When planning a trip, we usually concentrate on the cost of travel, and it can come as a shock when we start to think about the accommodation. We all want to stay somewhere at least as comfortable as our own homes, but we don’t necessarily want to pay a fortune for the privilege. In fact, it is rarely necessary to pay the full advertised rate, if we take a tactical approach.
Get the Timing Right
Timing is everything. If you are fixed on a certain destination and certain dates, by all means, book ahead, but note the last date you can cancel for free. Check the prices again and if they have dropped, cancel and re-book. Prices are generally cheaper if you book within the no-cancellation period.
Subscribe to an email update service to track price changes for you. They will notify you of price drops in the hotel that you are interested in.
If you are flexible on your destination, you can also track where in the country the prices are moving up or down for any reason.
Different hotels are directed to different markets and will, therefore, be busy at different times. If you are planning a summer vacation, identify hotels that target business travelers—they will tend to be less busy during the holiday seasons so might offer better rates than hotels geared up for leisure.
Use Loyalty Schemes
If you get around a fair bit, build up loyalty points as you would with an airline. Perhaps you go to Boston every year, in which case any hotel you use regularly there might show their appreciation. But suppose you want to go to Baltimore this year. If you have used a chain like Marriott you could use your points from Boston to get discounts at Marriott Camden Yards.
Third party web-based booking firms also offer loyalty schemes. However, after getting the best price from a booking firm always check the cost of a direct booking with the hotel—it will often be cheaper.
You can often save money by bundling your flight, hotel, and car hire into one booking—but don’t assume that will always be the case.
There is no certain way to get an upgrade. It never hurts to ask, but say nothing until you have established a genuine rapport with the reception staff.
Arriving late to check in will mean that the staff will know which rooms are not likely to be used, and might be less busy.
New hotels are often willing to upgrade customers to the best accommodation they have available, as it is a good way to promote the business in its early days.
You are more likely to get an upgrade if you are a loyal customer.
The Price is Right
Budgeting for a vacation is never easy, and there are always unexpected extras which push the cost above your estimate. Allow for paying the full cost of accommodation, and then you will often have the satisfaction of coming in under budget when you book carefully.