How many of you find the perfect location for your next trip then you go online and search for accommodations but due to its popularity or proximity to local attractions, landmarks and natural beauty... you just cannot afford to stay here (at least not for the duration or in the way you would like). Well I am going to share a number of useful tips and tools to help you get the most for your money when booking accommodation. From free room upgrades to saving enough money on the accommodation that you could extend the stay.
Whilst package deals can sometimes offer a cheaper prices, recent trends suggest that more and more of us are wanting to cut out the middle man, to get more from our trips. Even more of us regular travellers are wanting to have the choice to explore the local area with ease, cook for ourselves (whilst having the odd evenings and lunches in local restaurants). We simply want a little bit more from our accommodation. Accommodation is one of the biggest costs when travelling whether it's for a short weekend in the country or a city break, it's very easy to spend a small fortune on the roof over your head during your stay.
This article is a bit longer than some others but I've aimed to include useful information throughout. If you don't have the time to read the whole thing now, just scroll to the bottom and Pin For Later.
I will be updating this article (like many others) periodically to make sure that the advice is still relevant and links are still useful. I may add other information to help you find better deals and ultimately get the most for your money when finding accommodation for your travels.
Booking in Advance Vs Last Minute
Again this is all dependent on the research you have done as to which is most suitable. Give yourself time, even if you will be booking last minute and have changeable plans the more research you can do the more ready you are. Check the location and be aware of its peak seasons. Some countries, towns and cities such as Patnem Beach and Palolem in Goa you can rock up a few days before and ask around to get a great deal from locals. Others like Baden-Baden in Germany or Innsbruck in Austria you may find yourself struggling to find availability unless booked in advance without paying a premium. There are some specific websites and apps for that which are really effective for booking last minute or grabbing cancellation deals. I've listed them further down in this post.
For last minute rooms try Hotel Tonight - last minute deals and exclusive deals on the app. This one is suitable for those of you who might be like me. I have a tendency to head somewhere for a day and then just want to stay the night.
Lastminute.com has package deals (flights and hotels) or separate deals that you can pick up for cheap
This is a great way to save some money and something people don't always tend to think about. Roomertravel.com is a little different to normal booking sites and based on rooms that had been previously booked then cancelled. In most cases the people had paid a deposit so the room can be discounted by the host, or in other cases it was a last minute cancellation and a room filled for less is better than empty.
Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past 25 years, then you must have heard of couch surfing. Well it still exists and below I have listed a few useful websites. For Couchsurfing's official site you do pay a small fee to stay in peoples homes. Sometimes it is on a couch, futon etc., others are in guest rooms. This is a great way to save a significant amount of money during your trips. There is some risk to this as you are entering a strangers home and as a host you are allowing strangers into your home. However there is accountability and both parties will know who the others are. Try These Useful Websites:
Housesitting is becoming increasingly popular, with more and more people wanting their pets to have care and attention just on them. Whilst the owners are on their own holiday, working away or out of town; kennels and catteries can often be a less desirable option. With many being expensive or some pets just become too distressed when around a lot of animals.
This is where housesitting comes in, if you are an animal lover this is a great way to visit an area for FREE. Yes I said free but keep in mind, you do have a responsibility to look after the animal, walk, feed etc whilst the owners are away. www.trustedhousesitters.com/ is the go to and most trusted of the sites but there are other options.
If you are just looking for some time away from home and somewhat relaxed travel this can be a great way to do it. It is expected that you keep the house clean and you generally need to get your own food in. But you will save money having free self catering accommodation to yourself. We honestly love this and as a couple we really love dogs and animals in general.
Some housesitting sites include those who are simply away, want their houses looked after, plants watered or in transition to move. However, these ones are a little less common and generally snapped up quite quickly.
Check out Trusted House Sitters Here
I have also included some other links below to housesitting sites. Although Trusted housesitters is the most established and trusted by more travellers.
United Kingdom Based Housesitting Links
Australia Based Housesitting links
You might have seen this term being thrown around a lot, but it really can be beneficial for your wallet not just your experience. Slow travel means staying in a location a longer, having less planned on your trips so you can enjoy the unexpected or absorb more of the local culture. Rather than booking a few nights in a hotel or a week, why not extend this a little longer and negotiate a better deal.
The longer you stay in any location the cheaper rate per night it generally is. This might be worth considering if you are having to rush off despite booking an area you are dying to experience.
If you are a full time traveller, backpacker or taking a sabbatical I highly recommend reading our article Save Money On Long Travel - Travel Longer for Less - Coming 12th February 2020. Find tips for getting work whilst travelling, finding better long term accommodation options and more.
