Accommodation costs can be a major obstacle to travel, but there are countless unconventional ways to cut your hotel expenses. In the last few years, as travel regained momentum and inflation surged, hotel prices skyrocketed. But with these savvy tips, you can secure comfortable accommodations without breaking the bank.
Tips to Save Money on Hotels
Discover 17 secret money-saving hotel hacks to elevate your travel experience while keeping costs in check.
1. Enlist in a Hotel Points Program
Unlocking the potential of hotel loyalty programs. Join programs like Marriott Bonvoy, World of Hyatt and Hilton Honors – joining these programs takes just minutes. Then strategically redeem accumulated points for free nights, making sure to maximize their value.
2. Harness the Power of Hotel Credit Cards
Don’t frequent a specific hotel chain often enough to accumulate points? No worries. Hotel co-branded credit cards, offering generous sign-up bonuses and accelerated points accrual when used for affiliated charges. Enjoy additional perks like free night certificates, elite status, or credits, making these cards valuable for avid travelers. Assess annual fees against benefits to make an informed decision.
3. Embrace Hotel Cash Back
Extend your cash back strategy to hotel bookings. Apps like Dosh and platforms like Rakuten offer substantial cash back, sometimes exceeding 30%, depending on where you book. Dosh, in particular, stands out with competitive hotel prices and added cash back rewards. Explore alternatives like Top Cashback, Ibotta, RetailMeNot, and Mr. Rebates to find the best cash back rates for your preferred hotel or travel agency.
4. Seek Out Social Media & Website Direct Deals
Amidst the plethora of booking options, consider bypassing popular online engines and book directly with hotels. Many properties reward direct bookings with exclusive deals and coupon codes, often promoted on their social media channels. Independent hotels, reliant on online travel agencies for visibility, appreciate direct bookings that circumvent middleman fees. Monitor social media feeds for enticing deals directly from your chosen hotel.
5. Uncover the Power of BRG!
Many hotel chains provide a Best Rate Guarantee (BRG), a savvy tool to reduce your hotel expenses. If you discover a lower rate for the same hotel elsewhere after booking directly on the hotel’s site, not only can you secure the room at a reduced rate, but you may also receive additional savings for your efforts. Though BRG programs have become more stringent, diligent research and a keen eye on the fine print can often unlock substantial savings.
6. AAA – Not Just for Your Parents!
Contrary to popular belief, AAA (American Automobile Association) membership remains valuable. Beyond roadside assistance, a AAA membership often grants access to substantial travel savings. Many hotels still offer AAA rates, ranging from 5-15% savings, which can be stacked with cashback rewards through portals. Always compare rates with and without AAA discounts, as occasionally other promotions may match or beat the AAA rate. The beauty of AAA rates lies in the ability to earn loyalty points, maintain status perks, and receive direct booking benefits with chain properties.
7. Master the Art of Negotiation!
Don’t settle for the price displayed on your screen; hotel stays are negotiable! Surprisingly, haggling on hotel prices is a viable strategy, particularly for extended stays or during off-peak seasons. Hotels may offer additional incentives to secure your business, so don’t hesitate to call and inquire.
8. Embrace Vacation Rentals Over Hotels
Venture beyond traditional hotels and explore vacation rental options on platforms like Airbnb and VRBO. Especially advantageous for families requiring more space, extra beds, or amenities like a kitchen, vacation rentals often provide better value.
9. Embrace Spontaneity!
For the flexible traveler, spontaneity can lead to the best hotel prices. Apps like Hotel Tonight and last-minute deal sites heavily discount available hotel inventory, offering fantastic deals. Ideal for staycations and providing the freedom to choose specific hotels, these apps cater to the more impulsive traveler.
10. Seize Pre-Paid Discounts
Consider pre-paying for your hotel stay in exchange for substantial discounts. With a non-refundable rate, you can often save between 10-25% off the regular rate. While this strategy requires set travel plans and a willingness to risk potential cancellation fees, the savings can be significant. Scrutinize the fine print to identify optimal cancellation windows for maximizing your savings.
11. Attain Hotel Status for Savings!
Unlocking hotel status is a strategic approach to cutting costs. Frequent stays with a specific hotel chain or brand lead to loyalty rewards such as free breakfast vouchers, premium WiFi, complimentary parking, bonus loyalty points, and room upgrades. Leverage your spouse’s work-related travels to accumulate status benefits for family leisure trips. Co-branded hotel credit cards also offer a pathway to “buy your way” into status, with benefits often exceeding the card’s cost for frequent stays at a particular chain.
12. Unlock Savings with Concierge Level Bookings
Counterintuitive as it may seem, booking a pricier concierge level room can lead to substantial savings. The key lies in the perks that come with these upgraded rooms, particularly in terms of food and drink. Families, especially those with hungry teens, might find the increased cost justifiable when considering the potential savings on meals and beverages. However, this hack may be less effective for solo or couple travelers, and it’s crucial to assess whether the added expenses align with your overall budget and travel preferences.
13. Score Big with Free Breakfast
Another strategic move to cut down on travel expenses is to always opt for hotels offering complimentary breakfast. This becomes especially valuable for family travelers catering to multiple mouths. Certain hotel brands, like Marriott’s Fairfield Inns, typically provide free breakfast, offering a clear advantage over alternatives like Courtyards that may have similar pricing. Choosing a breakfast-inclusive option can translate to significant daily savings, adding extra value to your stay.
14. Navigate Timeshare Presentations for Deals
While timeshares might not be everyone’s cup of tea, attending their presentations can lead to valuable incentives and discounts. Many hotel loyalty program members receive regular offers from brands like Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt to attend these presentations. Alternatively, if you find yourself at a resort offering such presentations, spending a brief time listening could result in gift cards and other on-site perks. Remember to stand firm, limit the time spent, and resist the temptation to make a purchase to ensure actual savings.
15. Opt for DVC Point Rentals at Disney
Exclusive to Disney hotels, the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) offers condo-style accommodations at various Disney locations. You don’t have to be a DVC member to benefit; consider renting DVC points from friends or reputable services like David’s Vacation Club Rentals. This allows you to secure rooms at a substantial discount compared to the standard rates. Keep in mind that these bookings may be less flexible than direct hotel bookings, so weigh the savings against your flexibility needs.
16. Reject Extra Fees
Hotels often tack on additional fees for parking, WiFi, and resort amenities. Avoid these sneaky charges by saying no to hotels that impose extra fees or, at the very least, include them in your price comparisons when exploring hotel options. These seemingly small fees can accumulate significantly, so being vigilant during the booking process can save you a considerable amount and prevent unwelcome surprises.
17. Leverage Opaque Booking Sites
Opaque booking sites like Priceline and Hotwire remain reliable tools for securing hotel deals. By using these platforms, you can save up to 50% on hotel bookings. While these sites don’t disclose the exact hotel until after booking, you can filter options by neighborhood and star category. Express Deals on Priceline and Hot Rate prices on Hotwire offer considerable savings, and there’s also Pricebreakers on Priceline, providing a middle ground with three named hotel options at a given price. Keep in mind that these options are best for flexible travelers who don’t have strict location preferences or bed-type requirements.