This is the second in our three-part series on the big three of travel expenses.
This week we tackle the challenge of getting the accommodation we want at the price we’re willing to pay.
Coming up… our 10 ways to save on hotels.
This week the topic is how to save on hotels.
- Shop and compare but… When you go looking for hotels through sites like Hotels.com or Booking.com you won’t find a huge difference in price from one to the other. Don’t spin your wheels. Go to your favorite site. Mine is Booking.com. Get a lay of the land, choose two or three hotels, read the reviews, check their location on Google maps and then do a price compare with another site. If you want to be really thorough, call the hotel and ask their price.
- Look for a resort on a vacation rental site. Many resorts have units owned by individuals who then book their unit out to other travelers either themselves or through property managers. When I booked my resort stay in Kauai I booked through VRBO.com (Vacation Rental By Owner). It ended up being half the price compared to if I had booked through the resort. When I was booking I contracted two people with similar units for the same price. In one case I was in touch with an individual. In the other I was in touch with a property management company. Because I was booking on short notice, I asked for a discount and, not surprisingly, it was the individual who gave it to me.
- Stay away from the tourist areas. The closer you are to the center of the action the more expensive your hotel will be. It can be as much as twice the cost for a comparable room a little further out. Book outside the center, walk or take local transit to what you want to see and you’ll save.
- Leverage points. Whether you are loyal to a hotel brand with its own point system or have credit card or airline points to spend, using points is a great way to save on hotel expenses. You can also use a hotel booking site such as Booking.com that rewards loyalty with a 10% discount if you sign up for their Genius program.
- Watch for deals and discounts. Now this can be tricky but also very rewarding. Check out sites like Groupon.com. Simply google the discount site and your destination and you’ll get into their site in the right place. See if there’s a hotel you’ d like to book and then check the price on Expedia or some other booking site. I did this for New York City and found the Park Central Hotel to be $45 less on Groupon. Now for the tricky part… When you buy through Groupon you buy a coupon and until you use that coupon you won’t know whether you can book for the nights you want – regardless of whether the nights are open when you buy. So…
- Start by reading the fine print.
- Call the hotel directly. Ask if they’d like to match the price. When I tested this they would match the price though it would be a non-refundable booking. A bonus here is that if I were collecting points with the chain I would receive the points whereas booking through Groupon I wouldn’t.
- If they can’t honor the price, confirm that you can book the reservation with a Groupon coupon number. Yes? Have the person reserve the dates and keep him/her on the phone until you hit book on the Groupon site and receive your confirmation coupon number. Pay for the reservation with the coupon number. If they won’t stay on the phone, confirm their cancellation policy and book your room and call back to cancel and rebook with your coupon code once you get it.
- Clearly, I’m being very careful with this and I’m asking you to be as well. Bottom line it’s definitely worth checking out Groupon or other daily deals sites that deal with travel.
- Use your membership status. Are you a member of AAA or CAA? You’ll likely get a discount. What about AARP or CARP (Canada)? Again, you’re probably due for a discount. Your union or association membership can help. Even your gym membership (if it’s a national chain) might get you a hotel discount.
- Know what’s included and what’s not. If breakfast is included you’ll save on your food expense. If there isn’t free WiFi don’t fret as that’s pretty easy to grab at a local coffee shop or off your phone if you won’t have roaming charges. Also, if you’re a points collector with certain hotels, know that you likely won’t get your points when booking through a hotel booking site. For that you likely need to book directly with the hotel’s reservation system.
- Avoid hidden hotel fees. Before you book your accommodation get a handle on what your actual costs could be. Look for the hidden costs and defray them with the tips in this post.
- Get a reputation. Whether you’re visiting the same hotel on a regular basis or using the same hotel chain internationally, get something for your loyalty. Be friendly with the reservation staff or hotel manager and get a reputation as a guest they want back. Then ask for their best rate when you next book.
- Shake it up. Before you go know your budget and how you want to spend it. As I did in Kauai, you could spend some nights in luxury accommodation and then save other nights in budget accommodation to end up with a reasonable overall nightly rate.
That’s it for how to save on hotels. Watch Solo Traveler on Tuesday when we’ll cover how to save on flights.
And don’t miss How to Avoid Hidden Hotel Fees.