Accommodation is probably the biggest expense you will incur when travelling. Therefore, implementing tips and hacks to find the best rates and deals on accommodation can save you big time! When it comes to accommodation every dollar and every single per cent off you receive can add up to a lot of money!
These days we have so many accommodation options and booking tools at our fingertips which offer us all sorts of various prices, but also various ways to get resourceful about saving money on accommodation.
In this post, we are outlining our best tips and hotel hacks so you can get the cheapest accommodation possible without compromising on the standard of accommodation.
1. Sign up for accounts with booking sites
One of the most simple ways to access deals on accommodation is to create an account with hotel booking sites and sign in before you start looking at accommodation. This will give you instant access to member-only deals.
Different sites have different promotions going on all the time with coupon codes, free nights, free breakfast and so on. Our advice is to use one of the main platforms to scope out which hotels you like the most, narrow it down and then to a comparison of all your options across the booking platforms. This way you will have a crystal clear idea of where to go for the best deal!
Here are some of the most popular booking sites to get started:
2. Use comparison search engines
If you can’t be bothered going on each individual booking site to compare prices, you can use price comparison sites to have an idea of where to get the cheapest rate in a flash.
When using these comparison sites always remember to take any credit card fees, taxes and cancellation fees into account which may differ from the price that you get flashed. This will ensure you have the right idea of which option is genuinely the cheapest.
3. Download the mobile apps and price compare them to your desktop browser
All of the major booking platforms also have apps. It is 100% worth downloading all of these apps and saving them to a special folder in your phone. Once you have a shortlist of your favourite hotels saved as wishlists (which you can do on the desktop and as long as you are signed in it will also be visible on the app) and then check the prices on the app versus the desktop.
Many of these apps, particularly booking.com will have special mobile-only prices which can save you a considerable amount. Sometimes the price might be exactly the same but it is always worth checking!
4. See if you can find any discount codes to get additional savings
When booking things online, discount codes can be our best friends! Before confirming your booking, dig around a little to see if you can find any valid discount codes to apply. Even if it is just 5% or 10%, this small discount can save you a lot!
You can simply google ‘discount code for booking.com’ and try your luck with the websites listed at the top of the search engine. You can also install the Honey plug-in on your browser. Honey is a coupon and reward company that will automatically search for a apply any coupons found to your cart. It’s a genius idea and can save a ton of time!
5. Utilise free cancellation to secure a great rate
Booking ahead of time can go a long way in helping you secure the lowest rates! However, quite often we might not be sure of our plans or ready to commit to a hotel so early on. A way around this is to secure a great rate by filtering your search results for places that offer free cancellation.
This way you can book a place, secure a great rate and rest assured that if your plans change you can cancel without being penalised.
6. Book non-refundable rates if your plans are set in stone
Most of the hotel booking sites will offer you the best rates if you book a non-refundable room. Which makes sense right? If your plans are set in stone and you know there’s no way you’re going to hate the accommodation or the location or if you are booking last minute this can be an excellent way to save on accommodation.
If something happens and you can no longer travel for whatever reason, this expense won’t be refunded. However, this is why it pays to always have travel insurance!
7. Collect rewards from chain hotels and from being a member on booking sites
If a particular chain hotel is your thing then you definitely need to make sure you are a member of their rewards programs. You can also receive special rewards, points and rates on all of the major booking sites and search engines by using their platform. These are ideal because you can earn rewards at any hotel, it doesn't matter who it is owned by.
Here are some popular sites that have reward programs:
- Hotels.com Rewards - book for 10 nights and get 1 night free
- Booking.com Genius - unlock new discounts & add-ons by booking through this site. The more you book the more you unlock
- Expedia Rewards - allow you to earn points on flights, hotels, car rentals, packages and more
- Agoda.com PointsMAX - allows you to earn points with their partners' loyalty programs
8. Check booking sites that are region specific to where you are going
Massive search engines like booking.com miss out on smaller and region-specific accommodation options. This means you may not even see a hotel that is the perfect price. A great place to find out about region-specific places to book is on TripAdvisor and inside travel groups on Facebook.
