Here's how to maximize your travel savings.
Tents, yurts, hostels, and couches- value minded travellers have seen it all! And when it comes to hotels, well, it's fair to say that no two trips are the same. A 2 star budget chain hotel in the American Southwest, a gorgeous 4 star suite in downtown Montreal with rock star heritage, and a 3 star in Paris (with a no-star bathroom and a 5 star address) - these are just some of the hotels I've called home recently.
When you're planning your big trip it doesn't matter if you're eyeing the bare basics or sweet, suite stars. You just want to get the best bang for your buck. Here are some best practices to get the best value on every hotel, everywhere.
A Tale of Trade-Offs.
Getting a great hotel deal often involves a trade-off of some kind. Are you willing to be further away from town in order to save money? Are you willing to forgo a pool to stay at a property that offers Travel Reward Miles? In Paris, we didn't want to waste any time commuting during our short two day visit . Therefore, our digs in St Germain were a bit humble but the location was a perfect 10.
Can You Stay Mid-Week?
With very few exceptions (like Brussels), the overwhelming majority of hotels have lower demand mid-week and there are more deals to be had.
Stay A While.
Weekend visits are often more economical when you stay for more than one night. Lower turnover saves money for the hotel in terms of the demand on the front desk staff and the housekeeping team and the savings are passed along to guests.
Hit a New Low.
Hotels operate on a simply supply and demand system. When demand is low and supply is high, rooms will be priced less. With savings of up to 75%, the pros of shoulder season travel far outweigh the cons.
Read Some Reviews - The Smart Way.
Review sites like Trip Advisor offer tremendous value to travellers, but only if you know how to read the reviews. I start by reading a couple of the most recent submissions. Hotels are constantly undergoing staff and management changes and renovations – old issues can be completely resolved by the time of your visit.
Next, I read some recent “terrible” reviews. I’m looking for a trend. If 5 out of 5 say that the bathrooms were filthy or the staff were horrible, that’s a concern. But I also look at the people writing the reviews – do they seem like experienced, reasonable, well-spoken travellers or are they people who had a bad day and are on a rant?
I also examine recent "excellent" reviews – is there anything that will make all the difference in the world? Consistent reports of staff who go the distance gives me much greater value than if the hotel is across the street from a hot dance club.
Dare to Compare
Looking to blind bid or name your own price? The best deals are found in regions with a high concentration of hotels with the same star rating. Downtown Halifax and Waikiki, Honolulu are densely packed with 4 star, brand name hotels, while Flagstaff and Niagara Falls are home to nearly a dozen 2.5 to 3 star budget properties. It's easy to hold firm in your prices when you're the only fancy or family friendly joint in town - but when you're a dime a dozen, well, travelers can save a whole lot of dimes!
Codes, Coupons, and Cookies
Online coupon codes are applicable both for direct bookings and third party booking. You can find them both through Google searches and pop up codes when you log onto the websites. But be sure to reset your computer’s cookies – great deals and pop up savings codes often disappear after the initial visit. As well, don’t forget about coupons and discounts that you might already be entitled to for being a student, senior, military member, as part of an auto club membership or owning an Entertainment Book.
Try Booking Directly...
Often, the best prices are on the hotel's own website - and it's much easier to cancel or modify a reservation. At Flagstaff’s Days Inn, we combined an early booking rate with an online coupon code to get the room for $35 a night.
An added bonus of booking directly? Hotels will often throw in little extras. In Bruges, most hotels offer a bottle of wine or box of chocolate for booking directly with them.
...Or Try A Third Party Booker
Finding a three star hotel in the center of Paris for around 100 Euros is fairly simple, as long as you’re not too fussy about the particular arrondisement. We combined a coupon code offer from Orbitz with an existing sale and got a great deal. We pulled the same trick in Bangkok, once again applying a code with an existing sale to stay in a 4 star hotel with an infinity pool for about $80 a night.
Be Bold and Bargain.
You have nothing to lose – especially for a mid-week or low season stay - to call and ask about the best possible price. Simply offer $10 or $20 below the best posted online price. During our infamous camping trip when our tent blew away, we sought a nearby Comfort Inn. We saw online that they had only three rooms left at about $100. Never ones to accept the first price, we called them and ask if they had any discounts we didn’t know about and ended up paying about $85. Not bad for a 4 minute phone call!
Offer to Pay Cash
Family run budget hotels might offer a discount on cash payments, as they will save the credit card transaction fee.
Ask and You Shall Receive
Ask not for a discount but for something extra to give your stay more value, like an upgrade to a business room, complimentary breakfast, a credit at the bar, or free parking and Wi-Fi. In some hotels, getting the parking included is worth up to $40 a night!
Not All Rooms Are Created Equal.
Not all hotel rooms are created equal. If you want the nicest, quietest, most spacious room - just ask! Ask for a recently renovated room. Ask for a room near or far from the elevators, based on your preference. Ask for a room away from the construction, the renovations, the school group, the bachelor party, the dog sled competitors. Nope, that last one is not a joke! I once stayed in a hotel that was hosting a dog sled competition. They put all guests (competitors or not) in the same wing to make things easy for the staff. Unfortunately, those of us not part of the competition found the round-the-clock sound of baying dogs less than soothing.
Be A Great Guest.
You know what? Most hotel staff are great people who want you to have a great experience. And precious few guests see the staff as humans and offer them courtesy and friendliness. The staff are deserving of this respect in and of itself, but if often comes with the added bonus of getting a nicer room (or, at the very least, not getting the worst room.) A warm smile and polite conversation at the MGM Signature in Las Vegas led to a complimentary upgrade to the penthouse suite. Kindness is always the best policy!
I'd love to learn from you! What are your tips to get the best bang for your buck?
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