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How to Get the Best Hotel Deals

How to Get the Best Hotel Deals

I’m a big fan of comparison websites. They allow you to compare all your options and prices on one screen without having to spend hours researching prices on different websites. In some cases, like car rental, comparison sites can work out really well, with no booking fees, cancellation fees and no payment up front. But when it comes to hotels and accommodation, do comparison websites really get you the best deal? Before you book your next vacation, read this guide to make sure you don’t get ripped off!

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Family at the hotel check in

    Tips to get the Best Hotel Deal

    • Comparison sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Hotels.com are good for doing initial research and comparing your options.
    • Once you narrow down your choices to the hotel (or few hotels) that you would like to stay at, head to the hotel’s own website to see if their price is the same. Often they will have extra room types or prices that they don’t supply to comparison websites.
    • Look on the hotel’s website to see if they have any special deals or coupons.
    • Watch out for booking fees and credit card fees. This is not exclusive to the comparison sites; some hotels also charge for this.
    • Check cancellation and amendments policies before you book. This applies to both comparison websites and the hotel’s own website. Check to see if they charge you a fee for amending or canceling bookings. Your travel insurance may cover this, but it’s easier to get your money back straight from the hotel.
    • Check what’s included in your room rate. Some places will include things like Wi-Fi internet and local calls. Ironically, it’s usually the expensive five-star hotels that charge for these things like a wounded bull!
    • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. Try calling the hotel and see if they can offer a better price, room upgrade, or throw in some extras. This can work well if it’s close to the date and they still have plenty of rooms vacant.
    • Some people swear by bidding sites like Priceline, and others hate them. If you want to give it a shot, Gadling has an excellent guide on how to game Priceline to get the best deal.

    Resort Pool

      Let’s Look at a Real Life Example

      The following example is searching for the same hotel on various websites. In each case I’ll choose the cheapest available rate and highlight any extra costs for the booking. The hotel I’m looking at is in Australia (my home country), but I’ve tried it for several different countries around the world and got similar results.

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      Two nights (weekend) at the Mantra on Queen in Brisbane, Australia.

      Hotels.com
      Room: $298.00
      No credit card or booking fees
      Free cancellation until two weeks before the arrival date
      Total: $298.00

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      Wotif.com
      Room: $298.00
      Credit card fee: $5.50
      $25 cancellation charge up to two weeks before the arrival date
      Total: $303.50

      Mantra.com.au
      Room: $248.00
      2% credit card surcharge: $4.84
      $25 cancellation charge up to two weeks before the arrival date
      Total: $246.84

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      As you can see, even with the credit card surcharge, the hotel’s own website worked out cheaper in this case, as they had rooms that were not advertised on the comparison websites. I should point out that Mantra is quite a large chain of hotels in Australia, so they have some strict terms around cancellation and other fees. I’ve found that if you’re booking at much smaller independent hotels or B&Bs that you can often negotiate much better rates by going direct.

      Do you have a great tip for booking accommodation? Leave your best tactics in the comments below! And before you plan your vacation, don’t forget to check out my guides on getting the best deals on car rental, and how to take great travel photos!

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      Published on September 17, 2018

      How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

      How Being Smart With Your Money Leads to Financial Success

      Achieving financial success is not something that just happens. Maybe if you win the lottery or something, but for the average person like you or me, it comes from a series of small steps you take over a long period of time.

      With each step, you form a new smart money habit. And with each smart money habit, you build towards financial independence.

      So what sort of habits can you form to get on that path? Let’s take a look at smart money habits you can start today to get you closer to a financially independent future.

      1. Avoid being “penny wise but pound foolish”

      It’s tempting to try saving a couple cents here and there when buying small items. However, that’s not where the real money is saved. You’re putting in extra effort for something that doesn’t move the needle.

      You get the most bang when you’re able to cut down on your bigger bills. For example, finding a lower interest rate for your mortgage could save you $50+ per month. And cutting your transportation bill by purchasing a cheaper car or taking public transportation can provide large gains as well.

      So, look at your recurring expenses such as housing, transportation, and insurance, and see where there’s wiggle room. It’s a much better use of your time than trying to pinch pennies here and there on smaller purchases.

      2. When you want something big, wait

      Impulsivity can get you in trouble in most aspects of life. Finances are no different.

      It’s human nature to see something and want it right then and there. It starts as a kid in the checkout line at the grocery store, and it continues on through adulthood.

      We get an idea in our head of something we want, and it’s hard not to go out and get it right then.

