Get the best price on hotels, motels and resorts with these tips.
On most of my holidays, it’s accommodation which is the biggest expense each day. But this article isn’t about finding the cheapest possible hotel room.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not someone who goes for luxury suites or top-end resorts. But I don’t want the most basic either.
Though I don’t usually spend a huge amount of time in these rooms, I want somewhere I’ll be able to get a decent night’s sleep and have a decent shower. Somewhere at least nice. And location can be important too, especially on short trips. And these things can all add to the cost of a room.
So how do I bring down the price? Here’s what I do to get the best possible value when staying in hotels – giving me more money to spend on the rest of the trip.
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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 (usually) competitive prices. It’s also a bit better than other websites at sorting and refining searches with filters such as guest ratings. It’s not perfect, but it does the job.
However, not all hotels are 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 destinations.
Step 2: Check 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 3: 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 too – 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 4: Check for free cancellation
Now you’ve found where you want to stay, find out if any of the websites list it with free cancellation. This is a huge factor for me when choosing a hotel. It means that if I change my plans or find a better deal (potentially for the same hotel), I’ve got the flexibility to cancel and rebook.
However, there are often discounts for non-cancellable rooms, so if you’re confident that you’re not going to need to cancel then it’s possibly not worth it.
Step 5: Bring the price down even more
Booking. com, Expedia and a few others offer extra discounts if you’re registered with them, so it’s worth signing up just for these discounts.
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 Hotels, 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 Starling current account. 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.