Traveling Cheap- The Basics: Part 1, Hotels

Have you ever looked at those posters on the inside of hotel room doors? Usually they have emergency exit routes posted in bold red but if you take a really good peek, in fine print at the bottom you’ll notice a little something that looks like this: “MAXIUM ROOM FEE FOR ONE NIGHT: $499,” or some other nauseating sum of money.

A glimpse into my Cape Cod hotel room. [Taken by me]
A glimpse into my Cape Cod hotel room. [Taken by me]

Whenever I see this I always resent the hotel for a second because I remember that most of them are over priced charging you $140 for a bed with a bathroom and a couple chairs that end up covered in useless crap anyways.

Then I remember I actually only paid $99 so technically I saved like 400 bucks. How did I achieve such a low price? Take a look.

1. Your basic discounts

If you’re in the military, you’re in luck, most hotels offer a military discount! One caution though is to never assume this rate is the best. More often than not military/government rates are higher than most basic discounts such as AAA or reward memberships. To much of my dismay I have actually seen military rates HIGHER than the best available price without any other discount.

Other basic discounts though, that tend to be more consistent, are AAA, hotel memberships, and even corporate discounts. For example, many Massachusetts Holiday Inns offer discounts for National Grid employees since the company has loyalties there by staying at their hotels during storms. Other than corporate, the best part is that rewards and travel programs are either free or under $20 to join. AAA has discounts on everything from hotels to rental cars to flights and reward memberships allow you to rack up points with stays and ultimately get free nights. Plus, the special treatment at check-in doesn’t hurt either.

2. Booking online through DIRECT sites

Okay, so booking your room online can go a few different ways.

A (delicious) homemade hotel breakfast from the convenience of our suite! [Taken by me]
You have direct sites that come straight from the hotel you want and you have third-party sites which I will get to in a minute. Often times hotels will lower their prices online as an incentive to book early. If you’re planning an extended stay this is a great option because they might offer specials like book three nights and get the fourth free, especially if they are already rather expensive.

Another great thing about booking on direct sites are packages. Usually hotels and resorts offer package deals for everything from romance, to wine tastings, to dinner or even holiday ones. Though their prices at first glance will be painful, they may also be the best deal, which is what I found in my recent trip to Cape Cod. Meal packages are my personal favorite because most include free breakfast and at least one dinner. This means that if I am staying for two nights, that is three meals I don’t have to pay for. Just be sure that if you do book a package you’re actually going to use it, that way you aren’t wasting precious cash.

3. Booking online through THIRD-PARTY sites

The number of discounted sites to find hotels are seemingly endless. It’s as if a new one pops up every day. My personal favorites are Trip Advisor, and hotels.com, but that isn’t to say others aren’t as good. I prefer Trip Advisor because of the location options and reviews. They always have plenty of comments form other guests to help pick the best hotels and they can help you navigate the location of the hotel well to help find close points of interest. In my opinion they do it best, but browse around to see for yourself!

I LOVE hotels.com because they offer so many specials. As a member of email lists I am always alerted of upcoming specials where I can get 50% off rooms (assuming it’s a destination I will be going) and they offer the 10-night program. After booking 10 nights off their site you can one free and free is my favorite thing ever.

Other sites, though, do offer a different room scanning algorithm.

The view from my Ottawa hotel room balcony. [Taken by me]
The view from my Ottawa hotel room balcony. [Taken by me]
Sites like getaroom.com work differently than standard booking sites, so price checking is key depending on how much digging you’re willing to do. Personally, this is the article I live by when it comes to booking sites. It’s a decent amount of effort but snagging a full kitchen suite with a washer/dryer and balcony overlooking Ottawa for under $110 per night was worth it. (More on that later!)

The search for the best hotel deals can be endless if you let it, but it’s also important to remember WHEN to book. More will come on that as well, but in my experience for longer more distant trips, two-three months in advance is better where as for local trips, two-three weeks in advance has been where I have hit the best prices. For now, happy hotel hunting and stay tuned for Part 2 for great tips on how to book cheap flights!

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