Nine Ways to Find an Affordable Hotel

With summer travel season upon us, many of us are busy dreaming of our next chance to get away. And whether you crave a mountain landscape, a sunny beach and a cold drink, the bright lights of the big city, or an epic hiking trip through the wilderness, you’ll likely need a hotel or some type of overnight accommodation. But summer prices are often through the roof, which makes shopping around more important than ever.

Nine Ways to Save Money on Hotels This Summer

To help you build a trip you can actually afford, we rounded up some of the hottest tips for hotel savings for the summer season. When it comes to hotels, remember that it always pays to shop around. Keep reading to learn some of the best (and easiest) ways to save on your summer hotel plans.

Shop around on travel discount sites.

Comparing prices is a smart move for almost anything you buy, from car insurance to groceries. But that’s especially true when you’re spending big money for several nights at a hotel or resort.

Travel search websites like Priceline offer some of the best travel deals in the business, even letting you “bid a price” on hotels and rental cars at certain destinations worldwide. Plus, there are many more discount sites to peruse – including Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, and Kayak — and it often pays to compare prices on each one.

If you want more options, you can also check out goSeek.com or the app Hotel Tonight. While goSeek promises to alert you when the price for your hotel or resort hits rock bottom, Hotel Tonight offers last-minute deals on hotels for… you guessed it, tonight (or within the week). If you don’t mind flying by the seat of your pants —  perhaps with a free-and-easy-to-cancel backup reservation in hand — booking last minute can be a great way to save.

Also check out Cyber Summer Travel, a website that features the best summer travel deals starting on June 20th, 2016. This year’s flash sale pricing includes deals such as:

  • Casa Palopó, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: 35% off, starting at $100/night
  • Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, Italy: 35% savings, with rates starting at $170 per night
  • NYAH, Key West, Florida: Rates starting at $99/night
  • Westin Playa Bonita, Panama: 40% off, starting at $108/night
  • Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, Jupiter, Florida: 50% off best available rates

Book directly with your hotel or resort.

Some of the largest hotel chains have rolled out special programs and pricing for customers who book directly, such as InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which in addition to its namesake also includes Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and other large hotel brands. By booking directly with IHG’s “Your Rate” program, you can get a lower rate than any other rate offered online.

The same can be said for Marriott resorts, which now offers special “members-only rates” for consumers who book through the Marriott website or mobile app.

If you plan to stay at one of the big hotel chains, it’s still wise to shop around on all the travel sites to find the best deal. But before you book, check with the resort chain’s main website for the most up-to-date deals and pricing. While it isn’t always the case, booking directly can often be cheaper, and might even come with additional perks like free breakfast or a room upgrade.

If you’re affiliated with the military or belong to AAA, you may also get an additional discount — up to 10% to 15% off — when you book directly with the hotel. Certain hotels may offer deals for students or seniors as well. Regardless, it never hurts to check if any discounts are available — all they can say is no, right?

Try a smart travel app.

Several apps aim to connect travelers with anything from last minute hotel deals to hidden discounts. You can use the Last-Minute Travel Deals app, for example, to book and save on everything from hotels and flights to car rentals, vacation homes, activities, and transfers all over the world.

Then, there’s InvisibleHand – a free browser add-on and money saving tool that helps consumers find the lowest prices on hotels, flights, rental cars, and more. Once you have the extension installed in your browser, you simply Google the hotel or resort you’re considering as you normally would. If a better deal can be found, a pop-up will reveal itself on your page or device to let you know.

Join a hotel loyalty program.

You don’t have to be a frequent business traveler to take advantage of hotel loyalty program perks. “Another surefire but surprisingly overlooked method is for everyday vacationers to join a company’s loyalty program to gain access to exclusive rates and accrue benefits that become increasingly generous over time,” says Arianne Valentino, director of sales and marketing at Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino.

At Hilton resorts in particular, rewards can take you far – whether you pay with cash or points. The upcoming Hilton World Sale offers Hilton HHonors members great value with up to 25% off at more than 4,660 participating hotels worldwide. Plus, Hilton members will earn double Hilton HHonors points for all paid stays from May 1 through Aug. 31, 2016. With these promotions, you can save on hotel stays now and earn some free nights later, too.

