Get the best price on hotels, motels and resorts with these tips.
I’ve just got back from holiday and as ever accommodation was the biggest expense each day – but it could have been a lot more if I hadn’t followed my tips below.
You might have noticed this article isn’t about finding the cheapest hotel room. That’s because it’s not about paying as little as possible. Instead, it’s about finding the lowest price for the places I want to stay.
Even though I don’t usually spend much time in these rooms, I want somewhere I’ll be able to get a decent night’s sleep. Somewhere at least nice.
Though package holidays can sometimes offer decent value, this article is solely about DIY booking of your accommodation. So here’s what I do to make sure I pay less and get the best possible value when staying in hotels – giving me more money to spend on the rest of the trip.
Step 1: See what accommodation is available
With any trip I make I’ll first look on Booking.com. I find it has a decent range of hotel and B&B options at very good prices, and it’s easy enough to refine searches.
Another big draw for Booking.com is you can often book with free cancellation. I’ll generally do this when I’m first looking at places just to make sure I get somewhere at an OK price. Then if I change my plans or find a better deal, I’ve got the flexibility to cancel and rebook.
Step 2: Look for alternatives
However, not everything is on Booking.com. I’ll generally search for apartments on Airbnb. I’ve used this site a lot, especially in the USA, where hotels can be crazily expensive, and even in the UK. Don’t ignore traditional B&Bs either, they can often be far better value than hotels in some desintations.
If you’re willing to take a risk or need somewhere at the last minute, try the Hotel Tonight app, which offers discounts by filling up empty hotels. The code AWEBB63 will save you an extra £15 off your first booking.
Step 3: Checking the reviews and details
Of course, the price isn’t my only consideration. So I always browse through the reviews and check TripAdvisor too.
You can’t trust all the comments, but you’ll hopefully get an idea of potential problems – and a sense of whether the hotel is worth the listed price.
Also, take a look at the small print. Often there’s extra for tax or resort fees. Find out if Wi-Fi is included, and if you are paying for a breakfast you don’t really want.
Step 4: Find the cheapest price
Once I’ve found a couple of options I’ll quickly search hotel comparison site Kayak. It will tell you the rate for your hotel across a dozen or so websites, including Expedia. It’s a great start to see what’s available and a quick way to spot savings.
It’s always worth checking directly with the hotel – they might have extra discounts if you book with them as it means they’re not paying any commission on the sale.
Another option I’ve looked at but never booked is as a “secret hotel” on sites like Lastminute.com or Priceline. With these promotions, you don’t actually know the hotel until you’ve booked, and as a result you pay less. You can usually work out which hotel you’ll get with a bit of investigating – i.e. cut and paste the description into Google and see what comes up!
Step 5: Bring the price down even more
Booking.com and a few others offer extra discounts if you’re registered with them, so it’s worth signing up just for these discounts. There are often discounts too for non-cancellable rooms. A good saving if you know your plans or dates won’t change.
Then I’ll always try to book a hotel through a cashback site such as TopCashback and Quidco. Rates usually range from 2% or 3% up to 10%. Though I often get emailed voucher codes for sites such as Expedia and Venere, I usually find the cashback rates are better.
Step 6: Get more from your booking
Once I’ve decided where I’ll stay and made the booking, I’ll let the hotel know if I’m celebrating something special. On our honeymoon, we were upgraded a few times and given little freebies like a bottle of fizz and a cake from Magnolia Bakery. We also got a few extra perks on our first wedding anniversary. It’s always worth asking.
Step 7: Pick how you pay for the hotel
With many of these websites, you’ll usually pay when you get to the hotel – and if you’re abroad how you do this makes a big difference to the price you pay.
I’ve written an article about how to get the best value when you spend overseas, but the headlines are: always pay in the local currency, and try to pay with a specialist card such the Halifax Clarity credit card or the Supercard. This will get you the best exchange rates.
Of course, if you’re given the option to pay upfront, you might want to do this – especially if you want to guarantee how much you pay. My wife got caught out here as prices rocketed post-Brexit as the exchange rate fluctuated.