All vacationers want an exciting, safe, and budget-friendly trip this summer. When taking a break from the real world, a little planning beforehand can help save money when arranging your hotel stay. Here are some cost cutting tips to take before your next getaway.
- Weigh the hotel vs. rental option. Airbnb, once regarded as the most affordable option, saw prices creeping up as the platform became more popular. As such, travelers may have become more disillusioned with the platform. At the same time, hotels are using tech to improve the experience. Here's a comparison of the two to help you decide.
- Time your trip right. Normally, the longer you wait to book, the more expensive the hotel rate. However, according to Hotels.com, "If you're willing to gamble and have some flexibility on location or room type, waiting closer until your arrival, you can unlock savings when hotels are looking to fill rooms at the last minute."
Another way to save is to select mid-week stays or off-season dates. Average hotel rates tend to be generally lower in January and early February, and then again just after the summer months. Keep in mind this is just an average and doesn't take into account busy travel periods, such as any holidays, when you should definitely book in advance.
- Get your just rewards. Every major hotel chain has its own loyalty rewards program, which anyone can join. You'll need to evaluate how to maximize this benefit as all the chains have different rules. With many, you'll accumulate points which you can apply for future stays. There are also other benefits, such as room upgrades, and late checkout.
Another overlooked perk is to check for special discounts you might qualify for. Veterans, AAA members, seniors, government employees and students often qualify for discounted hotel rooms—sometimes on top of the discount you're already getting.
- Use price comparison websites, then go direct. Many hoteliers like to keep their discounted rates out of view of the general public. They do this by bundling their room rates with airfare, disguising the discounted price. Travel-bundling websites like Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire, Orbitz and Kayak can help you with comparison pricing to find the best rate for these types of hotel stays. But experts say that for the best bargain, call the hotel directly to see if they can give you a better room rate, as well as to see if they have any other offers or freebies. This works because often, hotels get last-minute cancellations. Don't call the hotel's 800 number. Instead, contact the front desk directly.
- Check social media. Hotels know that engagement works. They make it easy to book a stay while viewing gorgeous photos of a hotel and a destination. Look for suggestions from trusted influencers, and following travel accounts. Check promotions on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter—you could save with offers for better rewards point conversions, or exclusive members-only accommodations in exchange for positive reviews. On most, you can even book your stay direct without leaving the app.
- Look for promo deals. A bonus tip for securing a cheaper stay is to browse hotel industry publications such as Room Saver, Hotel News Resource or Hotel Designs. Or register for your favorite chains' email newsletters. Some will allow you access to discount codes that provide additional savings on accommodations, room upgrades, or even complimentary stays.
- Educate yourself about added fees. Booking hotels with free cancelation can be a smart way to save money. However, change and cancellation policies vary. Know that many lodging services do not offer free cancellation with a refund under most circumstances. Others charge extra fees to cancel or offer no refund.
See the sidebar below for more information about hotel resort fees.
Hotel Resort Fees
Resort fees, also called amenity or destination fees, are an additional add-on charge to cover extras ranging anywhere from a daily newspaper, a welcome drink, phone calls, in-room coffee, use of the fitness center or pool, and even beach chairs.
It's required to pay resort fees, regardless of whether or not you use the extra services. These fees aren't included in the room price until right before you book, so they will not appear when making price comparisons on hotel booking sites.
- Fees are charged on a per day basis and range from $20 to $90 per room, daily.
- Each hotel chain has different policies regarding resort fees. Check hotel websites directly for the types of amenities included along with the fees they typically charge. Or call the front desk for details.
- Check ResortFeeChecker.com before you book. It's a tool that lets travelers quickly and easily look up resort fees at over 2,000 hotels worldwide.
- Some hotels waive the fee if you have elite status or on award stays.
It's wise to weigh the value of what activities and services you're in line for. Some resorts do go all out on the type of amenities they provide—such as discounts to local attractions, yoga and Pilates classes, electric bike rentals, guided beach walks and use of paddleboards or kayaks. As a vacationer, you might be encouraged to try a new experience or activity once you know what types of amenities you're entitled to.
Helpful sites for travelers
Resources: USA Today, Arizona News, Never Stop Traveling, the Kim Komando Show®