When traveling, one of the most significant chunks of your budget is hotels.
While you can save money on other things like food, coffee, or attractions, hotels aren’t optional because you need a roof over your head on your travels. But how to get cheap hotels?
You’ll soon find that there are several factors that influence the hotel price, just like airplane tickets, as I mentioned in my complete guide to book cheap flights. But that shouldn’t stop you as there are many hacks that you should know for how to book cheap hotels.
In this guide, we’ll look at the best day to book a hotel, how to find cheap hotels, the most affordable hotel website, and much more you should know!
With all the resources available and platforms online, it’s very easy to find good deals at any time during the year, so let’s get started.
QUICK ANSWERS: HOW TO GET CHEAP HOTELS
IS IT CHEAPER TO BOOK HOTELS DIRECT OR ONLINE?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions when searching for how to get cheap hotels.
With so many websites offering loyalty programs and Best Price Guarantee, the short answer would be that the cheapest rates are online.
Theoretically, hotels have to adjust their rates and provide the lowest price on the online platforms and can’t offer a cheaper rate on their own website.
That being said, you can always try your luck and call or email the hotel to negotiate a better price since they wouldn’t pay the website’s commission if you book direct.
To give you an example, if you see a night-stay at the Bellagio in Las Vegas for $300 a night on Booking .com or other platforms, you can call them and see if they’d be willing to offer a discount.
If they refuse, they usually give an alternative like a free upgrade, a voucher for breakfast, or something along these lines.
So there you have it, the cheapest option is to book online, but you may get a good deal negotiating with the hotel but note that it’s not guaranteed.
In addition, it’s worth noting that, when booking on a platform such as Booking.com, their customer service is great.
For instance, suppose that you get to the hotel and don’t have any room for you, these online booking platforms will help you out and find you an alternative property.
But, if you book directly with the hotel, everything is between you and them, and no one will be there to help if needed.
HOW TO GET A FREE ROOM UPGRADE?
Other than the best way to book hotels, you’ll also want to know how you can get a better room for free.
Of course, being kind to the receptionist and asking for an upgrade certainly works, but there are several other ways – let me guide you through the most common ones.
First and foremost, your chances of getting a free room upgrade significantly increase when booking off-season. Understandably, when hotels are full, they can’t give you an upgrade.
But, when traveling off-season, hotels usually have plenty of rooms available, and this is when they’re more likely to provide you with a free upgrade.
Secondly, you can sign up for a credit card offering hotel upgrades. For instance, the Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase’s Sapphire Reserve® are some of the best (yet pricey but worth it) credit cards to get free room upgrades with.
Apart from that, you can mention to the hotel that you’re traveling for a special occasion like an anniversary or a honeymoon and you’ll have more chances to get a better room.
Last but not least, if you’re an influencer on social media, such as myself on Instagram, you can contact the hotel and ask for a partnership.
You don’t need thousands of followers for it to work, just send them an email and offer to promote them on your social media in exchange for a free night.
It’s a win-win situation, they’ll be able to reach thousands of people, and you’ll get to stay for free.
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WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO BOOK HOTELS LAST MINUTE?
84% of millennials have booked a last-minute hotel room in their life and that’s an impressive figure.
Well, the best way to book hotels last minute is to check online. In fact, when hotels aren’t fully booked and check-in times are coming to a close, they usually decrease their prices, allowing you to save some cash.
However, don’t expect to save dozens of dollars on the standard rate as the average price decrease is only 13% when booking last minute compared with rates when booking months ahead of time.
According to Forbes, you should wait at least until 4.00 pm to book your hotel and you’ll get a better deal.
HOW LONG IN ADVANCE SHOULD YOU BOOK YOUR HOTEL?
We just discussed how to get cheap hotels last minute, so let’s now focus on how long you should book your room.
You see, for specific destinations such as La Digue Island in Seychelles, it’s essential to book ahead of time.
Some remote destinations sell out quickly, and booking last minute is just not an option. In these cases, you’ll have to book a minimum of 5 weeks ahead of time – especially when the high season is coming.
Apart from that, if you’re traveling to go to an exhibition, you should find a hotel for the event as soon as possible as these tend to sell out quickly.
HOW TO GET CHEAP HOTELS EVERYWHERE YOU GO
We’ve all been there, wondering what the best day to book a hotel is and the best way to book hotels.
There are several things to keep in mind from the time of booking to the season and more.
Let’s dive into everything you need to know to find cheap hotel rooms.
SIGN UP FOR HOTEL LOYALTY PROGRAMS
We previously mentioned the advantage of having particular credit cards to enjoy free room upgrades.
But, if you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars risking not using these benefits, signing up for a hotel’s loyalty program is the way to go.
These loyalty programs are great and allow you to enjoy a free welcome drink, get an early check-in or check-out, a complimentary breakfast, and more.
For instance, if we take Accor’s loyalty program, they offer cards ranging from the Classic to the Diamond one (the best).
