There are a lot of things to consider before heading off on your travels. You can spend hours, days or even weeks organising plans before you have to leave. Remember that aside from the need to organise your airfares, one of the most important things to take into account is where you’ll be staying once you get there. It is also often the most costly part of the trip though it doesn’t need to be.
Booking a place to stay while travelling can be something of a minefield if you enter into it without any expectations or knowledge. Hotel room rates are actually a complex creation – built not just upon the location, luxury and appeal of the establishment, but also on a formula based heavily on supply and demand.
The time of year and events in the area can considerably change the price of your preferred accommodation. While some unforeseen circumstances might be out of your control, there are still many means and ways that will enable you to spend less on your next trip away.
Investigate and Communicate
The first thing you need to do is research – investigate where you are going and what times of year tend to be the most expensive.
The first thing you need to do is research – investigate where you are going and what times of year tend to be the most expensive. Generally speaking, if you are looking to travel in the off-peak season, you will be in a stronger position for a better deal. Once you have established your preferred travel period, start looking at comparison shopping. Check out a few hotel websites and start getting an idea of pricing.
When you do so, be wary – some hotel booking sites will track whether or not you’ve returned to the page to check on their rates through cookies, and if so, they may raise the prices. To reduce the chances of this happening, switch your search to ‘Incognito’ which can be found on most web browsers including Google Chrome. This way, the sites you’ve visited won’t be able to track your activity on their page and this will then reduce the chance of prices rising artificially.
There are also some great accommodation comparison sites that allow you to find the best deal for your stay. A great one to start with is Skyscanner, which you can use to find some of the cheapest rates across a variety of hotels. Using the lowest prices you’ve obtained, you can start dealing with hotels directly. Look for the hotels that offer ‘best rate guarantee’, as this will allow you do some bargaining with your prices. Wotif, LastMinute, Booking.com and Hotels Combined are also great comparison sites to look at, and more often than not, they have their own special deals.
Alternatively, if you want to feel like a local on your holiday, consider Airbnb – an online listing of unique accommodation for rent in more than 190 countries. Not only will you feel like a local by staying in the unique accommodation on offer, it can sometimes be a lot cheaper than a hotel. With share options available as well as entire houses or apartment rentals, the choice and flexibility is yours.
Look at different days of the week or even different weeks entirely to see if the rate changes, and by how much.
When looking at dates, flexibility is the key to great discounts. Look at different days of the week or even different weeks entirely to see if the rate changes, and by how much. Suffice it to say, this might not be suitable if you’ve already settled on flight dates. If you haven’t, the more sensible option is to book your flights and accommodation simultaneously, organising them around each other.
Once you’ve got some background information on pricing and dates, it’s time to start communicating directly. You want to send a direct email to the hotel you are interested in to find out if there are any special offers available. This is doubly important as you’ll also be able to get a far more accurate price – keep in mind the offers you saw on the internet might not actually be as cheap as they appear. They usually fail to account for booking fees and taxes on top of the rate offered, which are left out to pique your interest. Make sure you know the exact figure you are dealing with.
After the email has been sent and replied to, we’d suggest you to call the hotel directly. If you are feeling confident you can do this right from the start – but regardless, always make sure that you do so. A simple interaction like talking directly to someone rather than exchanging emails can make you a tidy saving, so be sure to take advantage of this technique.
Be sure to follow up after your communication with the hotel. If possible, ensure your booking is one you can cancel if need be. It should be fairly obvious if this is the case – room rates can fluctuate quite swiftly depending on supply or demand, and if you keep an eye on the rate of your hotel as well as others nearby as you draw closer to the date, you’ll have the option to either switch or further negotiate down your own rate.
When you feel comfortable with the rate you are getting, be sure to lock it in with the hotel, particularly if they are refundable and you are going to a popular destination during a peak time.
All of these methods should make things a little bit easier for you to get the place and price that you want.
Some of the tips you can use to get a good hotel for an excellent price are a little less obvious, but are still handy to know. For example – if you work for a large company, you should ask your employer if they have any contracted rates with some hotel chains, particularly the nicer ones. Contracted rates are usually pretty flexible in how they’ll be offered, and usually all you need to get them to do is make a call to the hotel itself.
If you like to travel, why not make it more rewarding? Joining a loyalty program also tends to help.
Joining a loyalty program also tends to help – good ones include Starwood and IHG. With such a program, you’ll be able to take advantage of some very handy benefits that can save you money as well – free internet and free (or included) breakfasts for a start, and they also have point reward systems. If you like to travel, why not make it more rewarding? It’s very simple to do, and the rewards are well worth it.
One of the most important things you can do is understand hotel jargon. Most hotels offer a corporate rate but it may not be available to everyone upon request. Even asking for the best available rate might not get you the cheapest possible rate. Instead, always ask for the ‘cheapest non-refundable rate.’ This eliminates any ambiguities from the transaction and will most likely get you the lowest figure. After that, you can work to negotiate your own rate.
Keep in mind taking the cheapest non-refundable price as it is offered will generally mean paying up front – if you want to be flexible in your accommodation and believe you might be able to negotiate the price lower or find a better location, remember to make sure your booking is one you can cancel at no detriment to yourself. Be sure not to catch yourself out during the negotiations, and never try to lock yourself into anything until you are absolutely certain. If you have a doubt, hold off.
Be patient. There is no need to rush – unless of course you are booking at the very last minute. This kind of spontaneity is best reserved for a short trip or a spur-of-the-moment event to get away from everything for perhaps a weekend. It is probably not a good idea for an international trip. That being said, there are occasions when this kind of impulsive behaviour can work in your favour – there are websites and apps out there that allow the user to book an unsold room for a good discount. While it might not be as secure as a well-planned booking, there are alternatives for those who need to book in a hurry – or are hoping to do something completely impromptu.
Ask yourself – how much time will you be spending at the hotel? Are you simply there to sleep or will you spend the majority of your time there?
While a four or five-star hotel might be a tempting choice, it certainly won’t be the cheapest. For a long-term stay it may quickly become unsustainable. Keep in mind that staying at a higher-rated hotel might mean that you may be paying for extras you really don’t want or need – a 24-hour reception desk, uniformed staff, air conditioning – all of these increase the price of your stay. There are other small amenities as well – a room that has a shower in lieu of a bath tends to be cheaper, for example; a double-bed room is usually cheaper than a twin-bed room.
Ask yourself – how much time will you be spending at the hotel? Are you simply there to sleep or will you spend the majority of your time there? If the hotel is the destination, then it makes sense to spend a bit extra. But if you intend to make use of it as a staging point while you explore, then it would be prudent to look towards lower-rated accommodation and make yourself a tidy saving in the process.
There are things that should always be taken with you – travel insurance should never be something you skimp out on.
Be Aware, Be Smart
There are all manner of apps and websites you can use to make booking accommodation both easier and cheaper. Quite a few of them have been listed here, but there are plenty of others.
With some research, a bit of legwork and some follow up, you’ll get there with quite a saving as well. There are things that should always be taken with you – travel insurance should never be something you skimp out on.
Looking at overseas travel with kids? Check out our guide on how to travel with kids