      A good example is wanting a new car. Perhaps you’ve had your car for several years. It’s crossed the 100k mile mark. Maybe maintenance is due, and you’re annoyed that you need to replace the timing belt or purchase new tires.

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      So, you get the itch.

      You start digging around online, and you realize you could trade in your current car for something newer and more exciting… all for a few hundred bucks a month. Then you get obsessed.

      Here’s where you have to take a step back.

      Your newfound obsession is clouding your judgement. Rather than giving into the impulse, wait it out.

      Set a timeframe for yourself. Maybe you come back to the decision three months down the road. See if the obsession lasts.

      It might, but often, a funny thing happens. Often, you forget about it. And often, you find that the new car wasn’t a need at all.

      The impulse faded. And you just saved yourself a ton of money.

      3. Live smaller than you can afford

      You finally get that big raise. And you want to celebrate – and why not?

      You’ve been looking forward to this forever. And after all, it was all due to your hard work.

      That’s fine, splurge a little. However, make it a one-time deal and be done.

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      Don’t get caught in the trap that just because you’re now making more money, you should spend more.

      Too often, people get more money and feel like they that gives them the means to buy a bigger house, a bigger car… you know the drill. Resist.

      The fact is that living smaller than what you can afford is one of the fastest ways to build savings.

      But if you constantly upgrade as you begin to make more, then you’ll never get ahead. You’ll just build up more debt along the way and have just as little wiggle room as before.

      4. Practice smart grocery shopping

      Food… it’s one of the biggest portions of any budget. And if you’re not careful, it can be one of the biggest drains on your wallet.

      But luckily, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you stay smart with your money when buying groceries.

      Create a grocery budget

      Set a strict weekly grocery budget. When you know how much you can spend on groceries, you can then plan your weekly menu around it.

      Once you know what all you need, you can go shopping and keep a running tally as you shop to ensure you’re on track.

      I tend to do this in my head, rounding for each item. However, writing it down as you go would probably work best for most people.

      Make a list… and never deviate

      Never go to the grocery store without a list. If you go to the store with a ballpark idea in mind, you don’t have a true ide of what you need.

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      You’re not well-researched. You don’t know what the sales are. As a result, you’re going to make decisions on the fly.

      These impulse decisions will lead to overspending, which will derail your grocery budget.

      Eat before going grocery shopping

      It’s also important to eat prior to going to the grocery store. Hunger is a powerful force.

      If you’re shopping on an empty stomach, everything is going to look good. In particular, you may find a lot of ready-made, processed snacks will look enticing.

      After all, you’re hungry now and that food is easily available. So subconsciously, you may lean towards those items.

      Unfortunately, not only are those items typically less healthy, but they’re likely more expensive. You pay for convenience.

      However, when you eat prior to shopping, then you’ll shop with a clear mind. Your hunger won’t cloud your judgement, influencing you to make poor decisions like a cartoon devil resting on your shoulder whispering in your ear.

      This makes it much easier to stick to your grocery plan.

      5. Cancel your gym membership

      Now that you’re all set on your food, it’s time to get smart about managing your budget in terms of physical fitness. And let’s begin by avoiding the gym. The gym bill, that is.

      The average gym membership costs around $60 per month. That’s $720 a year.

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      Yet, two out of three gym memberships go unused. That means two-thirds of people who have a gym membership are literally giving away almost a thousand bucks a year. It’s crazy!

      I recommend seeking an alternative. One good alternative is to look into fitness streaming services.

      Streaming services allow you to stream hundreds of workouts like Insanity and p90x, right in your own home for around $10-20 a month. That’s $40-50 less a month than the average gym membership.

      Of course, then there’s the free option. The internet is full of free workouts that you can do on your own with minimal or no equipment.

      For example, there’s the Couch to 5K program, that I personally used a decade ago to ease myself from couch potato to running my first 5K race. If I could do it, anyone could.

      Then there are free resources like reddit that have limitless information on workouts. The Fitness subreddit has done all the research for you, populating workout tips and detailed workout routines for anyone to use in their wiki.

      There are several routines that require no equipment. And you can join in on the subreddit to become part of the community, making it easier for those seeking comraderie and encouragement in their fitness goals. All for free.

      It’s baby steps… And baby steps can start now!

      I’ve never met anyone that can’t stand to be a bit smarter with their money. And on the flip side, anyone can get smarter with their money. But remember, it doesn’t happen all at once.

      Begin by fighting your impulses. Prepare for the week and be smart at the store. And cut monthly expenses like gym memberships that are overpriced and you probably aren’t getting your money’s worth out of anyway.

      The devil is in the details. And the details can change your lifestyle and prep you for a financially independent future.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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