Accommodations are one of the two big expenses of any trip, whether it’s domestic or international, with the other big expense being transportation (read more about that here and here). Let’s talk about ways you can save money on your accommodations, including some specific examples from my own experiences.
1. Don’t just stay in hotels.
If you’ve already read much of what I’ve written, you probably know that I’m a big fan of staying anywhere that’s not a hotel. Part of it is the budget aspect, and part is that they’re all the same, which makes them really boring. What are your other options? The big three are: hostels, bed and breakfasts, and Airbnbs. Your own preferences can determine which of these is the best choice.
I wanted to go into detail for each of these three, but decided that things were getting too long, so Part II will be all about non-hotel accommodations.
2. Check your location and transportation costs.
When looking at a hotel or other accommodation, pay attention to your location and what it’s going to cost you in transportation. If you’ve got a car, you might be able to book a place just outside of the city and pay significantly less. If you aren’t going to have a car, make sure you’re in a place that’s convenient to either good transportation or the attractions you’re interested in. For example, if you’re in a large city, try to find accommodation near public transportation lines. You’ll pay a lot less than if your location will force you to pay for a lot of taxis or Ubers. The further you are from tourist hot spots, the less you’ll pay (in most cases).
There are two parts of location to consider: first, staying near attractions will cost you more upfront. Second, staying in an inconvenient location will cost you more in transportation. Find a balance between these two to save on accommodations.
3. Join loyalty programs.
You can earn free nights and other perks through loyalty programs. Even better, you can get a credit card that will earn you points toward a particular hotel chain (such as Hilton, IHG, or Marriott). Then, you don’t end up paying for every single night because you earn free nights sometimes, too.
Marriott’s got a great program that gives you a fifth night free after paying for four nights with points. In Paris, because of my mom’s Marriott points and status through a credit card, we were able to take advantage of getting the fifth night free plus access to their lounge, where we got free breakfast (otherwise not included there) and some free dinners and wine nights. And you can share points. Greg and I were able to transfer some of our points to go toward it, so if you don’t have enough on your own to pay for four nights, you may be able to pool your points with whoever you’re traveling with to do it.
4. Check booking sites.
Sometimes, sites like booking.com, Orbitz, and Expedia will have better deals. After finding deals on booking sites, I always check the hotel’s actual site to see if I can find the same deal. Just remember that if you book through one of them, you probably will not get loyalty points, with Kayak being the exception because it’s a search engine rather than a booking site.
5. Be flexible!
This is the key to cheap travel. If you can change little things, you can often save money. If your schedule allows, look at slightly different dates to see if you can save by going the following week instead of the week you had previously planned. Travel during the work week also tends to be cheaper because it’s not possible for so many people. Be flexible with your location if you can, too. Even think about rooms flexibly. For example, if you’re traveling with four adults and want to stay in a hotel, you may be able to book a two-bedroom suite for less than the cost of two separate hotel rooms.
6. Think about expenses related to accommodation.
In tip 2, I discussed how transportation costs can vary depending on your accommodation’s location. Some other things to consider are: Are you planning on doing laundry and if so, are you going to have to pay for it? Would you save money on food and cook if there was a place available? Will breakfast be free or paid? Will you need to pay to get to the airport or is there a free shuttle? All of these little expenses can really add up, so don’t forget to factor them in because sometimes what seems like a great deal at first will actually cost you more in the end.
What are your other tips for saving money on accommodations? I’m always open to new ideas!