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After flights, hotels are usually the most expensive part of any trip. When I was in my early 20s I always stayed in hostels because they’re incredibly cheap and a great way to meet people when you’re traveling solo.
But as I got older my preferences changed and now I’d much rather have my own comfy hotel room and an en suite bathroom that I’m not sharing with a bunch of strangers.
Of course, I still loathe forking out lots of money on a place where I’ll only be resting my head for a few hours, so I like to make sure I get the cheapest hotel deals possible.
If you want to know how to find cheap hotels, these are my top tips for finding the best deals:
How to Get Cheap Hotels: My Top Tips
Prices are usually always more expensive on Friday and Saturday nights. If you don’t need to travel on a weekend, travel between Sunday and Thursday to save on hotel rates.
Obviously this isn’t feasible for everyone since many people only get weekends off work but if you can travel midweek you’ll usually be able to get a cheaper rate. If you try to visit places like Las Vegas or Miami on a weekend you’ll find that the rates are much, much higher.
Hold the Price With Free Cancellation
Many hotel booking sites offer free cancellation up until a day or two before your stay. This means if you see a good deal you can jump on it knowing you can cancel risk free should your plans change.
Sometimes if I’m traveling with friends I’ll book a couple of hotels for the same dates so we can decide which one we want to stay at later. While I’m sure the hotel owners won’t like people doing this too often, it can be really useful to have the free cancellation option.
Book in Advance…or Last Minute
Sometimes hotels are cheaper if you book well in advance, especially if you’re traveling during a festival or some other holiday. With free cancellation, you can lock in the deal ahead of time, then sort everything else out closer to your departure date.
As an example, I decided I wanted to visit Miami during Art Basel and noticed hotel prices were fairly affordable around 7 months prior to the event. I locked in a deal for around $500 for two nights but if I’d decided to book last minute it would’ve cost around $1000 or more!
Conversely, if you’re not traveling during holidays, festivals, conferences and other busy periods, you can sometimes score some really good last minute deals on sites like Hotel Tonight. I’ve managed to score some cheap hotel deals in New York and Miami by booking the same day or the night before.
Google itself is actually a great hotel search engine and is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Just visit Google Hotel Search or type in “Hotels in [insert destination]’ into Google and run a search for your dates.
What I like about Google Hotel search is that you can be a bit more specific with your search term. Instead of just typing in ‘Miami’ for instance, you can type in ‘Miami all inclusive resorts’, ‘Miami hotels on the beach’ or ‘Miami hotels with pool’.
Google will then show you a map and a list of the top hotels. You can easily filter them by all sorts of filters, including price, guest rating, brand and hotel class. If you click on a hotel Google will show you a list of prices across a variety of different booking sites, so you can be sure you’re getting the best deal.
Also check out Google Travel. If you’re planning a trip it will organize all of your info, including your flight reservations and recent travel searches so you can see what articles you’ve browsed. It will show you recommended reading and help you discover things to do, plus you can discover the best areas to stay in.
Compare Prices Across Hotel Booking Sites
There are many hotel booking websites out there so I suggest you use a few to find the best rates. You don’t have to check all of them but definitely check three or four to see if you can find a cheaper rate. Here’s a list of some of the top hotel booking sites:
Make Sure You Sign-in
Most hotel booking sites have special member-only deals so it’s important to create an account and sign in so you get the best hotel discounts.
For example, my go-to site is usually Booking.com and since I have an account with them I get Genius pricing since I’ve earned Genius Level 2 for booking numerous hotel stays with them. If I wasn’t logged in, I wouldn’t see these deals.
So make sure you sign up to the booking site’s loyalty program and sign in whenever you run a hotel search.
Browse on Your Mobile
Use Hotel Booking Apps
Don’t just stick to websites – try app-only booking services too. The best apps for booking hotels are:
If you want to know how to get cheap hotels last minute – Hotel Tonight is my favorite app for booking last minute hotels. As I mentioned previously, I’ve used this a few times to book last minute hotels in Miami and New York and I’ve managed to get some very good rates.
