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I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a good deal, especially when it comes to travel! In this article I am sharing my best tips how to find cheap accommodation. From hotel rewards programs to the best hotel booking websites – here is everything you need to know if you want to save money on hotels, hostels and Airbnb’s.One of the questions I get asked the most is how I always find such great deals on accommodation. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years of travel, so here are my top tips on how to find great hotel deals online:
1 Use Hotel Booking Websites to Find Cheap Accommodation
It is rare to find a hotel room that is offered cheaper on the hotel’s website than on a hotel search engine such as Hotels.com. I always double check before I book, but 95% of the time I find that the price offered on the various hotel booking websites beats the offer on the hotel’s website. Have a look around several websites, prices vary and sometimes one of these sites may have a sale for a specific hotel that the others don’t have.
2 Sign Up For Email Alerts
I’ve signed up for the email newsletter of pretty much every booking website so that I know about their sales. Thanks to the newsletters, I always know which site has a general sale or a sale for a specific location, and they often send exclusive voucher codes for 20% off. Several sites also offer ‘secret prices’ for their email subscribers.
3 Make Sure You Know The Total Cost
Be careful though: Not all booking websites show the total price including taxes and possible fees, and depending on how much they are, they can add a substantial amount to the total price. Be careful to check the total amount for a room before hitting the ‘Book’ button. Check out this ‘deal’ for example:
$70 for a night at the popular Paris resort in Vegas sounds like an amazing deal initially, but once you click the ‘Book Now’ button, you see all the extra charges added, making this less of a deal:
Add to that breakfast ($21.99) and parking ($10 per day), and this ‘bargain’ turns into a rather pricey weekend.
4 Use Reward Points to get FREE accommodation
I hope you’re all using at least one credit card that offers reward points which can be cashed in for flights or hotels. If not: no worries, it’s not too late! Head over to my post on How To Start Travel Hacking and join the travel hacking game.
Some hotels have their own hotel credit cards – if you travel a lot and have a preferred hotel chain, it is well worth signing up for one of them. The Points Guy has a great article outlining the 7 Best Hotel Credit Cards.
When you decide to cash in points for a room, you can stay in some amazing hotels for free – just make sure that it’s worth it and double check the going rates for the room via Google. Speaking of which:
5 Use Google To Find Out Hotel Rates
This is particularly useful when you’re trying to find cheap accommodation but you’re already set on a hotel. I love the small 25hours hotel chain in Europe for example, and the U hotels in Bangkok, so whenever I already know which hotel I want to stay at in a certain destination, I consult Google to find out which booking website offers the best deal for the hotel of my choice.
6 Use A Booking Engine That Offers Rewards
Speaking of collecting rewards – if you can’t do travel hacking (if you’re based outside the US, for example), you can still collect rewards for booking with the same website every time you book a hotel. Hotels.com is once again a winner here, offering a free stay after every ten bookings made through the website!
7 Join A Hotel Rewards Program
Another option to collect reward points is to join a hotel loyalty program. Most of these loyalty programs don’t only offer the option to collect points which can be used for free stays, but also offer freebies during a stay, like free wifi or a free upgrade to a better room category. According to this article, Wyndham, Choice Hotels and Marriott have the best reward programs.
8 Bid For A Room Or Book A Mystery Room
If you enjoy gambling (and winning!), bidding for a room can be a fun game to play. Some hotel booking websites give you the option to bid for a room. There’s even a website that helps you put in the best bids and shows you what rooms in the category (how many stars) and in the neighborhood you bid for have gone for in the past. A friend of mine does this regularly and scored a room in a mid-level hotel in Midtown Manhattan for only $60 a night – that’s an incredible bargain! If you’re willing to put in some time to research the best ways to go about bidding for rooms, this is a great way to find cheap accommodation. Read this article to get started bidding on hotel rooms.
The other option for adventurous travelers to save money on accommodation is to book a ‘mystery room’. With this option, you’ll only know what neighborhood the room is in and what amenities the hotel has, but you won’t find out where you’re staying until after the booking is confirmed. I once ended up in The Kimpton in Washington DC when I booked a mystery room and it is to this day one of my favorite hotels ever – and I paid only $65 for it!
9 Book A Flight & Hotel Package
If you have to fly to your destination, it’s well worth checking out hotel & flight packages. Sometimes they work out a lot cheaper than booking your flights and hotel separately. When I flew from London to Las Vegas a few years ago, the hotel & flight package I found was so much cheaper that I ended up booking that and not using my return flight to London but continuing my travels through the U.S. from there – that’s right, a return flight from the UK to Vegas plus the hotel cost me less than a one-way flight to Vegas and a hotel booked separately!
I’ve booked flight & hotel packages several times, and they are especially a bargain for city breaks, for example in New York or New Orleans, or European city breaks in Barcelona or Rome.
Just make sure to check on the map where the hotel included in the deal is located and look up some reviews – the most incredible bargains often include cheapie hotels outside of the city center, and those aren’t worth the extra saving for me personally. As for review scores, I never book a hotel that has less than 4 out of 5 or 8 out of 10 review points.
10 Stay In A Hostel
You may think of hostels as dingy and dirty budget accommodation, but trust me: Hostels have changed a lot in the past few years! ‘Luxury hostels’ are the latest trend, and no worries: you don’t have to stay in a dorm room – hostels usually have private rooms these days.
My room in a hostel I stayed at in Brighton a couple of years ago was so fancy that I couldn’t believe I was actually staying in a hostel and not a boutique hotel. In pricy cities like Hong Kong, Sydney or New York, it is especially worth including hostel booking websites in your search and comparing the prices to the room rates of hotels. You can filter your search to show only private rooms.
What I also appreciate about hostels is that they often have nicer communal areas which makes it easy to connect with other travelers, and usually there is a kitchen, which is great to prepare a packed lunch or cook dinner. To give you an idea what these fancier hostels look like, check out these three articles:
- 10 Of The Best Luxury Hostels In Europe by The Guardian
- 10 Upscale Hostels That Are Nicer Than Most Hotels by Thrillist
- 8 Luxury Hostels (Yes, Luxury Hostels!) by Conde Nast Traveler