The best part of vacation is the planning and anticipation, the good part is the actual vacation and the worst part is the post-travel spending calculation. Well, you can enjoy post-vacation as well, if you cut cost on travel and hotel. Enjoy this excellent guest post from Laura.
Summer is the height of travel season. Whether you’re leaving town to visit family or explore a new city, you’re probably super excited for your next vacation. As fun as it is, traveling is also very expensive. Besides gas or airfare, one of your biggest expenses is probably going to be your lodging.
It certainly doesn’t help that every hotel seems to hike their prices during travel season. However, if you plan ahead, you can save quite a bit of money. You don’t even need to make big sacrifices or spend a lot of extra time to find the best deals. You just need to know where to look and what to look for. Here are a few tips to save you money before you book your next hotel room.
1. Book your room early
Already know where you want to stay? Don’t wait too long to book your room. Just like airline tickets, hotel rooms become more expensive when they’re in demand. As you might expect, the later you book, the more expensive they are, and weeknights are cheaper than weekends. If you have to book last-minute, try looking for last-minute deals on travel search sites like Expedia or Hotels.com. You can also find last-minute deals on your smart phone with apps like Hotel Tonight.
2. Stay off the beaten path
Hold on, isn’t the beaten path where all the action is? Yes, but if saving money is your primary prerogative, take our advice. The closer you are to tourist attractions and major cities, the higher the hotel prices will be. Stay farther away for cheaper room rates. Of course, you’re going to have to weigh price against convenience. If the extra transportation costs outweigh the savings on your room, it’s not worth it. However, you may also be able to save money on transportation by taking the bus, the subway, or even a taxi, instead of renting a car.
3. Use your membership card
If you belong to a national organization, you may be eligible for an extra discount and not even know it. For example, your AAA membership is great if you need a tow, but it can also get you an extra discount on many hotels in the United States. Just make sure you show your membership card to folks at the front desk when you check in. Some hotels also give discounts to AARP members and military personnel. If you don’t see a discount listed on a hotel’s website, call them and ask anyway before you book. It never hurts to ask!
4. Buy a daily deal
Daily deal websites like Groupon and Living Social are best known for their discounted gym memberships and oil change services, but they also offer deals on travel packages that usually include a few days at a hotel or resort. This can be a great option if you know where you want to go and have some flexibility with the dates. You may have to travel off the beaten path or stay somewhere in the off-season, but you can also save 50% or more on the list price.
5. Book your room directly
Don’t get us wrong; travel search websites can be a great way to compare prices. If you use a travel search engine aggregator like Kayak, you can actually compare hotel prices from multiple search sites at once. However, even if you find a great price, you’re still going to have to pay a third-party convenience fee if you book through one of these sites. Instead, call the hotel directly once you find the deal you want. They may even be able to quote you a cheaper price. Even if they don’t, you’ll still be able to score the online deal and skip the extra fee.
6. Stay outside the box
Hotels may be the old standby, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in one. If you’re young, or just eager to meet other travelers, consider staying in a hostel. You’ll probably have to share your room and bathroom with strangers, but you’ll spend next to nothing on your stay and meet interesting people from all over the world. If you’ve got more than four people in your travel party, and you’re traveling domestically, it may be economical to rent an RV.
If neither of those options sound like a good fit for you, consider renting a house or apartment at a weekly rate. Often, this can be less expensive than a hotel’s weekly rate, and you’ll get a much better sense of the local community than you might otherwise.
7. Use your credit card
Everyone hears about airline miles, but travel credit cards can save you quite a bit of money on your hotel expenses, too. The Capital One Venture offers 2% back on all your purchases in the form of No Hassle Miles that can be redeemed for any travel-related purchase, lodging included.
With the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent on travel purchases and save an extra 20% on your hotel when you book it through Chase’s website. If you’re fiercely loyal to one hotel chain, you may also want to consider a hotel rewards card. The Starwood Amex offers the best points-per-dollar reward value of any hotel card we know of. Of course, be sure to use your card wisely. No rewards program is a good deal if you have credit card debt.
8. Try a travel agent
In the age of the Internet, an increasing number of people view travel agents as old-fashioned and outdated. There’s also a rumor going around that travel agents are “too expensive”. We’re not sure who started that one! The truth is travel agents are usually free, or at least extremely cheap, since they make most of their money from travel service providers.
They also have a deep knowledge of the travel industry, so they can give you insider tips and advice that travel sites just can’t provide. For this reason, travel agents are also a great resource when you’re planning a complete vacation or organizing a trip for a large group.
We hope you find these tips helpful as you navigate the wide world of hotel deals. On behalf of everyone at NerdWallet, happy travels!
ey on travel.
[email protected] says
I was just recently looking at the Groupon travel deals. Some of them looked awesome! I would be a little hesitant to try it though…not knowing exactly how it works.
I was actually looking at a 5 night trip to Tahiti and it looked so awesome…until I looked up the price of airfare and it would be almost $3000 per person just to fly there. Yikes!
Well Heeled Blog says
Two tips I love: Airbnb.com & Cash & Points option with Starwood Hotels. I just booked 2 nights at a $170/night Sheraton for $45 plus 2,800 points per night. Of course, that means you have to have some SPG points to start with..
Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter says
We are big fans of hostelworld.com. It is a great site for finding cheap hostels and hotels that are really nice. We have always been more than pleased with our accommodations.
Julie @ Freedom 48 says
I’ve always found our vacations to be cheaper the later we book it. If I book a “last minute” vacation (particularly an all inclusive vacation)… they’re often dirt cheap if you book just a few days or a week ahead of time.
It may not work always, once we did the last-minute thing for Alcatraz island cruise from SFO. We ended with no-ticket. If there’s not enough demand you may get deep discounts but, if there is demand you end up getting nothing.
Elizabeth @ Broke Professionals says
I absolutely agree with the advice to book directly. If you call a hotel and mention the deal you saw on another site, they’ll usually give you at least that rate, and usually a better one!
Yes I reaped the benefit a couple of times
Great advice mate. I like to think I am well travelled and I always planned my journeys right down to the penny. Although I did stay in hotels and the odd hostel as that is where I felt most comfortable I saved more money by hanging out with the locals. I didn’t fall prey to all the tourist attractions because I wanted to learn what the locals would teach me. I sure learned alot and maybe one day soon will be out travelling again. Cheers MR.CBB
that’s great to hear that you’re following an ideal path. what with Mr. CBB?
Sally Smith says
I travel often and always look for good deals. I love Kayak, however it doesn’t always show all of the travel sites to compare them. I use my travel discount cards often via military and AARP, but if I use them and book a hotel at hotels-and-discounts.com I always get a great room really cheap. I alternate between my discount cards so I can compare the discounts at all times. One discount may be better than the other, so I think everyone should compare their discount cards as well as discount websites.