Continuing our series on money saving tips for travel, we want to turn our attention to hotels, and the best ways to save money on lodging at our favorite destination.
Saving money while traveling can be a daunting prospect, and sometimes it’s a frustrating experience when you come home from your vacation and find out you could have saved more on that hotel room. We’ve been there, and in order to help you avoid having that experience yourself, we’re offering up some money-saving travel advice. These are tips that don’t just apply to getting a hotel room, they can be used in other aspects of travel as well, but for this post, we want to help you save money on lodgings when you take a vacation. Instead of specific tips this time, we’d like to offer some general advice for your next vacation:
How to Save Money on Hotels
Have Room to Move
If you have room to move regarding the dates of your vacation, you can likely find a great price on that really nice hotel. A lot of people clear a specific week or so from their place of employment and then start putting together the vacation they want to take. But consider the idea of booking a hotel for a certain week that matches the best possible price and then clearing that week with your employer. Sometimes we don’t have that luxury, but if you have a flexible boss, it’s a good idea to use flexible dates when looking for a hotel room.
- Keep track of deals and coupons.
Some websites like ‘Groupon’ offer deals at hotels that can get you a really nice room for an affordable rate. Sign up for e-mail notifications when your favorite destination is offering price cuts and book your vacation accordingly.
Not All Bundles Offer Savings
Are you booking that hotel through a website that offers savings on extra activities like tours or amusement park tickets? Many times those bundles don’t come with actual discounts, but instead offer the convenience of getting your activity booked on the same site. It’s always worth the time to go directly to that activity’s website and find out if they offer a lower price for booking with them directly.
Go to the Same Hotel
Do you like to go to the same destination every year? Then it’s likely you already belong to their rewards program, but if not, sign up for it immediately. Many hotel rewards programs will retroactively include previous stays if you booked it under the same name as that shown on your rewards program card. These will pay off in the long run when you go back to that same resort and are able to get one or more nights at no charge thanks to the points you’ve built up.
Consider the Alternatives
Going to Europe and don’t really care about getting a nice hotel room? Search online for the network of hostels that will let you stay for 20/night or less. Take a look at the website of ‘Airbnb’, which is an online network of homes available to stay at for very reasonable rates. Make sure you only stay at properties that have been thoroughly reviewed and have received positive ratings.
Don't Stick to One Hotel Chain
One way we can save money is by not sticking to just one hotel chain. Sure, we all love staying at the Sheraton – or the Best Western – but if we’re looking to save money, then we should consider giving up our brand loyalty. We’re talking about those websites that offer hotel rooms at a significant discount without telling you exactly which hotel you will be staying at until you’ve made your purchase.
Hotwire.com is the most popular website that does this. Priceline.com also offers this service. Not to worry, you will not be stuck in a flophouse while paying money for a three star hotel. Both websites (and the others that offer this service) explain up front what their star rating service means; what amenities you will be getting and whether or not there are extra services like free breakfast. The only mystery is what chain of hotel you will be staying at.
The reason this is done is because hotels – like airlines and rental car agencies – always want to fill up their rooms. Even if you get a significant discount, many hotels, especially the popular resort destination types, are counting on the likelihood that you will spend your money in their restaurant, or take advantage of their other charge services, like the spa, or even the gift shop if they have one.
So let’s say you’ve never used one of these websites and the idea might be a little intimidating. That’s perfectly understandable. Always read as much as you can, not only on the website, but about it. Do some research online as to whether it’s a reputable service. The ones we mentioned above have solid reputations, and offer good hotels for the prices you pay.
But let’s run through a quick scenario; this is something you can actually do for practice without having to make a purchase. Go to Priceline.com and choose ‘hotel only’ to start. Once you’ve done this, enter some hypothetical dates as though you are going on a real vacation (don’t forget to enter your favorite destination city, such as Las Vegas or something similar). Note that when you’ve done this, a list of different types of hotels in different areas will pop up. Some of the hotels will be near the airport; others will be downtown, etc. Once you choose a specific area where you want to stay, you’ll then notice listings for different types of hotels within that area. For instance, the first entry might say something like “3 star hotel in downtown area for $59/night”. Try it for fun. The best part is you don’t have to make a purchase until after you’ve made a selection.
If you’re looking for something for your vacation, run through the process two or three times so you’re comfortable with it. Once you’ve made your purchase, you will get a confirmation page that tells you which specific hotel you’ll be staying in, and all their information (such as their phone number in case you want to confirm your reservation).
Save on Extended Stays
For most of us, extended vacations are a rare opportunity to get away from it all and either get some real “down” time (time to relax and take it easy), or the opportunity to explore a part of the world you’ve always wanted to visit. With these two facets of travel in mind, let’s take a look at how you can save some money.
First, we’ll start with the extended “down time” vacation. If you are determined to spend more than a week at your favorite destination, the first thing we’d recommend is finding out whether there is an “all inclusive” resort where you want to go. These types of resorts include your hotel stay, all your meals, and a lot of activities that might otherwise cost extra, such as parasailing. Most of these types of resorts are located in tropical destinations, but there are certainly exceptions such as ‘Dude Ranches’ and ‘The Catskills’. The main point in saving money here is that all your necessities (food, shelter, transportation and activities) are taken care of with one fee. Of course, if you wish to visit a dude ranch for that authentic western experience, all-inclusive will likely be your only option, but for the tropical locations, take a look at the hotels in the area that are not all-inclusive resorts and start pricing things like rental car, food, and activities and see if the final tally is not actually higher than the all-inclusive price (for food, just look up restaurants in the area and average their menu prices). Nine times out of ten, the all-inclusive price will save you money, and give you an excellent, relaxing vacation.
You Can Save on Explorer Vacations Too
OK, let’s take a look at the extended ‘explorer’ type vacation. This is when you want to get out and see all the interesting points of a region while saving as much money as possible.
Example: You’re finally going to get out and see all those amazing national parks in the western United States; Yosemite, Yellowstone, Natural Bridges, Zion, Cascades, Glacier, etc. You’ve given yourself two weeks to get to as many of the parks as possible before you return home. You can book a bunch of plane trips, hotels and rental cars, then spend at least a third of your time traveling, packing, unpacking, etc. In addition, you’ll incur some serious costs just to accomplish the logistics of it all. The alternative: rent an RV. Most RV rentals cost about a hundred dollars a night, though the price does go down the longer you rent the vehicle. The advantage of this is the fact that you never have to pack/unpack until the end of your journey. In addition, you’ll likely bring your own food for most of your meals, and this will save you a bundle. Most RV rentals don’t require a special license, and are easy to navigate after a short training session from the rental facility. Do an online search for ‘RV Rental’ and check around for the best prices.
CASH 1 always enjoys saving money, and likes to help you save money for a trip whenever possible. If you took that long vacation and had an emergency expense, come see us and find out if title loans in Las Vegas or hassle free payday loans are right for you.