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One of the biggest chunks of your family vacation dollars usually comes from the hotel. Which, when you think about it, does offer the bulk of what you need when you’re on vacation: a warm bed, coffee, a place to park if you drove, a place to stow your stuff, and hopefully a few kitchen amenities so that you can save money on food. But, you still want to save money on hotel costs, am I right?
Whether you’re looking for luxury hotels with all the extra amenities such as dining, activities, concierge, etc, or a budget hotel that’s close to the attractions, these tips will help you save money on a hotel.
Best Hotel Search Site
I’ve done the digging. I’ve polled a bunch of people. I checked the site against other search engines and it seems that Priceline is the best hotel search site for deep discounts.
You may remember Priceline from back in the day when you could “name your own price.” In fact, you can still do that. The idea is you select a price and a rating level, and you get a hotel at that cost. The drawback is that you don’t know the hotel until after you’ve booked. This can be a great way to save money on a hotel.
Priceline realized long ago that some folks may not want to book their hotel blind. They become a search engine just like Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and many others. I have found that they offer comparable prices. Plus, they offer free cancellation for more flexibility.
Best Hotel Search App
Sometimes you may not be able to sit down and do an exhaustive search. In fact, during road trips, I don’t always book ahead. I want to see how far I can get before I need to rest for the night.
For that reason, I will use an app to search the vicinity and find low rates to save on a hotel. Sometimes I use a branded hotel app (more on that below) but I also like to look at the Hotel Tonight app. The idea with Hotel Tonight is to find the lowest rates on hotels near you looking to fill vacancies. As I scroll through the app, I can see different deals and price drops. It is comparing these rates to Hotels.com.
Doing a quick comparison of the two, Hotel Tonight is lower (though Hotels.com is not as high as the other app says it is.) Therefore, if you use Hotels.com to get loyalty stays, stick with that one. Otherwise, if you’re looking for the most money to save on a hotel, go with Hotel Tonight.
Many hotels have a best rate guarantee, so it’s worth looking around but if you find a lower price elsewhere, contact the hotel directly to see if they’ll honor it. Plus, you can always ask directly over the phone if they have a better rate. And finally, if you’re in the same state, ask if they have a resident rate.
Other benefits to booking direct include the simplicity of knowing where you want to stay and booking. It may not always save you the most money, but it will save you time, which is just as valuable.
Hotel reward Programs
Additionally, sign up for loyalty programs to get perks, points, and things like free Wi-Fi. Even if you book through a site such as Priceline, you can still earn your rewards with the hotel. When you check-in, just verify that you’re getting your hotel loyalty points.
Of course, using Hotel rewards programs can save you money in the long run with accumulated free stays.
Make sure you read the Best Hotel Rewards programs to save money on a hotel here.
Sign up for Hotel Emails
If you’re not looking at chain or brand name hotels, and have a specific independent hotel you enjoy, be sure to sign up for their email. this way the hotel sends notifications with special offers and deals, that may not be available anywhere else.
Use the Hotel Credit Card
Using a hotel-branded credit card is another way to save money on a hotel, and earn points bonuses, get discounted rates, etc. Using a credit card, or getting a bonus for signing up with a new credit card, is a personal financial decision. It’s not worth the interest rates if you don’t pay it off immediately. Definitely not a way to save money.
Remember to keep it simple to travel.
If you can book early. these days with travel restrictions changing daily, hotels have flexible cancellation plans. (If they don’t, get travel insurance.) Additionally, you can use sites such as Service to verify if prices drop. It’s a no-hassle service and the cost is 30% of what they save you. So if you save $50 on a hotel, you actually get $35. Either way, I think it’s a win just to get money back.
Another way to save money on hotels is by entering flexible dates. If you can adjust your check-in or check-out days, sometimes you can save hundreds on the hotel nightly rate.
Flexible in your distance from where you want to stay is an option too. Often if you stay outside of the popular tourist attractions, you can save hundreds on your stay.
However, while staying further from the attractions does lead to saving money, your transportation and time may not be worth it. Even if the resort does have free shuttles, it may not be worth the time it takes.
Discounts to Save Money on a Hotel
Always search for discounts. Some of the popular ones are:
- Staying in-state, search for a resident rate.
- Student discounts
- Teacher discounts
- Military discounts
Many hotels have AAA discounts, however, check the price of a AAA membership over what you’ll save and see if it’s worth buying. If you’re only using it once, it may not be worth it. Knowing of course that AAA has other benefits too, the main value is the roadside assistance. As I imagine more folks will take road trips this year, it could be worth it.
If you can get a hotel with free breakfast, the savings of not eating that meal out could outweigh the extra you may pay for one hotel over the other. Make sure you consider hotel breakfasts when booking.
Hotel Concierge to Save Money
Have you ever booked a hotel concierge level? This is not just for luxury travelers.
The concierge is both the person that helps you as well as the level of the hotel. The hotel concierge the person, can help you with savings on attractions, dining out, fitness facilities, and more. They are connected and there to help you.
Staying on a concierge level often has more food than just a hotel breakfast. You can find beverages, including adults, hors d’oeuvres, better views, private lounges, snacks, and sometimes full meals. Take a look at booking a concierge level to see what the perks are and if they can save you money on other things such as food.
Check Groupon or Travelzoo
Have you ever checked Groupon for hotels? What about Travelzoo? Both of these sites often offer special deals that go beyond even what the hotel booking sites have. They are special buys for a certain time period and booked immediately at checkout. It’s worth signing up to see if a special deal comes your way to saving money on a hotel.
Watch out for Resort Fees
Getting a low low price on a hotel may seem like a great deal. However, watch out for resort fees.
It’s a tactic hotels use to get you to book, and then they make up the cost elsewhere by charging a resort fee to use the amenities provided. I’m not a fan of this tactic at all. Make sure you’re looking at all the hidden costs that may rack up your hotel stay.
Note, often these are daily fees. A resort fee of $25 on a 7-night stay adds up to an additional $175. It’s absurd. These fees may also be disguised as destination fees, facility fees, or amenity fees.
Currently, there are organizations advocating against resort fees, including Consumer Reports. Regardless, check the fine print before you book.
You may also like these top Affordable Dream Destinations here.