How to Save Money on Hotels While Traveling
1. Stick to Your Budget
Don’t rack up debt.
To avoid this situation, first determine how much you want to spend on your vacation. Then, decide what comforts, conveniences, and other variables you desire from your lodging. When I travel, I generally do not spend much time in my hotel room, and could care less about the size of the room or the upgrades. I’d rather save my money to spend on entertainment.
If you plan to engage in costly activities and dine at expensive restaurants, choose a less luxurious place to stay. On the other hand, if you do not want to stay in a budget hotel or other cheap accommodations, you may need to consider cutting your trip short to save money. Is this a worthwhile trade-off to sleep in a more luxurious room? That’s for you to decide.
2. Be Flexible
If you have a flexible schedule, consider staying at a hotel during the off-season. This worked to my advantage during my August bachelorette party in Las Vegas. Sure, it was hot, but my hotel cost 50% less than the cost of my Vegas vacation last December. Plus, we still enjoyed swimming in the pool and visiting the air-conditioned resorts.
Traveling during the off-season costs less, and allows you to avoid contending with crowds, which makes sightseeing easier. Even staying in a hotel midweek instead of during a weekend can save you money. Furthermore, if you bid on a hotel at Priceline or if you book via Hotwire, you can receive further reductions on your rate. With Priceline’s bidding system, you will not know the name of the hotel until you make your purchase, but you will know the hotel’s approximate location and customer rating.
3. Choose Your Location Wisely
When I booked a hotel in Chicago, I realized that staying in the heart of downtown cost twice as much as staying at a hotel just a few miles away. Since I’m familiar with the area, I looked at nearby hotels to find cheaper lodging.
Fortunately, even if you don’t know the area, many travel websites offer maps so you can easily expand your search area and find lower prices for hotels. On the other hand, choosing a hotel far away from the attractions you plan to visit can result in high transportation fares and parking costs. Investigate the area’s public transportation system, and find out if you can walk to attractions from your hotel before you book your room.
4. Revisit the Same Hotel
You can score great deals when you stay at the same hotel (or the same hotel chain) each time you travel. If you visit the same place every year, you can become acquainted with the managers and reservations personnel. When you book your room, mention that you’ve previously stayed at the hotel. Places of lodging want your repeat business and may offer you a better rate – or, at the very least, an upgraded room.
5. Bundle It
You can save money when you go on vacation by bundling travel essentials. Through websites like Expedia, you can acquire cheap airfare, a hotel reservation, and a rental car in a package, saving hundreds of dollars.
Furthermore, you can maximize your savings by adding rewards program information to your travel website profile. All of the major travel websites allow you to enter loyalty program membership numbers for hotel chains, rental cars, and frequent flyer programs, so you can earn rewards while you travel.
6. Consider an Alternative to Hotels and Motels
In addition to hotels and motels, most vacation destinations also offer a variety of other lodging options to explore:
- Inexpensive hostels have improved considerably over the years, and many offer conveniences that rival budget hotels. Check out Hostels.com for hostel reviews, amenities, and offerings.
- You can have a memorable experience camping. Most campgrounds have showers, pools, play areas for kids, and other amenities for a fraction of the cost of a hotel.
- If you plan to travel for an extended period of time or are planning a group vacation, consider a furnished vacation home rental. This inexpensive option also helps you save additional money because you can cook your own meals.
- A short road trip may be the ideal opportunity to rent an RV. As long as you don’t have to fill up at the gas pump more than a few times, you can save a lot of money when you stay in an RV.
- For a more adventurous option, house swapping has become increasingly popular. Sites like HomeExchange.com allow you to search locations online and then trade your house with someone else for the duration of your vacation.
7. Join Rewards Programs
A vast majority of hotels, especially hotel chains, have free rewards programs. You can accumulate points by booking hotel rooms or shopping with a hotel’s partner companies. Once you accrue points, you can earn a free hotel stay.
For example, the Choice Hotels chain of hotels includes Sleep Inn, Econo Lodge, Comfort Suites, and several additional hotels. For every $1 you spend at their hotels, you receive 10 Choice Privileges points. Once you accumulate enough points, you can trade them in for free nights at Choice Hotels.
8. Consider a Hotel Credit Card Offer
Check out credit cards affiliated with hotel rewards programs. When you charge purchases to the card, you receive points toward a free hotel stay. You may also receive double points for using the credit card at the affiliated hotel.
Choice Hotels offers a Visa credit card that gives cardholders two free nights at a Choice Hotel after the first purchase. Promotions like these constantly change, but you can always find them online.
Keep in mind, earning points for a free hotel night by racking up credit card debt and accruing interest won’t help your travel budget. If you decide to get a travel rewards credit card, always use your credit card wisely.
9. Find Out What’s Included
Factor the hotel’s amenities into your travel budget. For example, a complimentary breakfast saves the cost of your morning meal and coffee. A pool, game room, and fitness center offer hours of free entertainment. Free shuttle service or the ability to walk to nearby destinations reduces your reliance on taxis and public transportation. Some hotels may offer free snacks, complimentary drinks at the hotel bar, discounts at the hotel’s spa or restaurants, and gasoline gift certificates.
Don’t underestimate these free perks. They can significantly impact your travel budget.
10. Find Out What’s Not Included
Learn more about hidden fees and costs before you book your trip. After waking up in my hotel the morning after drinking too many cocktails at a wedding, the large bottle of water next to my bed looked glorious. I enjoyed the water, but I didn’t appreciate the $10 charged to my credit card.
Also, many hotels charge for parking, which can easily run up to $20 per day in a metropolitan area. Hotels may also charge guests for using the phone, the Internet, and even the in-room safe.
11. Keep an Eye Out for Deals and Coupons
You can save money when you book your hotel on a website like Hotels.com, but getting creative can save you even more money. Before you leave on your trip, do an online search for coupons for your vacation destination to unearth deals and discounts.
Additionally, consider signing up for money-saving sites like Groupon and Living Social, and view the city pages for the areas you plan to visit.
You can also request a free visitor’s guide from the state, city, or region’s official tourism office to save money on your trip. These guides typically include coupons or online promotional codes for attractions, restaurants, and lodging.
If you find yourself on the road but you neglected to search for deals ahead of time, there are still opportunities to find a deal. Visitor centers and other locations frequented by tourists – such as gas stations, restaurants, and stores near major interstates – may also have coupons for area hotels and inns. You can also find coupons at airports, bus or train stations, rental car companies, and tourist attractions.