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Booking a holiday can be anything but a holiday. There are airfares to organise, activities to plan, even how you’ll look after the house and pets while you’re gone. And potentially the toughest of all is arranging your accommodation.

Booking a place to stay can be intimidating if you don’t have much knowledge or experience. Hotels all vary in features, views and location – and often price doesn’t make things any easier. The cost will usually change based on all of those, as well as supply and demand.

If a place is popular, you could end up paying more for what you get.

Thankfully, there are some simple ways to score yourself a better deal on your stay. To help make your next trip a triumph, we’ve put together our top tips for booking cheap accommodation.

See all of Budget Direct’s travel planning guides.

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. Generally speaking, if you travel in the off-peak season, you’re more likely to get a better deal. 

To help make this one a little easier, we’ve even put together a guide on finding the best time to go on holiday. But once you’ve settled on where and when you’d like to go, it’s time to start comparison shopping.

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 a private or ‘Incognito’ mode, which can be found on most web browsers. This way, the sites you’ve visited won’t be able to track your activity on their page, and websites won’t be able to artificially inflate prices.

There are also some great accommodation comparison sites that allow you to find the best deal for your stay. You can use systems like Skyscanner, LastMinute, Wotif, Booking.com, and hunt around for the best price possible. 

If you do find a good deal on a comparison website, one sneaky option is to call the hotel directly, and see if they’ll beat the comparison website. They pay a fee for every booking that comes through a comparison service, so chances are they’ll slightly undercut your best quote to avoid the fee.

Be flexible

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.

Use your networks

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.

Joining a loyalty program like Starwood or IHG can also help. You can take advantage of some very handy benefits that can save you money as well, like free internet and free (or included) breakfasts.

Sound like a pro

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.

Plan for the length of your stay

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.

With some research, a bit of legwork and some follow up, booking your next trip should be a holiday. And of course, it’s worth making sure you’re protected the next time you travel. Make sure to do your research on travel insurance before you go, and read the Product Disclosure Statement for Terms, Conditions, Limits and Exclusion for all of those unexpected issues.

See all of Budget Direct’s travel planning guides.