Self Catering Options
This should be self explanatory, some accommodations might cost more due to the extra facilities allowing you to cook for yourself. Often you might add breakfast to your deal but most people tend to over indulge. These set price meals can often be overpriced when you compare that to what you'd normally need or want for breakfast. By buying breakfast in to be made at your accommodation, you save money and get to pick the time. If your stay is more than a few days long, you can often find that it works out similar or less. This extends to other meals too but even having a fridge, kettle and microwave can make a bit difference.
Camping can be a much cheaper alternative to staying in traditional hotels, whilst it's not for everyone those of you who like the outdoors and tend to do a lot of day trips or experience based travel; you will find some awesome benefits to staying on campsites.
Your only option isn't a tent, there are yurts, cabins, glamping tents and pod generally at a lesser cost than places that only offer cabins for instance (due to the fact that you may be close to others in tents).
The cost of camping in some amazing locations could allow you to balance your budget. For example In Sardinia 2 years ago we ended up needing to stay a night in the town but the cost of a basic hotel last minute or bed and breakfast was over £200 per night. We went for the campsite as we had tents with us and spent £20 per night in peak season. It was awesome, we are hoping to go back and just camp then explore the national park a bit more because we loved it so much. They also had cabins and pods to stay in that were between £50 - 80 per night which was still less than half of the others.
Whilst I can't advocate wild camping in the United kingdom (due to it being technically illegal) there are a number of countries and locations that do allow this or have schemes in place to support this, so long as you follow the Leave no trace ethic and be respectful to the local people. I've put some useful websites for both camping and Campervan sites below that can help you to get cheap rates.
Although not technically just accommodation, this is also your transport during a trip. Campervans have been growing in popularity every year. Whilst the van life may be a dream that either too much or not enough for some, so many of us dream to have just a glimpse of this.
The benefit of this is you are combining your transport and accommodation costs in to one (especially if you stick to sites that allow cheap or free stay such as above).
In addition to this there is a scheme in place that allows those who want to rent a camper to do this for about $1. The concept of this is for the renter to transport a camper from one location to the next (this can happen when for instance too many people hire campers to go from Auckland to Christchurch on the south island of New Zealand), leaving rental companies short vehicles they need. You pay the fuel costs but save on all the rental fees.
Imoova is currently available in the U.K, Europe, U.S.A., Canada, New Zealand and Australia
Useful Websites & Apps for Camping and Campervans
Park4Night is a useful app for the U.K and Europe for finding a spot to park up overnight.
Search for Sites is also really useful and a website that you may be able to find options on.
Tour Guide Canada has some really useful pages here for free and very cheap spots to park up all over the country.
Hip Camp has so many options to chose from and some amazing places that are more budget frienly. There is also a R.V. site section of this site to help you on your way. This is U.S.A based website. Sometimes you may be able to camp or Park a Camper or R.V. for free at fairgrounds, city parks and county parks around the U.S.A. But we recommend just checking before you turn up.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation aka DOC own a large number of sites around the country that are very very cheap or free to stay on. Some have amenities, some don't but they all have views. Check out Freedom camping for guidance and places to camp. This also includes Campervans on a large number of these although New Zealand has got a lot of sites only accessible by tramping or boat.
In Australia there are opportunities to camp for free and very cheap just check out Travellers Autobarn for this breakdown of where and how to secure these.
Points & Miles Schemes
For some reason in the United Kingdom we just haven't seemed to catch on fully with reward points beyond our supermarkets. These under-utilised schemes offered by credit card companies and airlines can be a fantastic way to save money when booking accommodations with partner companies of those you already purchase with. I used to use them a lot but have shifted more towards reward and loyalty programmes recently due to travelling so much with a range of trusted companies.
Reward and Loyalty Scheme
The likes of Booking.com have a genius reward programme where you will often receive vouchers during specific time periods and discounts on their range of accommodations.
Their genius level 1 where you can receive 10% off on average and exclusive limited offers.
Genius level 2 which I have taken full advantage of for a few years gives you an average of 15% off, free breakfast and even free upgrades.
Referral codes are another type of reward scheme and becoming the norm. So many people are looking for a discount and businesses are starting to realise the power of trusted referrals. The more savvy companies not only rewards their existing customers when a referral is used but they also reward the person booking. An example of this is Air BnB who currently offer up to £50 referral off for customers who sign up with a referral link. Mine is here.
If you don't have these accounts yet and you know a company offers one, check on blogs for your initial code or ask friends on social media.
Coupon or Deal Websites
In the U.K we have Wowcher, Secret escapes and Groupon which all offer exclusive deals on products, experiences and short stays. It's definitely worthwhile searching out coupon companies and deal websites in your home country and the country you are wanting to head to.
There are also websites such as Priceline where you can bid on accommodations on set dates.
