With the ubiquity of travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity making trip planning more streamlined, it is easy to kick into autopilot and fall into an apathetic lull when booking a hotel. As booking practices become more and more automated, the instinct to haggle and barter your way into a great deal dies.
But, while these online automatons may try to coax you into assuming that they offer the best deals around, the truth is, there are still plenty of good old fashion practical ways to get sweet deals.
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Hotel vs. hotel
First up is the tried and true way to get what you want at the expense of those around you: Pitting people against each other to win your favor. That’s right, businesses are people, as they say, and are just as susceptible to the human need for acceptance. So, why not take advantage, and try to get a sweet deal out of it?
After booking a cancelable room at a hotel, look around the area for alternate hotels within the same price range. Contact the alternate hotel directly to let them know that you are planning a stay in their area at the hotel you have already booked, but have heard good things about the alternate hotel and would rather stay there. Give them the price of your current booking, and see if they are willing to drop their prices to win you over. Considering clerks at hotels are encouraged to fill rooms, there is a good chance that he or she will work out a way to lower the price—if they’re not already overbooked.
Read more: The #1 rule of cheap travel
Independent hotels for solo tripping
If you’re traveling alone, do not be ashamed. This can actually be a good thing when booking a hotel room. There are two valuable strategies for the lone wayfarer that can lead to better deals on a night’s stay.
The first is to look for smaller independently owned hotels, as they will be more likely to offer unique rates for travels that do not fit the cookie-cutter family vacation mode.
The second is to contact the hotel directly, and attempt to barter for a lower rate in light of the fact that you will be staying by yourself. Even though it is assumed that hotels provide rates based on the number of people staying in the hotel, the truth is that they often set their rates at a minimum of two people per night, regardless of whether the two people actually stay in the room or not. By contacting the hotel directly, and explaining the situation, a solo tripper could manage a lower nightly rate.
Book outside of the borders
If you’re planning a trip abroad, consider looking to alternate booking websites that focus on foreign travel. A few good websites to start looking on are Momondo, Escapia, and Hotelopia. These sites will provide a wider range of options in terms of hotel selection, considering they won’t be limited by domestic sites’ reliance on partnerships with domestic hotels locations. That gives travelers a better chance to snag a sweet deal.
Additionally, some sites like Lifehack have suggested using the incognito setting on your browser to set your location in the country you plan to travel to in order to score lower rates on rooms, as the sites will not be able to rate your stay based on your actual IP location. Yeah, that is actually a thing!
Avoid that hotel hotline bling
Another effective practice when trying to save on hotel costs is to call the specific hotel you would like to stay at directly, instead of the hotline offered on the hotel company’s website. As mentioned previously, hotel clerks are given more flexibility when it comes to changing the rates on rooms, while call center employees are restricted in their options. Rather than trying to barter with a corporate representative, work with the people who will be handling your stay directly.
Don’t be afraid to upgrade
CNN’s travel and leisure staff make an interesting point in their article on money saving travel tips by encouraging able travelers to pay a little more to upgrade their hotel package in order to save money. While I won’t go into a full breakdown of the cost vs. savings analysis that they provide, the bottom line is that putting up the extra money for an upgrade to what they define as the “club floor” will net guests a number of costly amenities (complimentary appetizers, desserts, in-person wake up calls, Wi-Fi, etc.) for free. These bonus offers ultimately make up for the extra up-front costs the guest paid and then some ‘ especially considering how costly hotel Wi-Fi can be.
Pick location over amenities
Though this may not sound like an immediate money-saving tip, it can actually save cash in the long run. Rather than looking for the nicest, or most amenity-laden hotel, seek lodging in an area near the places you intend to visit. While it may cost extra to stay downtown or near a popular attraction, the cost may be offset by avoiding expensive transportation costs and might even avoid the need for a rental car.
Don’t be afraid of alternative lodging options
If hotel prices are giving you a headache, consider alternative options for your trip. Whether it is a hostel, a couch or a house, the Internet provides numerous choices when it comes to finding a place to rest your head at night. Websites like Hostels.com provide a search engine geared toward hostel locations in major cities. While they once had a bad rap for being seedy places to stay, most modern hostels are quite nice, and they’re often located near major public transportation systems and amenities, which is great.
A private room in a hostel might be exactly what you need to curb costs but to afford staying in a location that you really want to be in. Our producer Kim booked a private hostel room in Sydney, Australia for our upcoming winter staff meeting. That allows her to stay within walking distance to many of the fun things Sydney has to offer without paying the huge hotel rates. It also offers her the privacy of an actual hotel room.
Additionally, the tried-and-true websites CouchSurfing.com and AirBnB are great options for the bohemian traveler looking for a cheap place to sleep. Both sites offer flexible and inexpensive alternatives to traditional travel lodgings. AirBnb runs the gamut though and does offer some more expensive and unique places to stay as well. And it’s also a great option for larger groups as you can save more by splitting a home than purchasing separate hotel rooms.
There is even the option of swapping homes with a fellow traveler through the website HomeExchange.com. This website offers services that match up would-be vacationers, so that they can swap homes for the duration of their travels, giving you a much cozier place to stay during your trip.
Read more: Warning for Airbnb users
AAA: It ain’t just for the road
Yes, mom and pop were right, it pays to stay with AAA. Sean O’Neill for BudgetTravel.com notes that AAA members often receive some of the lowest rates for cancelable rooms, in some instances saving nearly 50% over standard quoted rates. While there is the possibility that a lower rate can be found through one of the various other options listed in this article (always do your research), the fact that a membership to AAA ranges from $38 to $80 a year may make it worth investing in for additional saving possibilities.
There you have it, folks. Eight travel tips that can make your lodging budget a little more flexible. Remember, while any one of these tips can get you a better deal on a room, you should always maximize your benefits by doing a thorough search before booking. Take heed of the old adage, good things come to those who wait (and, I’d like to add, plan), so avoid impulsive booking, and do some research. It might save you a little green.