They usually list quite hip, boutique hotels too so the selection is usually good. I also just love the interface of the app – it’s slick and easy to use. They also offer a “daily drop” so you can slide and unlock to reveal the deal and book that day.
Snaptravel is an increasingly popular app that allows you to get 30-50% off hotels with exclusive pricing over SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, Alexa, Slack, and Viber.
You send them a message with your city, dates and preferences and they’ll send you deals over 1:1 messaging. My friend and I used it for our trip to Playa del Carmen and managed to snag an all-inclusive stay for 4 nights for around $340 each.
I also like the Hopper app for hotel deals. The app runs regular flash sales and will reward you with ‘Carrot Cash’ to use on future bookings. They also often give vouchers that can be used on bookings.
Sign up for Loyalty Programs
A lot of the booking sites have their own loyalty programs that reward you for booking multiple stays with them. Consider signing up for a loyalty program and only booking your stays with one site to benefit from discounts and freebies.
- Hotels.com – members only pricing and you get the 10th stay free.
- Booking.com – has Genius level tiers. The higher you get the more you save. Expect to get 10-20% discounts on hotel rates.
- Expedia – sign up for Expedia Rewards and you’ll earn points on your stays that can be converted into $$ to be used against stays.
Check with the Hotel Direct
Sometimes the hotels say it’s cheaper to book with them directly on the website and they’ll throw in free breakfast as an incentive to book with them rather than a 3rd party. However, even though they say this, I have found that it’s often still cheaper to book elsewhere.
Always check the price with the hotel directly and cross-reference it with the price you’re seeing on other hotel booking sites.
Check if Taxes and Fees Are Included
Sometimes all taxes and fees are included in the price up front and sometimes they aren’t. Always check to see what the total price will be for your stay after taxes and fees.
The rate may seem cheaper on one website over another, but that could be because the additional fees haven’t been included.
Avoid Hotels with High Resort Fees
A hotel deal might seem cheap but what other fees are they charging? Some hotels charge nightly resort fees and may even charge for Wi-Fi. When booking a hotel you need to look at the overall cost, not just the initial price.
If you want to get the cheapest deals, choose a hotel without a resort fee or one that has a lower resort fee than the others.
Opt for a Hotel with Free Breakfast Included
If you have a choice between a hotel that offers free breakfast and one that doesn’t, go for the one with free breakfast. Dining out can get rather expensive when you’re traveling and it’s nice to be able to roll out of bed and straight downstairs to breakfast.
Rebookey is a site that tracks your reservation and monitors hotel prices after you’ve booked. If you book and then find the rate goes down, you can cancel and rebook at a better price.
Get a Hotel Rewards Credit Card
In addition to air miles credit cards you can also sign up for hotel credit cards that offer large sign-up bonuses. You’ll usually have to spend a certain amount of money within a set period but the number of points you earn can be enough for a couple of free hotel stays.
If you put all your daily spending on the credit card you can also earn points every time you spend.
Some cards you should check out include:
Chase Sapphire Preferred – $95 annual fee. Includes benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3x points on dining, 3x points on groceries, 3x points on select streaming services and 2x on normal travel purchases.
Capital One Venture Rewards – $95 annual fee. Earn 2x miles on every purchase and 5x miles on hotels and rental cars booked using the card.
Hilton Honors American Express Surpass – $95 annual fee. With this card you’ll enjoy complimentary Hilton Honors Gold status. Spend $40,000 on your card in a calendar year and you’ll also earn Hilton Honors Diamond status. Earn 12x points on hotels and resorts, 6x points on dining, 6x points on groceries, 6x points on gas and 3x on all other eligible purchases.
Marriott Bonvoy Boundless – $95 annual fee. As a Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Cardmember, you’ll enjoy a free night award every year after your account anniversary. Other benefits include up to 17x points spent at Marriott, 3X points per dollar on the first $6,000 spent on grocery stores, gas stations, and dining, plus 2X points on all other purchases.
Hotels.com Rewards Visa – With the Hotels.com Rewards Visa you’ll get 1 stamp for every night you stay at any eligible property. Each time you spend $500 on purchases with your card, you’ll collect 1 stamp worth $110. There’s also no annual fee with this card.