When looking at how to book cheap hotels, Accor’s Classic will offer you the member’s rates instead of the public ones. Not a massive deal but you’ll save a few bucks, which is better than nothing.
The Gold Card will allow you to get a complimentary early check-in or late check-out and even a free upgrade, depending on the hotel’s availability.
Also, the Platinum card will guarantee you a room up to 2 days before arrival and give you access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge if they have one. You’ll also be upgraded to a suite for one night, and that’s pretty sweet.
Lastly, you’ll have a complimentary breakfast, get a €100 dining voucher, and all the benefits of other cards with the Diamond Card.
While it’s very nice to have, you’ll have to spend a minimum of €10,400 (over $11,500) annually to get it.
Apart from Accor, other chains also offer loyalty programs – according to U.S Travel News, the best of them include:
- Hilton Honors program
- Radisson Rewards program
- Wyndham Rewards program
- World of Hyatt Loyalty program
- IHG Hotels & Resorts’ Reward program
Of course, there are more than that and you’d want to check the best one for you depending on your preferred chain.
BOOK AHEAD OF TIME WITH FREE CANCELATION
Booking ahead of time is key for certain travel destinations, but you already know that. What you may not know is to book with free cancelation. While rates are usually higher than non-refundable reservations, it will give you some time to check better rates with time passing by.
For instance, if you book a hotel with free cancelation and the arrival date is in 3 months, you’ll have plenty of time to find better deals. If not, you’d still have your booking ready for your holidays.
Needless to say, you must check the cancelation policy thoroughly to avoid penalty fees when the time comes and if you want to eventually cancel.
A personal recommendation I have is to request a change in policy from “free cancelation” to “non-refundable” if you see no better deals come after booking.
Not all hotels or online platforms will accept, but you’ll save some extra bucks if they do.
BOOK LONGER STAYS
Booking longer stays is your right answer on how to find cheap hotels if you have more time available.
Hotels have internal policies and conditions that offer guests better deals when staying longer.
For instance, the regular rate could be $80 per night but, when staying for a week, that rate could quickly decrease to $70 per night and even less, depending on the hotel and season.
In addition, upon check-out on Airbnb, you can see the discount given to you, and it sometimes goes up to 40% – worth trying, right?
Note that these discounts aren’t always shown on platforms like Booking.com.
COMPARE PRICES OF HOTELS AND BUNDLES
Comparing prices between accommodations is the basis of how to get cheap hotels, and we know that already. But to save even more money, you’ll want to check the bundles.
These vacation packages offer pretty much everything you may need on holiday – flight, hotel, food, and more.
And while you think you’re spending more, these deals are sometimes very much worth it.
On the flip side, while it adds a layer of convenience, you won’t be going to local restaurants and that isn’t as authentic as booking everything separately.
If you don’t care about this part, compare the bundles on websites like Momondo or Expedia.
NEGOTIATE THE RATE
If you’re particularly good at negotiating prices, then this is the best way to book hotels for you.
The first part is comparing prices online and with the hotels direct. You have some ground to negotiate if you see the same (or even cheaper) price online than the hotel’s website.
You could also play with the fact that hotels pay a commission to the online platforms instead of booking direct.
Apart from that, if you book in the low season, chances are the hotel won’t be fully booked. Properties often prefer to decrease their price rather than not receiving any bookings at all, so take that as an advantage.
Moreover, on Airbnb, you can contact the owners before booking, and that is great to try and get a better deal than what’s published.
Naturally, if you book during the high season, getting a better deal will be pretty difficult.
CHECK THE DIFFERENT NEIGHBORHOODS
We’ve all been there, doing some research before traveling to know the best and safest neighborhoods to stay at. But when getting a hotel in the best area, prices also go up.
For this reason, check around and find a place that’s not too far from the tourist attractions yet still safe and pleasant.
This way, you’ll get to save some money while not sacrificing anything during your vacation, and this is how to book cheap hotels exploring the city you’re traveling to even more.
BOOK DURING WEEKDAYS INSTEAD OF WEEKENDS
Weekdays and weekends are pretty much like low-season and high-season.
During the weekend, more people travel, and hotel rooms get booked more. But on the weekdays, there are usually more rooms available and, therefore, prices are slightly lower.
Don’t expect to save a lot, but you should still be able to get a nice slight discount – generally between $10 and $30 per night.
BEST WEBSITES TO BOOK A CHEAP HOTEL
Finding the cheapest hotel website isn’t that easy with endless online booking platforms.
Let’s be honest, yes, you can compare a few, but you can’t spend your entire day checking all of them just to save a few bucks.
So because I want you to save both time and money, these are your answers on how to book cheap hotels.
THE HOTEL’S OWN WEBSITE
Wondering how to get cheap hotels? Well, checking the hotel’s own website is a good start.
As mentioned previously, online booking platforms usually help get better deals.
