are planning on an extended stay. The value of these perks can really add up.

Consider Pre-Paying for Your Room

Save Money on Hotels - Consider Pre-Paying for your Room

For travelers who are confident their plans won’t change, prepaying for your room is a great way to save money on hotels. Most hotels will offer discounts if you prepay for a room you reserve. However, most often these prepaid room rates are nonrefundable. So, if your travel plans change, you could be left with a hotel room you won’t be using. On the other hand, if you know for certain that you won’t be changing your plans, the savings can be substantial.

Consider Staying at an Extended Stay

Save Money on Hotels - Take Advantage of Extended Stay Rates

Another great way to save money on hotels when traveling is to consider extended stays. While these hotels have a bit of a sour reputation amongst some travelers, they can be effective in saving money. For one, the rates at extended stays are typically less than what you will find at most hotels.

Most extended stays will have their lowest rates on weekends when corporate travelers aren’t there. This makes them perfect for travelers staying for a long weekend. In addition to the low rates, most also have a built-in kitchen. This can help you save considerable money on food expenses. If you would like to check out an extended stay, here are some good options to look at.

Don’t Forget to Check Online Travel Agencies

Don't Forget to Check Online Travel Agencies

Using an online travel agency (or OTA) is another great way to save money on hotels. You can find some spectacular deals on these online agency sites, especially if you book last minute.

The reason for this is hotels use these agencies to dump excess room inventory onto the market. They do this thru the OTAs so that they don’t advertise the fact that they have excess rooms. You can use this to your advantage if you shop around and look for deals.

However, using an OTA instead of booking with a hotel does have its drawbacks. Like I mentioned previously, hotels are trying to encourage direct buying. Because of that, you may lose out on perks such as points, free Internet, or free breakfast if you book thru an OTA. If you are interested in looking for hotel deals on an OTA, here are some great choices I recommend.

Use Club Discounts to Your Advantage

Use Club Discounts to Your Advantage

What good is being part of a club such as AAA or AARP if you don’t take advantage of the perks? Yet, I still talk to travelers all the time who are members of one of these clubs and don’t fully leverage them. Many hotels will offer a discounted rate for club memberships, so it never hurts to ask. Sometimes, these discounts can be substantial. I recommend making it a habit to check on membership discounts before booking any hotel in the future.

Don’t Stop Looking After You’ve Booked

Bora Bora Hotel

The biggest mistake that many travlers make when booking hotels is to stop looking after they have booked. If you really want to save money on hotels, you should keep looking for lower rates even after you’ve reserved a room. Sometimes, you will find a lower room rate for your travel dates at a later time.

If this happens, you should call the hotel and see if they will adjust your rate. Trust me, most hotels would rather give you the lower rate than lose you. In fact, if you find a cheaper rate at a different hotel that is comparable, they might match that rate. And if they don’t, you can always switch your reservation.

Consider Booking a Blind Hotel Deal

Save Money on Hotels - Consider Booking Blind

If you are really motivated to save money on hotels for your travel, there is a riskier option that you can consider. The practice of blind hotel booking, which is technically called opaque pricing, involves sites showing you a rate for a hotel, but hides the hotel offering the rate. Some examples of blind booking sites are Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” and Priceline’s “Pricebreaker”.

While you can find some substantially low rates using these services, you are rolling the dice on which hotel you are committing to. If you aren’t familiar with the areas in which you are booking, this can be a gamble. You may end up with a hotel far from where you’d like to be. However, if you are familiar with the area and have a good grasp on the hotels there, you can really save some money.


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Categories: Awards, Cost Savings, Favorite, General Travel, General Travel Advice, Hotels, Packing and Planning Tips, Travel, Travel Planning Advice, Traveler AdviceTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 comments

  1. Hi Joshua,
    What a great comprehensive guide!
    It’s great you had a good VRBO experience in Wanaka! It’s a beautiful place, isn’t it?
    We tend to try to use AirBnB if we have a night’s gap in between housesits. Lately though, I feel like they have been getting more and more expensive with more and more fees being tacked on!
    We’ll definitely be using your tips next time we are looking for a temporary home where we are! I had for example not thought of calling the hotel to see if I could get them to match a better deal!
    Thanks,
    Christine

    • Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment!! I could not agree with you more on Airbnb and VRBO. I have had amazing experiences with them!

      And yes, Wanaka is incredible! One of my favorite places in the world!

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