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11 tips to find the best cheap hotel deals online

Learn the tricks of the trade to get the cheapest hotel prices, earn free stays and get complimentary perks.

Everyone loves to travel and go on holidays, but the cost of flights and accommodation can often turn the love into hate. Here are some tips to help you save on accommodation costs.

Hotels use  complex formulas to set their room prices, usually tied to supply and demand. Depending on the events happening within that region, prices could go up or down. While you can’t control what happens on a larger scale, you can use these hints and tips to help you save money on your next hotel booking.

1. Make a booking the old-fashioned way.

Try calling the hotel directly and see what rates you can get over the phone.

The property may be willing to offer you a lower rate than what you’re seeing online since they won’t be losing out on any commission that would be paid to a booking site. At the very least, you might be able to swing free breakfast or Internet access.

2. Be mysterious.

If you’re not too fussy about which hotel you stay in, try booking a “mystery hotel”. Sites such as Wotif offer "mystery hotels" in Australia and New Zealand at a discount of up to 40%. You’ll get just enough of a description to have an idea of where you’re staying, but you won’t be able to confirm the name of the hotel until you’ve made your booking and paid for your stay.

Here’s an example of a mystery hotel listing on Wotif:

We searched for a non-mystery hotel and a mystery hotel on the same date (we randomly chose 28 January 2016) in the same area. Of the 4.5-star hotels listed, the prices ranged from $181 all the way up to $395 per night. That means you’d be saving anywhere from 10-59%, depending on which hotel you’re placed in.

For hotels outside of Australia and New Zealand, check out Hotwire, which works on a similar structure.

3. Use a booking aggregator such as our hotels search tool.

Working with a range of different hotel chains, booking engines and independent accommodations will show you the rate of a hotel that appears for your preferred dates across multiple sites.

It’s as simple as finding the best offer available on your dates and clicking through to that site to make the booking.

Here's an example of how it works:

We searched for a 4-star hotel on the Gold Coast on a random date 1 February 2017 and selected the Grand Chancellor Surfers Paradise from the results. The tool then searched multiple hotel booking sites, and displays a few examples of rates, highlighting the lowest price available, which in this case was Amoma.com. To go ahead and book that rate, just click "View Deal" and you'll be redirected to a page where you can follow through with your booking.

4. Don’t be ashamed of a little schadenfreude.

For various reasons, people have to cancel hotel reservations, even ones that have already been paid for in full and aren’t refundable. That’s something you can take advantage of now. Sites such as Roomer work as a middleman to resell prepaid rooms at a discounted rate. According to Roomer, the resold rooms are available for as much as 75% off the original price, which means you can save big if a room is available on your desired travel dates. While the site does take a cut of the sale, the majority goes back to the person who originally made the booking.

5. Find your home away from home.

Booking a central aparthotel with full cooking facilities and multiple bedrooms can often cost an arm and a leg. Luckily, you can use hosting sites such as Airbnb, Roomorama and Bedycasa to find homely accommodation around the world. You’ll come across a mix of options, including entire apartments, spare bedrooms, granny flats and even backyard camping spaces.

6. Be flexible.

If you’re flexible about when you can travel, consider where you’re going when you’re trying to decide which days to travel. Generally, city stays are cheaper from Friday to Sunday, as hotels cash in on business travellers during the week, while country and coastal stays are cheaper from Monday to Thursday, when accommodation is plentiful after the weekenders leave. During the less-busy days, rates drop to help fill empty rooms.

Roomorama.CheapHotelTips

7. Travel in the shoulder season.

Not quite peak season and not quite low season, the “shoulder” season fits in between the two. If you’re not going to a destination that’s really weather-dependant, consider travelling during this period. You’re more likely to get the perks of peak season, including better weather and attractions, but with fewer crowds and less of a demand for accommodation, which often means lower  prices.

8. Book in advance.

Hotels like to know that rooms are going to be filled. So much so that often rooms booked and paid for in advance (usually somewhere between 15 and 45 days) are discounted by up to 30%. If your travel plans are set in stone, take advantage.

Here are some examples of hotels that offer such discounts:

HotelDiscountNumber of days in advance you’ll need to book
Millennium HotelsUp to 20%7
SofitelUp to 25%30
PullmanUp to 25%30
M GalleryUp to 25%30
Grand MercureUp to 25%30
The SebelUp to 25%30
NovotelUp to 25%30
MercureUp to 25%30
ibisUp to 25%30
Dusit HotelsUp to 25% for members14
Red Carnation Hotels*Up to 30%7-90
IHG10-30%7
Travelodge UKUp to £1721

*Red Carnation Hotels discounts vary from property to property.