This concept is a little bit different, most new hotels, those having a refurbishment or even those receiving a lot of complaints may need testers or secret shoppers. For the larger chains, you can check if they have any need for this directly. These are harder to pick up but not impossible. If you are a seasoned traveller or have hospitality experience, then you will be aware the requirements that customers generally want from their accommodation. Why not check these sites out and see if you can give it a go:
This is something I honestly didn't understand till recently and hadn't really used it much. Most of this applies to package deals or trip only more so than accommodations but this can be a great way to save money in general too. I use top cash back a lot and my own bank when I am researching something to buy or book in general not just for travelling. Then click through the links they have available and if you book, you generally receive a % back. This percentage is the usual commission a travel agent, sales person would receive and you are buying direct so you will sometimes see additional offers exclusive to these cash back schemes such as room or trip upgrades. To See TopCashBack Click Here
Do Your Research
I cannot place enough emphasis on this; coming from someone who has a tendency to be impulsive. I get an idea and I get tunnel vision; but after many overcharged, over priced mistakes when booking accommodation, I've realised the importance of research. Now I don't just mean checking the reviews and what's on offer in the area, you need to go further than that. It might take time in some locations but you can save a lot of money. What's more if you combine this with research other aspects of your trips, you could save enough to be going on longer trips or another trip.
Needless to say one of the best ways to save money when travelling is research. Apps have become a bit of an unsung hero in recent years when it comes to exclusive app deals that you can't find on full versions of sites. You should consider maps.me which isn't based around accommodation or focussed on it, but it does include it. It should be pointed out that it also has some awesome live deals around the world. Simple enter your location and you will find places to stay along with things to do and see.
My go to for booking sites is generally booking.com due to the choice available, the easy sorting filters and the exclusive discounts that are offered for those who use this regularly.
Check and Track
Check the price on as many booking sites as possible and also don't forget to check their own website if the accommodation has one. Make sure you track the movement of those prices. Does it change and vary? Screenshot the first price and any lower for the dates you are interested. Sign up to newsletters and deals.
Hold them to their word
If any booking site or the hosts website has a lowest price guaranteed yet their prices don't match. Get them to put their money where their mouth is.
Make use of no deposit and free cancellation offers
Sometimes these aren't necessarily cheaper but they can allow you to secure a place to stay, whilst you research and track the prices of others places. Then check the price of your stay from another account (a friend) or public view, make sure it hasn't dropped whilst you have secured an old price. If it does you cancel and rebook. You may in many cases find it jumps in price, which means you've secured a more affordable price anyway.
Take advantage of any free breakfasts or meal offers
I've never heard of anyone being charged more by pre booking a breakfast when booking a room. However, I have experienced and heard of prices being more expensive on many occasions when you don't take the initial offer and try to add once you are there (it's a package). Plus you depending on where you are, you may save money compared to eating out. If it sounds like a lot on the initial offer, check the hotel website or call to ask about prices for breakfast. Check the local restaurants or cafes with a quick message (social media has made it so easy, take advantage).
Email or Call The Hotel Directly
Ask them for a quote, be honest about what you think of the accommodation and let them know you are aware of other prices (on booking sites). Enquire about different durations and rooms, they may give a deal or offer to encourage you to go for the longer option or better room. Finally my last general note here is be polite when enquiring and build a rapport. You are more likely to get what you want and a deal if the person taking your reservation likes you.
Travel Books and Guides
Don't forget travel guides and books. Lonely planet and Rough Guides have lasted in the digital age for a reason. Their staff of experienced travel writers list by budget and do extensive research on the local area. You will also find out about the best areas to stay and avoid and some hidden gems in there too.
Travel Blogs and Travel Vlogs
Travel bloggers and Vloggers have a lot more experience than the average person at booking travel. They have experienced a lot of poor and amazing accommodations. Due to the detail of articles or videos you will find more information relating to a booking such as the location, how the expectations were match or missed, service etc. It's our business to travel a lot and create content about it, but we don't just get everything thrown at us for free .
We may get some sponsored trips and earn very small commission from recommended the odd booking if someone clicks on it. However, our trips are generally funded by us, so we have to budget and get the most for our money. When content is using affiliates (instead of ads and sponsors) the blogger or Vlogger can chose from thousands of companies that they already use and know and add the link to the topic already being mentioned rather than the other way around.
I'd search out travel blogs or Vlogs that suit your style of travelling you will spot some unexpected inspiration which might include discount codes, referrals with pre programmed discounted prices for their readers who click through.For example, it would be pretty pointless subscribing to our blog if you like all inclusive package beach holidays or partying in large groups of 18-30 year olds. We do all of those things at one point or another but me and my fiance love the great outdoors and adventure travel more than everything else. Therefore our travel experiences and the content I share on here mostly reflects that.
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