That being, hotels pay a commission to these websites and, if you book directly with the property, you may get a better price or a gesture like complimentary breakfast or a free room upgrade.
To give you an idea, hotels pay on average 15% to each website when hosting a guest. If you book a week in a hotel and pay $1,000, 15% would be $150.
Suppose that you book directly with them for the same week – you could ask for a $100 discount, and they’d still save money compared to booking online.
This is by far the best way to book hotels, in my opinion.
However, it’s worth noting that, when booking direct, you’ll have no customer service if something was to happen.
When booking online, you may not get that discount but you’ll always receive some support if needed.
Booking.com is arguably the most famous hotel booking website worldwide and we can easily understand why.
The interface is straightforward to use, they have great deals and typically several cancelation policies available.
Also, after booking a few hotels, you’ll be awarded the Genius status, which will get you another 15 to 25% discount.
On occasion, in some cities around the world, Booking .com also offers free entrance to the attractions.
All things considered, if you want to know how to book cheap hotels, Booking .com is usually the correct answer.
But there’s more, keep reading.
Kayak is another one of the pioneers in terms of online hotel bookings.
To start with, what makes Kayak stand out from its competitors is its price alert, and you’ll get an email once a specific hotel offers better rates.
While Booking .com has a similar feature, what I love about Kayak is its interactive map. This lets you browse between neighborhoods and find the right hotel based on the filters.
Apart from that, and fair play to Kayak, they also display the rates of their competitors when booking and that’s a great way for you to see all the rates across the most popular websites.
That being said, they don’t always show the hotel’s own website’s rates, and you could potentially miss a good deal.
Besides knowing how to find cheap hotels, you’ll want to compare bundles and flights, which is exactly where Expedia excels.
As an OTA, Expedia is unique since they offer a special rewards program to collect points and use them to book flights, hotels, and bundles online.
The Expedia Rewards program is free to join, perfect for hotels. For each hotel stay you complete, you’ll receive 2 points for each dollar spent.
On top of that, you’ll also see the Member price, which can save you a few bucks here and there.
Like other platforms, Expedia has a Hotel Price Guarantee program, and you can submit a claim 24 hours before arrival, which is one of the best features on the platform.
Next on our list is Booking .com’s parent company, Priceline. While it’s not as popular as the most used reservation platform in the world, it’s worth checking out.
One thing that you’ll immediately love about Priceline is the Express Deals, and it’s what makes Priceline the cheapest hotel website compared to many others.
While the conditions of these deals are very strict (non-refundable, non-transferable, and pre-paid), you can find incredible bargains.
Furthermore, just like Booking, they have a Best Price Guarantee program and you’ll get a refund of the price difference if you see a better price anywhere else within 24 hours after booking.
Also, if you were to find a better price than their Express Deals, you’ll be refunded 200% of the difference in price.
In plain words, while Priceline has the best way to book hotels with their Express Deals, they also give you the chance to make money out of it if you find better prices!
A list of websites on how to get cheap hotels wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Hotels.com.
While they didn’t offer car rentals and vacation packages in the past, they now do and even topped everything up with their rewards program.
It’s slightly different than other platforms, and it can be beneficial, depending on the type of traveler you are.
For every 10 nights booked and stayed, you’ll get a free night at a hotel. When you join the program, you’ll also see their Secret Prices on the selected properties on the website.
Unlike all other competitors, Hotels .com offers the highest-spending customers the Rewards Gold status. As a gold member, you’ll get free room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, and even free car upgrades.
Of course, Hotels .com also has a Best Price Guarantee program to give customers a refund when they find a better price elsewhere.
Airbnb has a different concept from other platforms as it focuses mainly on rooms and apartments.
Sure, hotels are still bookable but they make up only a tiny percentage of the website.
Usually, rates on Airbnb are cheaper than other sites like Booking or Kayak, but you won’t typically have the amenities of a hotel such as a reception, breakfast, or a sitting lounge.
Airbnb is great at listing properties, and it’s one of the biggest platforms for rooms in a house and apartments, and you can even stay long term.
However, you should note that service fees and cleaning fees will automatically be added to the final price – still, you’ll find Airbnb to be cheaper than other websites.
On the other hand, a part of Airbnb that I don’t appreciate is that some owners with multiple apartments publish the same photo for all of them.
Of course, these apartments are different, and you may not get what you booked.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about how to find cheap hotels and if you have any questions at all, please leave a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.
For a quicker response, be sure to join Jonny Melon’s Travel Tribe on Facebook and post your questions or recommendations to our awesome community.
TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR NEXT TRIP
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or it’s your first trip overseas, here are some useful travel resources to help you kick-start your next adventure!
Search and book accommodation worldwide.
Compare and book cheap flights to anywhere.
Find tickets, tours, and experiences around the world.
Book buses, trains, and transfers online in advance.
Search all rental cars in your next destination.
Need travel insurance for your next trip?
THANKS FOR READING
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