IHG Rewards Premier – $99 annual fee. Earn up to 26x points at IHG® Hotels and Resorts and 5X total points on travel, dining, and at gas stations. If you use your points to redeem 3 nights, you’ll get the 4th night free. Plus you’ll also enjoy a reward night after each account anniversary year at IHG hotels worldwide.
World of Hyatt Credit Card – 9x points total for Hyatt stays and experiences, 2x points for rideshare and public transit, 2x points for dining, 2x points for airline tickets, 2x points for gym memberships and 1x point for everything else.
Sign up for Credit Card Cashback Offers
I have a Capital One credit card and I love it for shopping because they usually have really good cashback offers. At the time of writing I can get 5% back with Expedia, 5% back with VRBO, 6% back on Priceline and 4% back on Hotels.com and 11% back on TripAdvisor. The money is applied as a credit on your credit card statement as long as you use the offer link to book.
Many credit cards have offers that you can apply to your card – just navigate to their offers section and make sure you add it before you spend.
Use Coupon Codes
Whenever you’re at the checkout there’s usually an option to enter a promo code. If you go to Google search just type in “[insert brand] promo code” to get the latest promo code deals. Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t, but it’s worth a try.
Popular coupon code sites include RetailMeNot, Coupon Follow and Rakuten. You should also use Google Chrome as your browser and install plugins such as Honey and Capital One Shopping. These plugins will apply various coupons automatically at the checkout to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
Book Secret or Mystery Deals
Sites like Hotwire and Priceline offer ‘mystery deals’ where you don’t know the name of the hotel until after you book. You’ll know the star-rating of the hotel and the general vicinity but you just won’t know which hotel it is (although usually you can guess from the description).
Stay in an Apartment Instead
Of course, sometimes it’s cheapest to skip hotels altogether and utilize the sharing economy. Airbnb is the most obvious choice for apartment rentals, although there are numerous other companies you can rent apartments with.
The beauty of getting an apartment rental is that you usually have your own kitchen facilities so you can cook instead of eating out all the time. Just be wary of cleaning fees though, as these additional fees can sometimes make Airbnb bookings more expensive than staying in a hotel. Here’s a list of vacation rental booking companies:
Groupon offers getaways and hotel deals using group buys. Group buys allow them to offer some really good discounts but you’ll be restricted to a specific number of nights and you may only be able to redeem the offer on certain dates. Always check the T&Cs. You can also check out similar sites like LivingSocial and Travelzoo.
Try Warehouse Clubs
Have a Costco or BJ’s membership? Wholesale clubs don’t just offer things like bulk toilet paper and washing powder – they also offer travel deals too. Check out Costco Travel which allows you to search vacation packages, hotels, cruises and rental cars. BJ’s also offers a similar service with BJ’s Travel.
Book Longer Stays
Sometimes you’ll get a cheaper nightly rate if you stay longer, so consider booking four or more nights to get a better deal. Hotels prefer to have their rooms filled so they’ll often provide discounts for booking longer stays.
Book Someone Else’s Reservation
With Roomer you can book someone else’s hotel reservation when they can’t use theirs. Obviously it’s a bit more restricted because you’re stuck to specific dates, hotel and number of nights but if your plans are flexible then you can find some good deals.
Use Gift Cards
Another way to get cheap hotel stays is by using gift cards, and no, you don’t have to be given one as a Christmas present. With certain sites you can buy gift cards at discount so you’re actually saving on your booking. Try Gift Card Granny, which offers cash back for buying gift cards for sites like Airbnb, Hilton, Fairmont, Hyatt and Hotels.com.
Use Your AAA, Military or AARP Membership
If you’re an AAA, military or AARP member, you may be able to get a discount on your stay. Don’t forget to enter your membership at the checkout to ensure you’re getting the discounted rate.
A Final Word…
So there you have it. All my top tips and tricks for how to get cheap hotels. If you have any extra tips to add, do leave a comment below!
Like many people I don’t like to overpay for things so I’m always looking out for a good bargain. I love to book boutique hotels because they’re a bit more unique and give me something to get excited about but sometimes they come with a higher price tag. It feels really good to get a chic, luxury hotel stay at a discounted price!