There are plenty of things to consider when finding a place to stow your belongings and close your eyes at night. Price may be the biggest factor for you, but that doesn't mean the less you pay the worse your stay. There are plenty of budget and moderate hotels that offer wonderful service and surroundings if you know where and how to look. It's important to weigh all your options when deciding on where to sleep. Does it have a restaurant? Is it close to fun activities? Is it convenient to public transportation? Does it offer free breakfast? Free Wi-Fi? Is it on a busy street? Do the rooms offer kitchenettes? All these questions are important and if the answer is yes, you could save big. The more inclusive extras you can get on a vacation, the further your money goes.
Track Hotel Rates
Use Yapta to track hotel rates. Find a great deal? Search for the hotel(s) you are interested in and then track those specific ones. Even if you have reservations with them already, keep them on your list and keep waiting for prices to drop. Yapta will alert you to any prices that are lower than what you’ve already booked. If the price goes down, get on the phone with the establishment and see if you can change your reservation to reflect the lower rate.
Get Rewarded for your Loyalty
Sign up for Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards and get free hotel nights. For every 10 nights you book through Hotels.com, you get one free night. You don't need to stay 10 nights in a row, in the same hotel or even in the same year. Your credits just accumulate until you've reached 10 nights and then you are eligible to receive your free night. The price will be based on the average of the price per night you stayed for each of your 10 paid nights. If you wish to stay at a hotel that costs more than that, you will just pay the difference. If you frequent the same hotel or hotel chain, get on their loyalty program and start racking up points with each stay. You can trade these in for free nights and upgrades when you need them.
Avoid the Weekend
Hotel rates are almost always cheaper on Sunday through Thursday nights. Most people travel on the weekend. They know this, just like the airlines, so they make prices for Friday and Saturday stays more expensive. In some cases, they can be twice as much as on weeknights.
Stay in Business-Minded Hotels on the Weekend
Unlike most hotels, those that cater to business travelers don’t get much action on the weekend, so rates drop to encourage visitors to stay. These hotels are also ones to book over holidays, because they can be fairly empty and prices plummet.
Stay in Brand New Hotels
Hotels that have been newly built or totally remodeled often have an introductory period right when they open that offers rock-bottom rates. HotelChatter is a website that not only shows reviews of hotels, but they also list the opening dates of new hotels and update them if they change. The list shows hotels worldwide, so you can search before you book your room.
I know you’re paying to stay at these places to be entertained and well-fed; most of them also offer free activities in the form of non-motorized watersports and even have nightly entertainment. That’s a freebie in my opinion, though you may feel differently. I suggest pricing out what you would expect to spend on your trip if you didn’t go all-inclusive and see if the savings are significant enough to go one way or the other.
Stay in a Vacation Rental
If you have a large family, this may be your perfect solution. Rentals are booked per night, not by guest counts, so whether you have three people or eight people in your travel party you pay the same price. The other plusses to a rental are: having more space to stretch out, having a kitchen to cook your own meals in (or at least store some snacks and leftovers), there aren’t 20 potential neighbors waking you up at all hours and many rentals have a washing machine.
Look for Freebies
Free is always a great price, but if you don’t know how to get it, then it’s not really all that helpful. I love travel freebies and try to maximize them on every trip I take, because that’s less money I have to pay out of my own pocket. The more money I save, the better trip I can take or the more I can put towards a future vacation. There’s also the fact that if you save more, you spend less and suddenly a trip that was a little out of your reach is now within your budget!
Free Breakfast – Free continental or buffet breakfast is a fantastic saver! On the low end, say you usually only have coffee and a bagel in the morning, you can save $5 per person, but on the higher end, if you like to eat out and have someone wait on you in the morning, you could be looking at $12+ per person.
Kids Eat Free – If your hotel has a restaurant and they offer free dining for kids, this is another big savings. Usually, you can get free meals for up to two kids this way if you purchase an adult entrée. Assuming a kid’s meal is an average of $6, that’s up to $18 per day, per child.
Free Wi-Fi – I always like to stay in touch while I’m on vacation, so I tend to bring my iPad and netbook everywhere I travel. This way my husband and I can both check up on what’s been happening while we’ve been gone and also communicate with friends and family. Hotels and resorts sometimes charge for internet service, or you can wait in the lobby and use one of their computers free of charge for a few minutes. Your best bet on this is to find one of the many places that give you free Wi-Fi, because it can save you weekly or daily rates, or those per-minute rates charged by Internet cafés. You also can’t do much business if you’re on a time limit.
Laundry On-Site – While usually not free, it’s still a minimal charge to use the machines there compared to the local Laundromat or worse, the laundry services they offer where you leave your bag of clothing and then come back to fresh clothes and a bill. Generally, the machines off-site can range anywhere from $1.75 - $3.00 per load for both the washer and the dryer. If you do laundry out of the country, it can cost almost $8 just to wash your clothes. Anytime I’ve used the on-site facilities, they range from $.50-1.00 for each machine and most times they were free. It’s easy to throw clothes in while you’re resting from your day out walking.
Free Coffee and Snacks – Many hotels offer free coffee/tea and snacks (like fruit and cookies) in the lobby. There’s no reason to not take advantage of such things that are included in your room rate. Think about all the times you want to snack during the day while you’re sightseeing. If you had a banana or some other snacky thing that you snagged on your way out, you wouldn’t have to shell out any money again until lunch or dinner. The free coffee and/or tea provided, while not fancy, can save you a trip to Starbucks in the morning.
Free Alcoholic Beverages – If drinking is one of your favorite vacation pastimes, there are a few ways to get free drinks on your travels. The most obvious way is to stay at an all-inclusive resort where this is included. I consider it free, because you’re paying for your accommodations, entertainment and food all in one lump sum. Anything beyond that is a plus in my book. Another thing you can do is find a hotel that offers a free cocktail hour. They are kinda few and far between, but if you’re lucky you can find them.
While this certainly isn’t an inclusive list on all the ways you can save your dollars on accommodations, it’s a good start to help you travel within your means. Maybe that extra money you don’t have to spend is just enough to allow you to go to that one place that was just out of your reach budget-wise before. Every little bit helps when you have to pinch your pennies, so get planning and find all the ways you can lower your bottom line. You might be surprised at how all those little discounts can turn into one big one.
How do you stretch your hotel budget?