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When you’re planning a trip, booking a hotel is often the most expensive part of your travels. But there are some things you can do to reduce the cost of your hotel and save your hard-earned money for other expenses or something more fun like a nice dinner, shopping or unique experience during your vacation. Here are seven proven, time-tested ways to save money on hotels near you or just about any place in the world.
1. Use Your Membership Discounts
If you are an AARP member, AAA member or member of the military you may already quality for discounted rates at many hotels. Some hotel booking sites, (and individual hotel sites), let you apply this discount at the time of booking or you can often request the discount at check in simply by presenting your membership info.
2. Join Free Hotel Loyalty Programs
Most big hotel chain loyalty programs offer room discounts available only to members and only through booking on the hotel sites directly. Depending on how frequently you travel, you can quickly earn points towards future free stays. Some programs like Marriott Bonvoy (formerly Starwood) give you built in perks just for being a member like free wifi and later check out times.
Don’t be afraid to join more than one program at a time. You’ll often get emails from all of them with special offers that could save you money. The two biggest hotel loyalty programs with the most hotel chains and price ranges to choose from are Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors. Between the two, you’ll have dozens of hotels at various price ranges to choose from.
3. Talk To A Human
Let’s face it, it’s much more convenient to book online than picking up the phone and talking to a person, but you may be missing out on room discounts that only a personal conversation can elicit.
Don’t be afraid to call the reservations desk of a hotel you’d like to stay at, give them details on your trip and ask if they can give you a better rate than you’re looking at online. Sometimes you can connect with a good hotel employee who is eager to get your booking right then and there. Consumer Reports conducted a study that showed bargaining for a better room or rate worked almost 80% of the time. Ask about non-advertised specials, free parking, a bigger room for the same rate or a better room location. It never hurts (and often pays) to ask!
4. Book At The Last Minute
This technique is not for the faint of heart, but apps like HotelTonight and sites like Hotwire, Expedia and Kayak scour the internet for last minute deals from hotels eager to fill rooms that were cancelled by guests at the last minute.
5. Be On The Lookout for “Resort Fees”
Even if you’re not staying at what you would consider a resort, many hotels are starting to offer lower nightly rates in order to appear at the top of hotel booking sites but add on extra daily fees, often called “resort fees” at the end of your booking process. These fees vary depending on location, time of year and the hotel amenities but look elsewhere if you think they’re too much.
6. Book With A Hotel Rewards Credit Card
There are so many card companies out there competing for your business and the incentives they offer for signing up can be substantial. During the first months of card membership, card companies often give you huge mileage or points bonuses you can use towards future hotel stays if you spend the minimum amount for the bonus.
Booking your stay with a hotel card often gives you double points that can go to free rooms in the future, free upgrades, meals, early check in/late check out and more.
7. Use An Opaque/Mystery Deals Website
Sites like Priceline’s Name Your Own Price option, Hotwire’s Hot Rates and Travelocity’s Top Secret Hotels offer steep discounts of 40-60% off regular room rates through an opaque process. In the case of Priceline, if you bid on a room and if it’s accepted, you won’t know the identity of the hotel until you’ve booked it. Hotwire and Travelocity offer a fixed price for the room but only basic info is shown for the hotel. If you’re willing to take a chance on the hotel, the discount potential here is the highest than any other method of booking.
Saving money on your next hotel booking can take a little more time and legwork, but adopting just a few of the techniques above should save you at least a few bucks or give you some free perks you didn’t have to pay for.