After a busy week and being away on a little family road trip for a few days, I missed last week’s post. And let’s face it, not everyone knows someone somewhere, who can put you up in their home for a few free nights. And hotels can be quite expensive. So, in the spirit of my travels, and because it’s still fresh in my mind, here’s a handful of ways to save you on your hotel stays.
From your own room service
Always shop and book online. There are a lot of reputable sites that make it easy and convenient to book your hotel online, such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, or travelocity.ca to name a few. And you want to book online because you want a record of what you booked and not leave that in the hands of some person on the phone. Take it from me, who years ago on our wedding night, was told when I got there, that the room I booked was no longer available. The front desk seeing us all decked out in wedding gown and tux, did do their best to find us a great room. But as it turned out, the man I originally called at the Marriott, mistakenly had us booked for the Thursday night – the day we booked, instead of Saturday night – our actual wedding night. Of course, I didn’t find all this out until I received my credit card bill, only to find I was charged for two nights. And when I called the hotel, the hotel manager insisted I had to pay for the two nights, because as she put it “the front desk never makes a mistake”. I think I know when my wedding day is! We eventually got the second charge dropped, but it took a few weeks of going back and forth.
Use a hotel search aggregator. What the heck is an aggregator anyways? If you know the hotel you’re looking for, these sites search multiple hotel sites to find you the lowest prices. My favourite travel site is still tripadvisor.ca, which is probably the largest hotel review site of its kind, complete with pictures and detailed user rankings. I’ve never gone wrong with a hotel booking, after reading these reviews. Although your bookings are not through trip advisor, the site has added a hotel search aggregator, so when you find the hotel you want, just click on it, enter your Check-in and Check-out date and click on Show Prices and the price comparison tool will do the rest. Even major travel sites like travelocity.ca have begun using site aggregators of their own. Just make sure you’re booking at reputable sites and keep in mind, many times, these prices don’t include taxes and are based on the standard: 2 guests, 1 room.
Making hotel costs more comfortable
Flexibility is everything. If you can book mid-week, you’ll find hotel prices quite a bit cheaper. In addition, some weeks are more expensive to travel than others, so if you’re flexible, compare the current week, with the following week and week prior, to see which can save you the most. Also, keep in mind, rooms are also cheaper per night the longer you stay. Are you stuck on location? Sometimes a hotel just a short walk outside the area can be had for a lot lot less.
Always look at the total cost. Before booking anything, compare all taxes, fees and all the extras. Some hotels may charge a different set of fees and especially if you plan on driving there, parking rates can differ quite a bit and should always be taken into account. Also if certain amenities are important to you, you might consider what it would cost to pay to get that amenity somewhere else. And always make sure the final costs are in your own currency. I’ve made that mistake once, but luckily called and was reimbursed the difference.
Blind booking. If you’re not really picky about the room and specific location, many sites such as Priceline and Hotwire.com allow you to bid or shop for secret hotels at bargain prices. You choose from a general area of where you want to stay within that city and select the star-rating level. But you won’t know the name or exact location of the ‘secret hotel’ until you confirm your booking. If you’re completely flexible, this method can save you a great deal. But you’ll also want to keep in mind that you can get outbid and there are other bidding restrictions (Priceline, for example, makes you wait 24 hours between bids). A friend of mine has had a lot of success with this, getting some really good 4-star hotels for almost half the listing price. But you never know where you’re going to end up staying. Most hotels don’t want to appear, as if they’re selling off their rooms at really low costs, as it would undervalue their brands, so they’re packaged and sold as ‘secret hotels’.
Keep an eye out for special offers. The easiest way to do this, is a month before your planned trip, subscribe to receive special offers via email from sites like Hotels.com, Booking.com and others. You can always unsubscribe once your trip has ended, but for simply subscribing to some weekly emails, you’ll sometimes get access to time-limited discount codes and other deals that are not always available to non-subscribers. But there’s also a plethora of discount code sites available for everyone else, such as RetailMeNot. Every hotel site nowadays has a section on their site where you can enter a promo code, so it’s always worth a shot! Also, you may be affiliated with a university alumni group or other membership discounts such as CAA that offers hotel discounts that you might not be aware of.
Now there are countless other ways I’m sure, to cut down on your hotel costs. You might even want to look at your free options. For example, if you have any travel rewards cards, now might be a good time to use them to pay for your hotel stay. Keep in mind though, taxes are usually extra. And if you’re planning to attend a conference, you can extend your stay and depending on the nature of the conference, you may be able to even get your company to claim it as an expense or your self-employed self may be able to write it off as a business expense.
Hotels can be the most expensive part of your trip, but with a little time spent planning – budgeting, researching, you can rest easier knowing you’re getting a decent hotel without zapping your wallet. And for goodness sake, stay away from that mini-bar and hotel phone.
Have any hotel tips you’d like to share? Spill them here.