Travel isn’t cheap, but getting away can be cheaper if you’re more conscientious about the ways you’re wasting money on booking hotel rooms. Accommodations may be the most expensive part of any trip, but there are tons of ways to save money – and prevent yourself from wasting money when choosing a hotel for your next getaway.
We talked to travel experts and veterans to share the best tips for not wasting money the next time you need a bed away from home to sleep in.
Booking through discount sites.
“Travellers often book through the big box sites that allow them to search across multiple hotel chains. That’s a mistake,” said travel blogger Veronica Hanson. “Hotels should always be booked through the hotel website directly. Prices are almost always cheaper when booking through the hotel.” And if it’s not, ask for a price match, which is advantageous to a hotel.
“[Third-party sites] typically charge a commission of 10% to 30% for bookings made through their website, and when all is said and done, that extra cost is something the consumer will be coughing up,” explained Matt Baer, CEO and founder of KeyoCoin. “It may be possible to bag a discount or negotiate extra perks if you skip the intermediary altogether and speak directly to the property itself.”
Forgetting to use a cash back site.
“Most people could be saving between 4% and 12% on the cost of their hotels simply by using a cashback website,” said travel blogger James Cave. “Hotel booking websites like Expedia pay other websites a commission for customers that they send their way.
“Rather than keep the commission, cashback websites like eBates and Topcashback give the cash back to you in the form of Amazon vouchers or good old-fashioned cash. It’s so easy you’ll wish you had been doing this all along.”
Not enrolling in rewards programs.
No matter how frequent or infrequent a traveller you are, you need to sign up for hotel loyalty programs, which are, essentially, free money. And many rewards programs come with perks, like faster WiFi or turndown service.
Signing up is as easy as giving your name, email and perhaps a few other details, and you’ll accrue credit for discounts or free nights. To save time when you’re booking your next hotel, enroll in popular programs like Starwood Preferred Guest, Hilton Honours, Marriott Rewards, and IHG Rewards before your stay.
Not claiming rewards during your stay.
Forgot to book with your loyalty number? Just call the hotel and ask that your loyalty account be added to your reservation.
Not staying loyal to a hotel brand.
Once you are a rewards member to a certain hotel group, try and stay with their properties as much as possible, in order to accrue points and status. Some programs even give loyal guests free money to spend at the hotel or perks like an early check-in or late check-out, which can certainly save you cash when you just need somewhere to spend time.
Ignoring extended-stay perks
Staying longer than a few nights? Some hotels offer a fourth night free after three nights or discounts for week-long rates – be in touch directly with a hotel to see how they can help you if you’ll be staying a while. Some hotels even give birthday or anniversary discounts, so don’t be shy about mentioning special occasions.
Overspending on parking.
A hotel may seem like its a reasonable rate, but when you pull up to the front door, $US65/night for parking may add a ton to your total. Research parking options (is there free street parking or a cheaper garage nearby) and pricing before booking a room.
Paying for facilities you’ll never use.
Sure, that awesome-looking boutique hotel may have amazing reviews, but is that for the rooms or the pool with the best view in town? Beware of booking a property renowned for seasonal perks that may not be available when you visit. On the other end of the spectrum, a hotel may offer steep discounts when their main attraction isn’t usable – so it doesn’t hurt to compare pricing.
Paying resort fees.
It’s common for hotels in vacation towns to charge “resort fees” which cover, well, maybe nothing. Even if your property isn’t billed as a resort, look into additional fees before you book, so you’re not slapped with a surprise daily charge when you check out.
Booking too soon.
“Book your hotel room between a seven-10 day period before your flight,” said Chizoba Anyaoha, Founder of TravSolo. “Hotels tend to reduce their prices around this time due to fear of losing money from potential vacant rooms.”
Apps like HotWire and HotelTonight can also help you find day-of accommodations at a lower price.
Forgetting about alternative options.
Staying in a hotel may be your go-to accommodation when you’re out of town, but short-term home rentals (even for one night) and hostels may be better options, especially if you’re just looking for a place to crash. Both usually have kitchens or kitchenettes, so you can also prepare your own meals, saving more money.