9. Get with the program.

Join the rewards program offered by the hotel or booking site. While it may not always save you money at first, you can earn free nights, points that can be used towards free nights or upgrades, and perks such as complimentary upgrades and free Internet access.

Here’s a few examples of what rewards programs are offering:

Hotel Name or WebsitePerks you can getCost to join the program
Hotels.com RewardsStay 10 nights and get one freeFree
Starwood Preferred GuestEarn points for free staysGet VIP access to eventsLate check-outRoom upgradesIn-room Internet accessFree. Stay longer to upgrade your membership status.
Le Club AccorEarn points for free stays and discountsEarly access to salesOnline check-inRoom upgradesInternet accessWelcome drinksFree. Stay longer to upgrade your membership status.
Dusit GoldUp to 25% discount Late check-out10% discount at restaurantsInternet accessFree
Expedia.com.auEarn points towards travelPrice guaranteeExclusive member dealsFree amenities at your hotelFree. Spend more on your stays to upgrade your membership status.

10. Lock it in.

If you see a refundable rate you’re happy to pay, book it, even if you have a hunch the price may drop. Since it’s refundable, there’s no obligation for you to stick with the booking. You’ll have the security of knowing you have somewhere to stay as well as the freedom to look for a better deal elsewhere.

11. Stay longer.

It costs a lot of money to change the sheets, towels and restock the minibar, so it’s no surprise hotels would rather you stay a bit longer. There’s often a huge benefit to staying three nights rather than two, five nights rather than four and so on. Hotels will sometimes offer discounts or free nights to guests who are willing to stay a bit longer.

Here are some examples of what discounts are offered:

Hotel chainDiscountHow long do you need to stay?
SofitelUp to 25%Three nights or more
PullmanOne free night
Two free nights
Four nights
Seven nights
Red Carnation HotelsOne free nightThree or four at most hotels
Millennium HotelsUp to 25%Three nights or more
Citrus HotelsUp to 40%Five nights or more
Citin HotelsUp to 40%Five nights or more
Compass HospitalityUp to 40%Five nights or more

Pro tips: Combine a few of the hints above and become a hotel booking superstar.

1. Choose your shoulder season dates and destination far in advance.

2. Check an aggregator for the best rate.

3. See which of options offer the lowest rate and the most rewards.

Ready to test your new hotel booking skills? Check out these hotel deals:

Up to 40% off: Christmas Sale

Save up to 40% on hotels during the Christmas Sale at Hotels.com. Available for travel until Feb 5, 2017. Conditions apply.

5% off vacation rentals worldwide: Winter Sale

Book now and get 5% off vacation rentals worldwide during the Winter Sale at Roomorama.

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Save up to 30% with Agoda Insider Deals

Sign up as an Agoda member for access to special deals and discounts.

Book in advance and save 25%

Make a reservation for a Novotel property at least 30 days in advance and save up to 25% on the regular price.

Save up to 25% on advance bookings

Book a stay at an Ibis property at least 30 days in advance and save up to 25%.

Get 10% off bookings

Book direct with Swiss-Belhotel and get an instant 10% off your stay.

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Up to 15% off select hotels when you book on Tuesday

Book on a Tuesday, and save up to 15%* when you choose from 17 hotels in great locations across Australia and New Zealand, plus get either 2-for-1 breakfast or free late check-out at Travelodge.

Up to 30% off + FREE breakfast for BCA credit card holders

Simply use the code to get up to 30% off plus breakfast for BCA credit card holders. Valid for booking & stays until 15 March 2017. Valid only for Swiss-Belhotel Indonesian properties (Swiss-Belhotel, Swiss-Belinn and Swiss-Inn).

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Up to 10% off advanced purchase: Berjaya Eden Park London Hotel, United Kingdom

Save up to 10% off advanced purchase at Berjaya Eden Park London Hotel, United Kingdom.

10% off when you book 13 days in advance: Berjaya Waterfront Hotel, Malaysia

Get 10% off when you book 13 days in advance at Berjaya Waterfront Hotel, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Book & stay until 31st December 2016. Minimum 2 nights stay required. T&Cs apply.

Vegas Vacation Sale: rooms from $29

Book cheap rooms from $29 during the Vegas Vacation Sale.

