One of the biggest expenses when traveling is lodging. According to the latest data from the Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com, U.S. travelers spent about an average of $174 per night on hotels when traveling internationally in 2013. When traveling at home, Americans spent about $131. Of course, prices vary depending on a number of factors like time of year and type of hotel, but for vacationers on a multi-week trip, lodging costs can add up.
There isn’t just one reason why travelers might pay high prices to sleep at a hotel. A number of factors come into play to affect prices — from local taxes to location, market demand to additional services. Whether you’re paying $532 to stay on a five-star property in the Maldives (the most expensive country for Americans to book a hotel in 2013 according to the Hotel Price Index) or paying $108 for a Las Vegas hotel (America’s most popular domestic city in 2013), the average price of a hotel room around the world is on the rise. Hotel rooms cost 3 percent more in 2013 compared to 2012, according to the Hotel Price Index.
If you’re looking to save on hotel costs, follow these steps to get the best rate:
Of course, booking your hotel as early as possible before your trip will help you get the lowest rate. Market demand helps push hotel prices up. So if you’re a late-minute booker, expect to pay a premium price for your hotel of choice.
If you can allow some flexibility in your travel schedule, you might be able to score a hotel bargain. Try to input different dates to find out whether you can get a cheaper hotel rate by adjusting your itinerary. In addition, rates for hotels can vary depending on how you book.
Just because you find that a hotel costs a certain amount on its website doesn’t mean that it will cost the same if you book over the phone. So try looking at the rates offered for hotel on its website, calling the front desk, using a third-party website, or calling a 1-800 number. See if it’s cheaper to book with one method versus the others.
Use any of the big travel search engines like Expedia, Kayak, or Orbitz to get an idea of what prices for hotels are in the area you’re going to be visiting. Google Hotel Finder or TripAdvisor’s Hotels and Motels are also great sites to begin your search.
Prices may vary on different websites, but keep in mind that some sites may not list fees or surcharges. Some websites might also list different hotel options, so keep an eye out for hotels in your preferred area. You never know what might open up or you could stumble upon a lodging option that you weren’t even aware of in the first place.
Use helpful websites
The website Tingo helps you get money back if the price of a hotel drops — even after you’ve booked your hotel. DealAngel, meanwhile, is a hotel deal find engine that uses pricing analytics to help you determine whether a hotel deal is, in fact, a deal. In addition, there are a number of mobile apps that help you book last-minute hotels like Hotel Tonight and Jetsetter.
Book a package
If you’re headed to a popular destination like Hawaii or Orlando, then it might be worth looking into travel packages that group together your airfare, lodging, and other add-ons like renting a car or free parking. Typically, you’ll save more money booking these together in a group rather than paying for each individually. Even if you don’t need all of the components in the package, you still might save on overall costs.
A number of popular hotel chains offer loyalty rewards programs that come with some nice benefits. If you’re a Starwood Preferred Guest, belong to Hilton HHonors, or are a member of the Wyndham Rewards Loyalty Program, you could receive special perks or points that might qualify you to receive free accommodation, merchandise or discounted room rates. At the same time, more airline and hotel loyalty programs are partnering together. If you are an elite status flier, you might be able to earn hotel points for flying on certain airlines.
Hotel credit cards
If you frequently travel or use a specific hotel chain, it might be worthwhile to look into what rewards you might receive by signing up for a hotel credit card. Some hotels offer room discounts, or other perks to cardholders. Note: signing up for one of these cards only makes sense if you frequently utilize a certain hotel chain.
Keep an eye out for deals
We’ve mentioned DealAngel, but there are several other places you can go to hunt for a deal. For starters, hotels sometimes advertise deals on their own sites, especially if they’re small, or in email newsletters if it’s a big chain. Being part of a professional association or a member of the AARP or AAA might help you get a discount. There are also websites that might offer Internet discount codes for certain hotels, like RetailMeNot or Hotels.com.
Consider the other stuff
The cheapest hotel isn’t always the best hotel for you. A hotel closer to the city center might cost you more money per night, but it means you’ll spend less on transportation costs. A hotel that offers a free continental breakfast might be worth paying a bit more for if you can save on the costs of buying a bagel or muffin each morning.
Look into amenities the hotel offers — a gym, in-house masseuse, free airport shuttle — and decide whether it might be worth paying more for these extras.
Use social media
Tweet the hotel to see if they are offering any deals or search the hotel’s Twitter feed to see if they’ve made any announcements. Also, like the hotel on Facebook and Pinterest. Some hotels might reward you with flash deals they announce on social media.
A hotel would prefer to fill up a room, rather than leave it empty. So ask for any freebies, like breakfast or free parking, and don’t be afraid to negotiate.