Learn the tricks of the trade to find low 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.
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 for you on your dates and clicking through to that site to make the booking.
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 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.
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:
|Hotel||Discount||Number of days in advance you’ll need to book|
|Millennium Hotels||Up to 20%||7|
|Sofitel||Up to 25%||30|
|Pullman||Up to 25%||30|
|M Gallery||Up to 25%||30|
|Grand Mercure||Up to 25%||30|
|The Sebel||Up to 25%||30|
|Novotel||Up to 25%||30|
|Mercure||Up to 25%||30|
|ibis||Up to 25%||30|
|Dusit Hotels||Up to 25% for members||14|
|Red Carnation Hotels*||Up to 30%||7-90|
|Travelodge UK||Up to £17||21|
*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 Website||Perks you can get||Cost to join the program|
|Hotels.com Rewards||Stay 10 nights and get one free||Free|
|Starwood Preferred Guest||Earn points for free staysGet VIP access to eventsLate check-outRoom upgradesIn-room Internet access||Free. Stay longer to upgrade your membership status.|
|Le Club Accor||Earn points for free stays and discountsEarly access to salesOnline check-inRoom upgradesInternet accessWelcome drinks||Free. Stay longer to upgrade your membership status.|
|Dusit Gold||Up to 25% discount Late check-out10% discount at restaurantsInternet access||Free|
|Expedia.com.au||Earn points towards travelPrice guaranteeExclusive member dealsFree amenities at your hotel||Free. 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 chain||Discount||How long do you need to stay?|
|Sofitel||Up to 25%||Three nights or more|
|Pullman||One free night|
Two free nights
|Red Carnation Hotels||One free night||Three or four at most hotels|
|Millennium Hotels||Up to 25%||Three nights or more|
|Citrus Hotels||Up to 40%||Five nights or more|
|Citin Hotels||Up to 40%||Five nights or more|
|Compass Hospitality||Up 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 your preferred 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:
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