Discover how to use research skills, coupons, miles + more to land amazing rates on hotels.
It can be mind boggling to see the rates for accommodations in most areas, especially if the rooms are far from special. However, there are many tips + tricks you can utilize to score the price that’s most aligned with the type of digs you’ll be receiving. While many of these suggestions require extra time on your part, they are worth the effort if you’ll be booking for multiple nights, or have a tight budget.
For hotels, price compare on at least three sources, like Booking, Kayak and Priceline. Next, contact the hotel to see if they can beat those rates, or offer other perks like free parking or breakfast if you book directly through them. It’s also wise to ask if they offer discounts for students, veterans, USAA or AARP members, or any of the other “we get you discounts” affiliations.
If you’ll be booking last minute through a site like Airbnb, HomeAway or VRBO you might be able to negotiate a lower rate by contacting the host directly. Because most homeowners would rather have someone pay less than average for an impending date, than have their rental empty, they may be willing to throw you a discount. But this is not a sure bet, as they may have other travelers inquiring about the same dates, or don’t think a lower rates is worth the wear and tear on their property. But it’s worth a try!
Something else to consider is that many homeowners offer a discount for longer stays.
Tip: If you’ll be staying at an Airbnb, VRBO, or bed-and-breakfast, the host can likely offer insider tips for where to eat, play and explore in the area.
Coupon apps like Honey can help you save mega bucks on hotel and activity bookings. You just download it on your browser and it immediately searches the Internet ethers for any and all discount codes for whatever it is you’re about to book. We’ve saved thousands with this app, and they don't even pay us to say that.
Search the Travel Site of Your Member Organizations
Companies like USAA, Ameriprise (and most other credit card or financial service providers), Costco, and others often offer member discounts for select hotels, cruise lines, airlines, rental car suppliers and other travel related services. Check their website for potential travel offers, or just call their customer service line to get a quick summary of how they can help.
For example, the cruise we took to Cuba on Royal Caribbean was significantly discounted, as a USAA rep set it up for us. He was also able to ensure our room was in close proximity to the other seven families we were traveling with, and booked our dining reservations.
Reconsider Proximity Preferences
If it’s worth it to you to pay more to be within walking distance to the most coveted area of wherever it is you’re traveling, then great, skip this. But if you’ll have a rental car, are cool with ride shares, or will be near public transport, you can often save big by staying in an area that isn’t on top of major attractions. Business hotels near airports often offer some of the most affordable rates.
The rewards program for many credit cards allows you to use points towards certain hotels. We’ve scored amazing deals on Cabo hotels through our Alaska Airlines Visa.
Look for Hotels Offering Free Parking and Breakfast
As many hotels charge over $15 for daily parking, and you (generally) have to eat every morning, accommodations that include parking and breakfast in their nightly rate can often be a better deal than hotels that don’t.
For example, let’s say hotel X charges $160 per night, but includes parking and breakfast, while hotel Y charges $145 per night, but doesn’t include the extras. If hotel Y charges $20/day for parking, and you spend $15/per person (for a family of four) every day for a hotel breakfast, you’ll actually be paying $225 per day at hotel Y.
Look Into Hotel + Airline Bundles
Many of the organizations mentioned above (e.g., credit card companies, USAA, etc.) offer discounted rates when you buy your airfare and hotel in a bundle (many also tack on a rental car, if needed.)
We’ve found the most luck with this through airline credit cards, as they often offer bundles in destinations where they frequently fly. For example, Alaska Airlines offer appealing bundles in various areas of Mexico, Costa Rica and Hawaii, in addition to Las Vegas, Disney World, and Disneyland.
Bypass Foreign Transaction Fees
When traveling to certain countries, your purchases could be subject to foreign transaction fees. To skip this price hike, use a credit card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees. If you’re unsure whether or not the credit cards you use apply this fee, give them a call.
If you don’t have a credit card that waives these fees, consider applying for one (if the hassle is worth it for you). Popular credit cards that don’t have this fee include Capital One Venture Rewards (this is the card we have and love), Chase Sapphire Reserve or Preferred cards, Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority, and Bank of America Premium Rewards.
Take Over Another Traveler’s Reservation
While we don’t recommend booking accommodations last minute for a big trip, sites like RoomerTravel.com - which allows you to take over the reservation of a traveler who needs to cancel - can be a fun option for families who get a thrill from spontaneity. While this site also acts as a SkyScanner-esque booking service, the real deals are scored when your dates and preferences are flexible. If it were us, we’d make sure we had a reservation set well ahead of time for at least 2/3 of our trip, then might consider mixing it up last minute with a booking through this site.
HotelTonight also offers significant discounts for last minute bookings.