Up to 20% off early bird promo + free breakfast at Swiss-Inn Batam, Indonesia

Book 14 days in advance and save up to 20% off the flexi rate with breakfast for two included at Swiss-Inn Batam, Indonesia. Book & stay until 30th December 2016.

Gold Coast stays from $92 per night

Find accommodation on the Gold Coast from $92 per night on Lastminute.com.au.

Up to 25% off for 3 nights stay + other great benefits at Swiss-Inn Batam, Indonesia

Enjoy up to 25% off for 3 nights stay plus other great benefits at Swiss-Inn Batam, Indonesia. Includes daily breakfast for 2 persons & more. Book & stay until 30th December 2016.

Book a Secret Hotel for up to 40% off

Not fussed about where you stay? Book Lastminute's secret hotels where the name is revealed when you book for up to 40% off the regular price.

10% off Oaks stays

Simply use code to get 10% off your booking at Oaks Hotels & Resorts. T&Cs apply.

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The Chesterfield Mayfair: Book Early & Save up to 30%

Bookings made at least 10 days prior to arrival will receive up to 30% off on the best available rate. Terms & conditions apply.

The Montague: Kids Go Free

Parents and children alike are glad to retire to the relaxing Montague on the Gardens, where every need is anticipated and taken care of. Kids up to 12 years stay and eat for free when sharing a room with parents. Offer also includes unlimited in-room movies and access to a games console too.

Book Early & Save up to 30% - The Egerton House Hotel

Take advantage of the special advance purchase offer when you book at least 10 days in advance and receive up to 30% off on the best available rate.

The Montague: Book Early & Save up to 20%

Receive up to 20% off on the best available rate when you book seven days or more prior to your arrival. Terms and conditions apply.

Save up to £20 off your stay

Book a stay at Britannia Hotels at least 10 days in advance and save up to £20 per night of your stay.

Weekly Britannia Hotel offers: Rooms from £38 per night

Reserve a stay at a select Britannia Hotel from just £38 per night for two people, including breakfast. Available hotels vary from week to week.

Best rate guarantee

Book a stay with Easy To Book and get the best rate guaranteed.

$50 Daily Resort Credit

Simply use code to get $50 daily credit and get more of what you love when you book a stay with Hilton Hotels and Resorts. Valid for stays until 31 December 2016.

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Family Fun Package

Simply use code to get complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi when you book a family fun package with Hilton Hotels and Resorts.

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Book Direct With Hilton

Best rates guaranteed when you book direct plus free Wi-Fi with Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

Suite deal + freebies at Kuta, Bali

Book the executive suite room for 3 nights at Swiss-Belhotel Rainforest, Kuta from IDR 3,045,000net. Minimum stay of 3 nights. Check website for more details.

Suite Sensation: luxury suite + freebies

Book the suite pool view for 3 nights at Swiss-Belhotel Petitenget from IDR 3,360,000net. Check website for more details.

Love & London from £109 per night

Fall in love all over again this Valentine's Day with Thistle. See the sights of London starting from £109 per room per night. Includes free breakfast, bottle of champagne & Belgian chocolates. T&Cs apply.

€20 off

Get €20 off booking a vacation home on Roomorama.

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The Rubens: Book Early & Save up to 20%

Get up to 20% off on the best available rate when you book a minimum of 14 days in advance. T&Cs apply.

The Montague: 4 nights for the price of 3

Book 4 nights at The Montague and pay for only 3 nights. Available on all standard room types including Single, Double and King rooms. T&Cs apply.

The Chesterfield Mayfair: 3 nights for the price of 2

Stay for 3 nights for the price of 2. Stay a little longer with us in a junior suite or executive suite including the dormer suite, Duchess suite, Philippe suite and Stanhope suite and enjoy a complimentary third night. Terms & conditions apply.

15% Off Early Bird discount

Book 15 days in advance to get 15% off at Citrus Sukhumvit 11 Hotel, Thailand. Room rates starts from THB 1660++/night. Black out dates: Dec. 25, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016. Booking & staying period is valid from now until Dec. 6, 2016. T&Cs apply.

The Chesterfield Mayfair: 4 nights for the price of 3

Stay for (4) four nights or more, get the fourth night free of charge. Available on all standard room types including Single, Double and King rooms. Terms & conditions apply.

$20 off

Get $20 off on booking a vacation home on Roomorama.

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Alex Keshen

Alex takes care of the travel section here at finder.com.au. If there's a new sale on tours or cruises, discounted flights or hotels, or anything else that can be on offer, she'll fill you in.

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