Welcome, savvy travellers! If you’re reading this, you’re trying to discover cheap hotels without compromising comfort or convenience.
As a seasoned traveller, I’ve spent countless nights in hotels from New York to (the original) York and picked up a few tricks along the way.
This guide is your ticket to unlocking the best hotel deals and expanding your travel budget.
You’ll learn insider tips, expert strategies, and even a few personal anecdotes from me and the team on how to make your next trip a success.
So, buckle up and get ready to transform your hotel booking experience!
Finding Cheap Hotels: The Basics
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s set the stage.
Finding a cheap hotel isn’t about settling for the lowest price; it’s about getting the best value for your money.
Whether you’re eyeing the bright lights of Las Vegas or the bustling streets of New York, the principles remain the same.
Firstly, flexibility is your best friend. Being open to different travel dates and hotel locations can open up a world of savings.
Secondly, don’t underestimate the power of a good hotel booking site. They can be your gateway to hot rate deals and express deals that could save you a pretty penny.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of a good old-fashioned phone call to the hotel. Sometimes, the best deals are just a conversation away.
Strategies for Getting Cheap Hotels
Now, let’s delve into the strategies that can help you secure a great deal.
1. Use hotel comparison websites for the best rates
Start your search on websites like Trivago or Google Hotels. They aggregate hotel prices from various booking sites, giving you a snapshot of where you can get the cheapest price.
For instance, Trivago’s rating system allows you to see at a glance how other travellers rate each hotel, while Google Hotels integrates seamlessly with Google Maps, making it easier to check the hotel’s location.
This is the fastest way to see all the hotels in your chosen destination and at the very best publicly-available prices.
When selecting the hotel, you’re usually given the option of which site to book through, and you can see how the prices differ on each website.
2. Maximise your savings with hotel booking sites
Websites like Booking.com and Expedia often have exclusive deals and rewards programs.
For instance, Booking.com’s Genius loyalty programme offers discounts and perks to frequent bookers, while Expedia’s Rewards programme allows you to earn points which can be redeemed for travel and hotel stays.
These sites have thousands of hotels for you to choose from, making booking extremely quick and convenient, and by filtering you can see the cheapest hotels in your destination and remove any that don’t offer the amenities you’re looking for.
These are often included on the hotel comparison sites mentioned above, so I typically wouldn’t start with these unless I already am part of a loyalty program. Some hotel booking sites may also charge foreign transaction fees if you’re booking a hotel outside of your home country.
3. Unlock discounts when booking hotels directly
Sometimes, booking directly with the hotel can yield a better deal. Hotels often reserve their best rates for direct customers; you might even score a room upgrade!
My favourite example of this is when the team and I visited the Queens Hotel in Brighton for a conference in April 2023. I saved £30/person/night plus had free breakfast included, just for calling and booking directly.
Here’s a tip: after finding a hotel you like, call them directly and ask if they can offer a better rate than the one you found online. You’ll be surprised how often this works, because the hotel saves money when they don’t have to pay booking sites a fee.
We find that the prices on the website can often be as much as on the hotel booking sites mentioned above, making it seem like there’s no benefit to going direct. But this is because hotels are discouraged by those sites from advertising cheaper rates publicly. Pick up the phone or send an email, and you will likely get a much better offer.
4. Utilise credit card rewards for hotel bookings
If you have a credit card like American Express or the Barclaycard Rewards credit card, check if they offer rewards for hotel bookings.
You can earn cashback or loyalty points for your stay. For example, the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card offers double points for bookings made directly with airlines or hotels. Using these cards often can rack up thousands of points, which could give you several free nights in a hotel each year.
5. Secure the best rates with free cancellation policies
Look for hotels with a free cancellation policy. If the price drops after you book, you can cancel and rebook at a lower rate.
Here’s how: after booking, keep an eye on the hotel’s price on various booking sites. If you see a lower rate, cancel your original booking and rebook at the cheaper price.
Prices change often, and you’d be surprised at how frequently you will see your hotel room for 10-20% cheaper than you booked.
6. Snag last-minute deals for unexpected savings
Last-minute deals can offer significant savings if you’re flexible with your travel plans.
Websites like LastMinute.com and LateRooms specialise in these types of deals. Remember, these sites work best for spontaneous trips or off-peak travel when hotels are likely to have unsold rooms.
However, hunting for a last-minute room has become quite mainstream, and getting a great deal is more complicated than ever. While it’s still possible, you should keep your options open for a hotel in a different location if nothing in your destination comes up.
7. Stay informed with hotel price alerts
Many booking sites offer price alerts. You’ll get a notification when the price of a hotel you’re interested in drops.
To set up a price alert on sites like Kayak or Skyscanner, simply search for a hotel, then select ‘Track Prices’ or ‘Get Price Alerts’. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t already have one.
8. Earn money back with cashback sites
Websites like TopCashback offer cashback on bookings made through them. It’s like getting paid to travel! Sites like Booking.com pay TopCashback a small fee if you book through them, and then TopCashback pays their fee straight to you. I’ve claimed more than £2,000 in cashback since 2015!
