Think location – why pay for a lower-priced room if you have to pay for the bus/cab/train when you could walk from place to place. Take some time to research the area and look at some different booking options.
A service called Roomer allows you to reserve a hotel room that someone else has booked but can no longer use, and is non-refundable. By offering someone else’s set booking, the original buyer gets some money back, and you get a reduced rate.
You could waste time and money if you find really cheap accommodation but it ends up being way out of the city centre you could end up spending more on transport than the difference of a room in the centre.
Stay more than one night in your accommodation where you could get better deals. Hostels and other locations often have discounts for longer stays and if it’s not advertised it doesn’t hurt to ask. This is also the case with local accommodation, they will often discount your stay or give you a free night if you stay longer. Longer term rates can reduce nightly rates significantly. Extended bookings are ideal as it means less room changeovers for owners and thus less costs. Weekly and monthly rates on Airbnb are quite competitive against what locals pay in terms of rent, and are almost always much cheaper than hotels.
Stay over Sunday where there is a possible void when you could get a cheaper price from many Friday and Saturday night accommodation bookings from leisure travellers and Monday to Friday bookings from business travellers. Weekends are almost always the most expensive time to stay in cities. If your schedule is flexible, try and plan to spend the weekends in smaller places and come to the cities mid week when there are no local tourists.
Stay mid-week and avoid booking on peak days (Friday and Saturday). Often accommodation costs change depending on the day and availability. If you can go a day later or arrive sooner you might be able to save a bit of money.
Travel in the shoulder-season. Accommodation costs will be lower, the weather will still be favorable, and in popular destinations you’ll avoid the large crowds which make sightseeing easier. For example, when visiting Europe consider going in May or September and avoid the July/August summer peak season.
Apartments and rental homes like on Airbnb are a great way to cut costs. They are usually cheaper and more practical than a hotel.
Use air/rewards miles to book hotels – it’s one of the better value strategies to get the most mile usage for your dollar (especially in consistently expensive destinations e.g. Paris). Remember, you can earn points on booking sites like Expedia and Hotels.com too.
Use price matching – some hotels and booking sites price match. This means if you find another website offering the same hotel & dates at a cheaper rate, you could get a refund on the price difference. Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Hotels Combined all have price-match guarantees.
Get price alerts on hotels – this can be handy if you’re set on a particular hotel/date set and want to know if rates change. Kayak has opt-in price alerts via e-mail.
Book accommodation in advance at the best rate you can find online, then keep an eye on prices to see if you can get a better deal at another property, or even at the same hotel.
Staying in hostels may not be a great option for the USA due to the lack of quantity and quality, but in places like the United Kingdom, France and Thailand the network is extensive and the quality is ever increasing. Some hostels are not just dorm rooms for backpackers. Many offer private and family rooms so they can be one of the best cheap alternatives to hotels. Hostels in major cities are located close to public transport and tourist sites. A private or family room is typically cheaper than a hotel room and they generally have cheap and free services such as wi-fi, a laundry, luggage storage, fully-equipped kitchen facilities, and local tours. Read the reviews of the hostel too.
If you can’t find cheap hotels in the city center, staying slightly outside of the city will almost always save you money on the cost of hotels and apartments. Research the area’s public transportation system so your trip doesn’t result in high transportation, parking costs, or precious time.
Check the dining options – nearby cafes or restaurants near the hotel are more likely to be cheaper to walk to a nearby cafe or restaurant than dining in the hotel, unless you get free breakfast as part of your booking. If you do eat in, does the hotel have a restaurant with reasonable prices? Does it have a kids menu? Does it have room service? Does it cater to your dietary needs?
What facilities does your accommodation have? Does it have free WiFi, free airport shuttle, free breakfast, free cable TV, laundry facilities, a pool, BBQ areas, private rooms with en-suites, a tour booking desk, 24-hour reception? Is there a fridge, microwave, coffee machine?
Think room design and who you are traveling with. Can you share beds to cut costs per head? If you have a baby make sure a portable cot is available and free.
Check for family deals on your accommodation. Always ask about discounted family rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
Follow on social media – it’s getting more and more common for sites to release cheap accommodation deals directly through their social media channels.
Sign up for e-newsletter deals. They often distribute deals and special coupons only to their email subscribers and members.
Delete your cookies/history when searching for cheap accommodation deals, use a different browser or go incognito before looking up prices a second time on a particular booking site. Websites store your search data and when you come back they know you are more likely to book as a repeat visitor and will charge you more.
Consider volunteering or working in exchange for accommodation. WWOOF (worldwide opportunities on organic farms), WorkAway, SkillStay, HelpX are reputable resources to find opportunities. Hostels often offer free accommodation in exchange for a few hours work, simply e-mail or ask on arrival.
Consider roadtripping or camping. Merging your transportation & accommodation costs can be sensible in expensive countries.
Check Groupon & deal-of-the-day sites
Hotel bookings or holiday packages can have significant discounts on group buy sites, especially if you’re seeking fancier hotels. Double check for black-out dates and take note of additional fees (e.g. extra charges for bookings on weekends or holidays).Some group buy sites include:
Groupon (North America, Europe & Oceania)
Travelzoo (US, Canada, UK, Australia)
Living Social (North America, Europe & Oceania)
Take a grain of salt to the reviews. The reviewing system on almost every booking site can be very useful or very misleading. Make sure you read a good range of them and take into account who is writing them. Often people of different ages and cultures have different expectations in accommodation and different perspective on what is good value for money. Also bear in mind that people are more likely to write about a bad experience than a good one (unless it was exceptional).
Use accommodation reward programs. If you frequently visit the same hotel chains or hotel booking sites, join their rewards or membership program. To maximize your earnings in any rewards program, charging your hotel costs to a credit card tied to the rewards program is essential. All cards will give you bonus points for spending, and the best cards will also give you instant elite status in the hotel program, which means more bonus points.
Use Credit Card Reward Points. Check the program and benefits for your particular credit card, you might be able to use your points for accommodation costs. Anyone can join the program, from anywhere in the world. With a small investment one can save an average of 5%-10% on many hotel stays. If you don’t save money, rates booked through AAA are usually cancellable until the day of arrival. If in Canada, CAA does have other benefits other than for your car – worth having a look.
Read travel blogs for places that don’t offer so much accommodation online make sure to read up on blog posts about the area and see if they recommend good places to stay.
Some sharing economy accommodation options include:
Wimdu (popular in Europe)
StopSleepGo (popular in Philippines)
Hospitality Club (stay at a home/farm etc for free, sometimes volunteering/working)
TrustedHousesitters ($96 USD/yr – large member base)
Nomador ($89 USD/yr – new, allows free registration & free housesit browsing)
House Carers ($50 USD/yr)
Luxury Housesitting ($25 USD/yr – popular in U.S.)
Home Exchange ($130 USD/yr)
Love Home Swap ($240-$408 USD/yr)
Home for Exchange ($64 USD/yr)