9 Insider Secrets to Book an Affordable Hotel Stay

You might be wrapping up your summer travel, but before you know it you’ll be knee-deep in holiday travel planning. A 2018 Holiday Travel Report by Nerdwallet found that nearly half of Americans expected to put an average $1,456 on a credit card to cover holiday season travel.
This year, save money on travel expenses by cutting costs on your hotel stay. Here are a few tips to help you find cheap hotel rooms and have an affordable stay.

1. Book a midweek stay

Like flight prices, weekend reservations (Friday through Sunday) are the days of the week that are generally busiest for hotels. Thanks to supply-and-demand, nightly rates can be higher for a weekend. 

Although you might see a surcharge around dates that sandwich major holidays, booking a weekday stay is typically one way to find cheap hotel rooms.

Photo by Shawn Lee

Photo by Shawn Lee

2. Ask your hotel for a price match

It might sound counterintuitive to book directly with the hotel. Thanks to the many third-party booking websites on the internet vying for your money, however, hotels are more willing to give you the best rate.

Search for the best hotel deals available for your travel dates. Look at travel aggregator sites like Expedia, or compare multiple rates from different sites through Kayak. Once you’ve found the best deal (make sure to compare room rates and fees), call the hotel directly to see if they’ll match the price.

Not only can you score deep discounts, but booking with the hotel may get you perks like complimentary breakfast or free Wi-Fi.

3. Use apps for last-minute travel

Today’s biggest travel sites, like those mentioned above, have apps that make it convenient to find the best last-minute hotel deals. However, apps like HotelTonight help you find deep discounts on hotels domestically or abroad. 

You can book last-minute hotel deals for the same day or even a few weeks in advance of your departure. If you prefer spontaneity while traveling, its Daily Drop deals offer special pricing that’s available for a limited time. 

4. Stay in a nearby town

If your holiday festivities are in the heart of the city, you might be in for prime room rates. Instead of dealing with crowded hotels and at a higher price, take a look at neighboring towns outside of the city center. 

Do research to find out which areas nearby offer cheap hotel rooms, but still have accessible public to help you get to friends and family on time.

5. Avoid booking too soon

Hotel rates are typically priced based on the existing hotel occupancy in the books. In this case, the early bird doesn't always catch the best hotel deal. 

If you book too far ahead you might only see standard rooms rates. However, by booking within 30 days of your check-in date, you’ll find more room discounts pop up as hotels scramble to fill empty rooms.

6. Join a hotel loyalty program

When it comes to how to get cheap hotels, travel experts know that loyalty goes a long way. If you love a particular hotel, find out if they offer a free loyalty program. Sticking with the same hotel can earn you benefits, like complimentary meals, early check-in and check-out, and even discounted vouchers for spa services or the hotel restaurant.

If you want to go a step further in saving money toward travel, you can also look into top co-branded rewards travel credit cards for your favorite hotel. Not only will you earn loyalty status, but you’ll also earn rewards that can be redeemed for future travel.

7. Take advantage of member-only rates

Sites like Expedia and Hotels.com offer secret deals when returning travelers sign up for their rewards program membership. The amount you save as a member varies depending on the season and hotel. Even if you’re only saving $20 per night as a member, the savings add up if you’re booking an extended stay. For a five-night stay, for example, that’s $100 in savings.

The Hotels.com Rewards program even offers its members one free night stay, after booking 10 nights through the site. Your 10 booked nights don’t even have to be consecutive days for a single trip.

8. Stalk your credit card’s reward center

Just like third-party hotel booking sites, your travel credit card’s rewards center may offer discounted specials for certain properties. Keep an eye on your card’s rewards portal to see whether your top hotel goes on “sale”.

And don’t forget to use your earned rewards points to pay for a portion of the hotel reservation or the entire stay.

9. Negotiate Airbnb rates

Waiting until the last-minute on Airbnb or VRBO property for holiday travel can be a great way to save money on accommodations. Bonus: you may have greater success negotiating on a last-minute stay.

Hosts may be leaving town for their own holiday plans. If their room or home is still unbooked, they can be more open to the idea of booking you at a lower rate. After all, like hotels, it’s better to rent out a room at a discounted price than not at all.

Jennifer Calonia