You might plan your vacation based on your destination or schedule, or perhaps around the activities you plan to pursue once you arrive. But no matter what inspires your vacation choices, your hotel can make or break your trip. The trick is to find a clean, comfortable room with the amenities you consider most important for a price that won’t put a dent in your plans. These hotel hacks can ensure that the hotel that you choose for your next trip will be easy on your pocketbook. If you’re a frequent traveler, check out this huge list of amazing travel hacks!
1. Book Your Room and Flight Together
Travel-related services like Expedia or Travelocity often feature incredible discounts when you book your flight and hotel room together. However, there are a few catches: One is that you have to pay for everything in advance. Another catch is that cancellations or changes can be an expensive prospect. While this may hamper your travel flexibility a bit, if you already have firm dates in mind, this might be the hack for you.
2. Join AAA (Even if You Don’t Own a Car and Never Drive)
Many hotels—both within the United States and abroad—offer significant discounts for AAA members. If you travel frequently for pleasure or for business, or even if you take one big trip each year, your savings could more than pay for the price of a membership. Also, if you plan to drive abroad, AAA is one of two organizations within the United States authorized to issue International Driving Permits, which not only make it easier to rent a car abroad, but can sub for your passport if you’re asked for ID while visiting another country.
3. Make the Most of Your Elite Status
Holding elite status for one or more hotel loyalty programs can qualify you for perks like early check-in, late check-out, free breakfast and free room upgrades. You’ll also find that if you hold elite status, the management and staff are often more receptive to your special requests, such as waiving those ridiculous charges for the hotel mini-bar.
4. Negotiate Long-Term Rates
If you’re planning a trip of at least seven days, inquire about discounted rates for extended stays. You may be able to book an extended stay rate online, but you’re more likely to receive discounts by contacting the hotel directly. You may have to pay in advance, but many hotels will allow you make weekly payments on your balance.
5. Take Advantage of Credit Card Sign-Up Bonuses
Unless you churn credit cards on a regular basis, you may be unaware of the perks that often go along with obtaining a new credit card, such as free companion airfare or deep discounts on hotel rooms. You’ll need decent credit to take advantage of this hack, along with sufficient lead time to receive your card and register for your bonus(es).
6. Get Status Matched Across Hotel Loyalty Programs
If you have elite status with one hotel loyalty program, reach out to other programs to request matched status. More often than not, you’ll receive a positive response. You don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to achieve elite status – many hotels belong to chains or groups, and staying a certain number of nights in a mid-range chain is often enough to allow you to gain elite status across the entire chain.
7. Book Your Room During the Off-Season
If you have your heart set on visiting Europe during the peak season, brace yourself to pay sky-high airfares and hotel rates that may keep you awake at night. But if you’re willing to plan your trip during the off-season, you can save big bucks. If you book a beach or outdoor vacation during the shoulder season—the period immediately before or after the peak season—you’ll still save while enjoying most of the benefits of good weather.
8. Book Directly Through the Hotel
By calling an individual hotel directly, you may receive “off the books” discounts or upgrades. One phone call can translate into savings that really add up. This is especially true if you book during the off-season, when many hotels have rooms standing empty.
9. Search Foreign Hotel Sites with Incognito Browser Settings
Try this experiment when booking a room outside the United States: Open a hotel’s website in your browser as usual. Then, open a second incognito or anonymous browser window and load the same hotel’s website for the country you plan to visit. You may find that the rates offered through the hotel’s foreign website are much cheaper than the rates offered on the domestic website, even allowing for foreign transaction fees.
10. Offer to Write a Review
If you’re active on Trip Advisor or Yelp, mention this to the hotel manager, and offer to write a review of your stay. If you’re a travel blogger, offer to write a blog entry. Don’t bribe the hotel by promising a positive review; that’s dishonest and a reputable establishment will turn you down. Likewise, if you blog about the experience, making a full disclosure that you received a discount is expected.
11. Get Payback for Prior Subpar Experiences
No hot water in the shower during your last stay? The front desk failed to give you a wake-up call and you missed your return flight? Posting a polite but firm complaint directly to the hotel manager or to the hotel’s marketing department will often result in vouchers for discounted rates or free upgrades on a future stay.
12. Use Hotel Booking Aggregator Sites to Compare and Contrast Rates
Just like airfare aggregators that compare flight prices for different airlines, hotel booking aggregator sites like Trivago and Kayak allow you to compare prices for hotel rooms across many different sites. All you need is to know where you want to go along with a range of possible dates. You’ll save both time and money—a definite win-win!
13. Bring a Cooler, a Hot Pot, Plates and Utensils
Room service can add significantly to the cost of your hotel. Packing a cooler, a hot pot and disposable plates and utensils allows you to shop locally and save a ton of money by “cooking” in the room, even if you don’t have kitchen facilities. Most hotels are OK with guests bringing in their own food, but if you’re not sure, ask before you arrive.
14. Give the Hotel a Heads-Up About Special Occasions
Are you planning a destination wedding with a ceremony at the hotel? Is your entire extended family gathering for a reunion? Provide the hotel with a heads-up and you may receive a deeply discounted group rate or a free upgrade to the honeymoon suite.
15. Ask for a Better Room
Sometimes the simplest way to receive a break on your hotel room is to come right out and ask for an upgrade. If you’re not bold enough to take the direct approach, a more subtle approach is to ask to see different rooms before you check in. You’ll spare yourself from being booked in a dingy room facing an alley that’s no cheaper than the nice room across the hall facing the skyline.
16. Skimp on Amenities, Not Location
When your budget is tight, you recognize that you have to give up something to stay within your hotel budget. But if you have to choose, skimp on amenities rather than location. A plain (but clean) room within steps of the beach or that provides easy access to downtown is a much better bargain than an upgraded room located an expensive cab ride away from everything you want to see and do.
17. Sidestep the Hotel Laundry Service
Many hotels offer the convenience of laundry service—at a hefty price. Save yourself big bucks by taking advantage of the laundry located within your room. Rinse out your pantyhose and other unmentionables in the bathroom sink, and then hang them across the shower rod to dry overnight. Just be sure to pack a travel size package of your favorite detergent.
18. Insist on Free Wi-Fi
If you’re traveling for business, Wi-Fi access is a must. Even if you never plan to check your work email, Wi-Fi access allows you to operate your smart phone without risking expensive data overages. Many hotels offer free Wi-Fi to all their guests; others restrict the perk to guests with elite status.
19. Stream Your Favorite Shows to the Big Screen TV from Your Computer
The cable service in many hotels leaves much to be desired. That said, many hotels offer really nice flat screen TVs. If the hotel has Wi-Fi service for individual rooms and the TV set features an HDMI port (which is likely), you can stream your favorite Netflix shows to the TV from your computer, tablet or smart phone via Google Chromecast.
20. Book Refundable Rates and Check Back Often
Nonrefundable rates are often much cheaper than the “best available” or even discounted AAA or AARP rates. But don’t be fooled. Besides being nonrefundable, that low rate may actually turn out to be more expensive than the rate you could ultimately receive. Book the best available refundable rate for your room instead, and check back periodically for discounts or hotel promotions.
While some of the hacks listed above require fairly clever maneuvering, many require little or no effort. With a bit of pre-planning and flexibility, you may find yourself in a great room at a great price. You’ll have that much more money to spend on souvenirs.
Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek via picjumbo.com