Finding the perfect hotel for your vacation or business trip can be daunting, especially when you’re on a budget. Fortunately, the digital age offers an abundance of options, not just to find a hotel but to find it at a steal. Let’s discover some secrets to finding the best hotel deals online.
Booking hotels online often comes with several advantages: you can compare prices easily, read reviews and, most importantly, take advantage of online-exclusive deals. Many hotel chains and booking platforms offer lower rates online to incentivise digital bookings.
Timing Is Everything
One of the biggest secrets in securing a great hotel deal online is knowing when to book. Generally, mid-week bookings offer better rates compared to weekend reservations. Hotels often assess their bookings and adjust pricing based on demand; fewer people tend to book during the middle of the week, making it a prime time to snatch up better rates.
The Best Day to Book According to Kayak
According to travel aggregator Kayak, the best day to book international hotels is generally on Fridays. Their data suggests that you could save up to 10-15% by booking on this day as opposed to other days of the week. Although it isn’t an absolute rule, it’s a trend worth trying if you aim to maximise your travel budget.
Last-Minute Bookings: Pros
Booking a hotel 15 days in advance can have its advantages. Firstly, you may find some last-minute cheap hotel deals that offer substantial savings. Hotels are keen on filling up any empty rooms and may slash prices to make this happen. Secondly, last-minute bookings can provide flexibility. If your plans are spontaneous or you had to make a last-minute trip, you can still find accommodations without having to plan for months in advance.
Last-Minute Bookings: The Cons
However, last-minute bookings come with their own set of challenges. Rooms can be limited or sold out, especially during peak seasons or popular events. Additionally, you risk having to settle for a lower-quality room or a less desirable location. Premium rooms and preferred hotels often get booked up well in advance, meaning you’re left with what hasn’t been snatched off already.
In-Advance Hotel Booking
Booking a hotel 2 to 3 months in advance often secures better rates and room options, especially in popular vacation destinations. This strategy is particularly effective for peak travel seasons and holidays. However, it may limit last-minute flexibility and the potential for price drops. The next tip may help you eliminate this risk.
Free Cancellation Policy
Securing a hotel room ahead of time with a free cancellation policy provides both peace of mind and adaptability. You can lock in your accommodations while still having the leeway to cancel and rebook if rates drop. Just be sure to read the fine print for the cancellation policy, especially during peak seasons or special events when terms may be more restrictive.
Flash Sales and Off-Season Promotions
Also, don’t forget to consider looking out for flash sales or special promotions that usually happen during the off-season. Signing up for hotel newsletters or following them on social media can give you a heads-up about such cheap hotel deals. These are great opportunities to secure luxury accommodations at budget prices.
Finding the Best Hotel Deals on Booking Websites and Apps
Websites like Expedia, Booking.com, and Hotels.com often offer competitive prices and loyalty programs. Special features like “Book Now, Pay Later” can also add flexibility to your travel plans. In addition to mainstream options, consider using lesser-known but reliable platforms like Agoda, especially for travel in Asia, or Hotwire’s “Hot Rate” deals for deeply discounted, last-minute bookings. Many of these platforms offer mobile app-exclusive deals, so it’s worthwhile to download their apps.
Price Comparison Tools
Websites like Kayak, Skyscanner, and Trivago aggregate prices from multiple booking sites, helping you compare rates at a glance. These tools often offer features like price alerts, allowing you to pounce when the rates drop. Start your search here to get a sense of the price range for your desired location and dates.
Be Flexible with Dates
Many booking websites have a ‘flexible dates’ option that shows prices for dates near your preferred travel time. This can help you identify cheaper days to check in or out.
Read Reviews and Check Ratings
Always read guest reviews and check ratings to ensure the hotel meets your standards. However, take overly negative or positive reviews with a grain of salt and look for consistent patterns in guest feedback.
Double-check the Hotel’s Own Website
Sometimes, booking directly through the hotel’s website can offer advantages like free breakfast, room upgrades, or better cancellation policies.
Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs and Memberships
Many booking platforms and hotel chains offer loyalty programs that provide members with exclusive rates, free nights, or perks like room upgrades.
Consider Non-Refundable Rates Cautiously
Non-refundable rates are often cheaper but come with the risk of losing your money if plans change. Consider the advantages and disadvantages in relation to the certainty of your travel plans.
Look for Bundled Offers
Some websites offer package deals that bundle flights, hotels, and even car rentals. These can offer significant savings over booking each component separately. Often, you’ll find different types of rooms at varying price points. Consider if you really need that deluxe room with a sea view or if a standard room would suffice. Additionally, bundling services like parking and meals can offer overall savings.
Browser Extensions and Plugins
Extensions like Honey or Rakuten can automatically find and apply discount codes at checkout. Other plugins can alert you if the room price drops, ensuring you always get the best deal.
Newsletter Sign-ups and Alerts
Signing up for newsletters from your favourite booking platforms or hotel chains can be a goldmine for exclusive coupons and timely promotions. Price alerts can also be set to notify you when a specific hotel’s price falls within your budget.
Discount Codes and Coupons
Websites like RetailMeNot or specialised travel deal platforms often list verified discount codes for hotels. Always do a quick search to see if you can apply a code to your booking for additional savings.
Hidden Costs and How to Avoid Them
Be cautious of hidden fees such as resort fees, service charges, and local taxes. These can significantly inflate your bill. Always read the fine print and confirm the total cost before finalising your booking. The following points are examples of the hidden fees that may take you by surprise:
If you’re planning to rent a car or drive to the hotel, don’t overlook parking fees. In some city locations, these can be steep. Some hotels offer free parking, but it’s not a given. Check the hotel’s policy in advance to avoid unpleasant surprises.
While many hotels now offer complimentary WiFi, some still charge for this service, particularly higher-end establishments. Confirm whether WiFi is free and what the limitations are, if any, to avoid unexpected costs.
Breakfast and Meal Costs
Hotels often lure customers with the promise of “free breakfast,” but the quality and extent of this offering can vary widely. Additionally, some hotels charge for upgraded breakfast items or the “free” breakfast may only be for one person. Double-check these details to budget your meals accordingly.
Early Check-In or Late Checkout Fees
Arriving early? Or do you need a few extra hours before checking out? Some hotels charge for this convenience. Always check the hotel’s policy and negotiate these terms beforehand if you anticipate needing some time in your schedule.
Mini-Bar and Room Service
These are often highly marked-up services. If you think you’ll be tempted to raid the mini-bar or order room service, consider bringing your own snacks or checking local eateries as cost-effective alternatives.
Some hotels require a deposit upon check-in to cover potential damages or incidental charges. While this is typically refundable, it’s an expense you’ll need to be prepared for upfront.
Currency Conversion Fees
If you’re travelling internationally, be cautious of currency conversion fees. Hotels may offer to charge you in your home currency, but the conversion rate may not be favourable. Always do the math and consider paying in the local currency if it offers better value.
Mobile Booking Advantages
Some platforms offer mobile-exclusive deals if you book through their app. If you’re comfortable doing so, this can be a great way to save money.
An Example of a Smart Traveller
Sarah, a frequent traveller, used a combination of newsletter discounts, a browser extension, and a loyalty program to book a 5-star hotel at a 3-star price. She set price alerts and booked during a flash sale, applying an additional 10% discount code at checkout, which she received from being a newsletter subscriber.
Securing a great hotel deal online is an art that involves a blend of timing, flexibility, and strategic planning. Whether you’re booking months in advance or grabbing a last-minute deal, being aware of these factors can help you make the most of your travel budget.