If you don’t like the big hotel chains, you can also join Stash Hotel Rewards, a loyalty program designed specifically for independent and small, family-run hotels. While not advertised as frequently, Stash allows travelers to earn and redeem points at over 170 independently-owned hotels across the United States.

Book through a cash-back portal.

While you may have heard about cash-back portals that reward users for making purchases online, most people don’t realize that some websites offer cash back for booking a hotel. BeFrugal.com, for example, offers an average of 7% cash back on hotel bookings made through the site. Signing up is free, and you don’t have to complete your reservation through Be Frugal, either. All you have to do is click through the portal before you book directly with a hotel to earn cash back.

While the options change all the time, Be Frugal’s current offerings include 7.3% cash back at Hotels.com, 8.3% cash back at Choice Hotels, and 6% cash back on hotel reservations made through Booking.com. If you’re going to book a hotel anyway, this is truly “free money” for the taking.

Book a travel package that includes more than your hotel.

If your trip is more than a place to lay your head at night and you plan to book a few things to do and see in the area anyway, consider a hotel package booked directly through a hotel instead of piecing your trip together a la carte.

For example, the JW Marriott Indianapolis offers packages for every type of traveler, from families to the weekly business traveler. Their “Lights, Legends, and Lions Package” starts at just $139 per night and includes deluxe overnight accommodations, two adult tickets to the IMAX Theater, Indianapolis Zoo, NCAA Hall of Fame, and White River Gardens, and includes breakfast for two each morning.

The best way to find “package deals” is directly on a hotel or resort’s website. Once you decide where you want to go and when, conduct a simple search and look for packages that might meet your needs.

Consider an all-inclusive resort.

All-inclusive resorts offer much more than a place to stay for one low rate; they also offer food, drinks (even alcohol), and entertainment in your basic room fare.

Oasis Hotels & Resorts is an all-inclusive resort chain best known for its incredible entertainment offerings. Their largest resort, the Grand Oasis Cancun, features nightly shows with elaborate costumes, professional contortionists, and dancers in the lobby. Plus, they offer round-the-clock food and drink, access to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and a fun atmosphere that keeps people of all ages entertained.

Any all-inclusive resort you choose should make budgeting a whole lot easier. With all of your food and entertainment included in your room rate, you can truly enjoy your vacation without any surprise expenses or “gotchas.”

Choose flexible dates, and plan ahead.

Even during the busy summer travel season, you can often score an off-peak discount by traveling outside of weekends and sometime during the week instead. “Surprise your family with a mid-week getaway, or start your stay on a Sunday,” suggests Susie Storey, director of communications for Great Wolf Lodge.

It can also pay to plan ahead, she says. If you want to save on a trip any time of the year, checking prices early so you can strike when the iron is hot is almost always a good idea. “Spontaneous travel always sounds adventurous and fun, but it can be more expensive,” says Storey.

Sign up for a hotel or rewards credit card.

Rewards credit cards offer a slew of benefits for frequent travelers, plus “points” you can redeem for free hotel stays, free flights, and more. By signing up for a hotel credit card and meeting a minimum spending requirement, you can often earn enough points for several free nights at your favorite hotel.

Our post on the best hotel credit cards highlights some of the top options out there, but you shouldn’t limit yourself quite yet. The most flexible travel credit cards can also be insanely fruitful when it comes to earning free hotel stays. Just remember to shop around for the best card and signup bonus to really maximize the number of points you’ll earn.

The Bottom Line

Whether you want to explore a big city or relax on a beach all day, your travel options are only limited by your budget and your imagination. As always, it helps to shop around for destinations and deals that make sense with your budget and travel style.

And heck, you might even find that you don’t want a hotel at all. In some cases, a renting a vacation condo through VRBO or Airbnb can work out to be cheaper, especially if you’re traveling with family members or a group of friends.

Don’t be afraid to put in some initial research as you plan your trip. With some digging and an eye for a deal, you could be enjoying the vacation of your dreams in no time. And whatever you choose, if you got a good deal and scored a vacation you’re happy about, then you did everything right.

Do you have any cheap travel plans this summer? What is your favorite way to save no hotel stays?

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