9. Check out private rooms in hostels
If hostels aren’t your thing, you may avoid looking at their options altogether. However, most hostels offer private rooms which are similar to hotel rooms. You don’t have to stay in a dorm bed! Private rooms in hostels are usually significantly cheaper than a hotel and you get all of your privacy. Plus you can use all the money-saving facilities that many hostels offer such as a kitchen, cheap laundry services, happy hour and organised group tours.
10. Sign up for membership discounts
There are several memberships that you can apply to join which will give you access to special discounts. Quite often, you will just need a membership number or a specific discount code to activate the discount. Here are a few to investigate:
- Hostelling International - gives access to discounts at hostels around the world
- ISCI card - for students to receive discounts
11. Check what the price is if you book direct
Once you have done all of the above to determine the best possible price you can get for your favourite hotel online, go ahead and contact the accommodation provider directly. Most places will have a website with an email address and phone number listed on Google Maps.
Many places will be willing to give you a better deal when you book direct because they don’t have to pay big commissions. You can check with them if they have any specials on, scope out ALL of their options if they have long-stay discounts and so on.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate either! Let them know the price you found online and give them a chance to give you a counteroffer. This is a great way to secure the best price while giving direct support to the owner. Just don’t forget to write them a great google review!
12. Visit a travel agent
While many of us are now our own personal travel agents, it can still be worthwhile (and ultra-convenient if you don’t have hours on end to spend searching for deals) to go the old-school route and visit a travel agent. Yes, they earn a commission, but so do all of the other online booking sites you use!
They will have access to different rates for accommodation and flights. Plus they have a ton of knowledge about where the best place to stay is and why. Also if anything goes wrong they are ultimately responsible for your trip which can be a lifesaver! This is a great option if you are going on a reasonably fast whirlwind trip moving to lots of different locations.
13. Snag a mystery deal
There are a couple of sites that offer BIG discounts on regular rates - except there is one catch, the hotel is a mystery until after you have booked!
Websites that offer mystery deals include:
14. Book someone else’s room at a discounted rate on Roomer
Roomer is a platform that allows people who had to cancel their trips to onset their rooms at discounted rates. This is a great way to help someone recover some of their own money while also snagging a great deal.
15. Utilise the accommodation-sharing economy
Thanks to the prolific success of Airbnb, many of us are already familiar with or have used accommodation-sharing services! Thanks to the internet, we have so many creative options for sourcing different types of accommodation.
Renting houses and apartments from others not only helps you embody a destination more authentically but can also save you loads. Often you will find better places to stay with kitchens, laundry, parking and lots more space which can save you a lot of money while also being comfier.
Other services allow you to house sit, house swap, couch surf or volunteer in exchange for a room all for free. These types of websites will usually have an annual membership fee that you will need to pay for the privilege.
Another clever option is to book timeshares that are unused and being rented out by owners for very cheap.
Here are some sites to check out:
16. Stay for longer to get access to weekly or monthly rates
Many accommodation providers will be more than happy to offer a discount if you stay for a week or more. On Airbnb, these discounts are already built in when booking! This can save you a small fortune and gives Airbnb an edge over hotels for those slow travelling or staying in the same place.
Long bookings are cost-effective for owners as there is less changing over and more guaranteed rooms filled. It is also always worth asking accommodation providers directly for long-stay discounts.
Don’t forget to join any Facebook groups which advertise accommodation in the area you are interested in staying. This is where you may find people listing places for a week or longer stays that you wouldn’t find at all on any website.
17. Visit in the Shoulder-Season and outside school holidays
One of the best tips for saving on accommodation is to avoid the peak season if the place you are visiting is highly seasonal. This is particularly true for European summer destinations such as Greece, Spain and Italy. The best time to go is the month at either end of the high season. You will have access to better accommodation rates, more options to stay even if you don’t book super in advance and the weather is usually fantastic.
If you can, always check when the school holidays are on for the countries that bring the most tourism to where you want to go and avoid those dates.