9. Discover special opening rates for brand new hotels
New hotels often offer special rates to attract guests. Watch for these deals, especially in popular cities.
A good way to find these deals is by subscribing to hotel newsletters or following your favourite hotel brands on social media. They often announce new hotel openings and special promotions through these channels.
10. Explore package deals for combined savings
Sometimes, booking a hotel as part of a package deal with flights can be cheaper than booking separately.
Websites like Expedia and LastMinute.com offer great package deals. For instance, Expedia’s ‘Bundle and Save’ feature can save you up to 15% when you book a flight and hotel together.
In the UK we also have regulations on package holidays which give you more protection in case the holiday company fails to satisfy your booking.
11. Be flexible on travel dates for maximum savings
You would like to stay from Friday to Sunday, but Thursday to Saturday could be significantly cheaper.
The month and week considerably impact the cost, too, and being flexible with various dates could save you as much as 50% of the price.
Use the ‘flexible dates’ feature on booking sites to see how shifting your travel dates can affect the price.
12. Plan ahead with book early
Booking in advance (and by this, I mean 6-12 months in advance) can help you save money on hotel rooms. Many hotels offer discounts for booking early, and you may have a better selection of rooms.
For example, Premier Inn offers ‘Saver Rates’ when you book well in advance, while Travelodge’s ‘Early Rate’ offers a discounted price for early bookings.
When booking in advance, it’s essential to remember that some hotels may have strict cancellation policies.
13. Take advantage of late booking discounts
Booking in the few days before your stay will significantly limit your options, but if the hotel is confident that they won’t fill the room, you may be able to stay for a little more than their at-cost price.
Websites like HotelTonight and LateRooms are great for finding these last-minute deals.
14. Expand your options with alternative accomodation
Alternative accommodations, such as Airbnb short-term stays, can be a great way to save money versus staying in a traditional hotel.
These may offer more space and amenities than conventional hotel rooms but usually sacrifice the polished service that a hotel can offer.
For example, Airbnb allows you to rent a room or an entire home from a local, often at a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Hostels, on the other hand, offer budget-friendly dormitory-style rooms with shared facilities.
Some popular alternative accommodations to consider include:
- Airbnb short-term stays
- Vacation rentals
When considering alternatives, it’s essential to read reviews and research the location to ensure it meets your needs.
15. Earn loyalty program rewards for frequent travellers
Many hotels and hotel booking sites offer loyalty programs that allow you to earn points and rewards for each stay. These programs can help you save money on future hotel stays and may offer exclusive deals and promotions.
For example, the Hilton Honors programme offers points for every pound spent, which can be redeemed for free nights, while the Marriott Bonvoy programme offers free Wi-Fi, mobile check-in, and the ability to earn and redeem points at over 7,000 hotels worldwide.
Benefits of Joining Loyalty Programs
Some of the benefits of joining hotel loyalty programs include:
- Discounts and perks: Many loyalty programs offer discounts on hotel rooms and amenities, such as free Wi-Fi or breakfast.
- Exclusive deals and promotions: Loyalty program members may receive exclusive deals and promotions unavailable to the general public.
- Points and rewards: Loyalty program members can earn points and rewards for each stay, which can be redeemed for free hotel rooms or other rewards.
Popular Hotel Loyalty Programs
Some popular hotel loyalty programs include:
- Booking.com Genius
- Marriott Bonvoy
- Hilton Honors
- IHG Rewards Club
- World of Hyatt
- Best Western Rewards
16. Take advantage of seasonal promotions
Another way to get cheap hotel rooms is by taking advantage of seasonal promotions. This includes travelling off-season and taking advantage of holiday and event promotions.
Travelling offseason can help you save money on hotel rooms and other travel expenses. Many hotels offer lower rates during the offseason, and popular tourist destinations may be less crowded.
Some popular offseason destinations include:
- Arlington Hotel O’Connell Bridge in Dublin, Ireland
- Aspect Hotel Dublin Park in Dublin, Ireland
- Atlântico Business Centro Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When travelling offseason, it’s essential to remember that some attractions and restaurants may be closed or have limited hours.
Holiday and Event Promotions
Many hotels offer special promotions during off-peak seasons or around holidays and events. For example, you might find discounted rates during the winter months or special packages around Christmas or New Year’s.
Check the hotel’s website or sign up for their newsletter to stay informed about these promotions.
Some popular holiday and event destinations include:
- New York City during the holiday season
- Las Vegas during the Super Bowl
- Rio de Janeiro during Carnival
When looking for holiday and event promotions, booking early is essential as these promotions tend to sell out quickly.
Websites/Apps for Finding Cheap Hotels
Many websites and apps are out there to help you find cheap hotels. Here are a few of my favourites:
- Booking.com: This is my go-to for hotel bookings. Their user-friendly interface, extensive listings, and Genius loyalty program make it a winner in my book.
- Expedia: Expedia is great for package deals. If you’re booking flights and hotels, you can often save by bundling them together.
- Google Hotels: Google Hotels is a powerful tool for comparing prices across multiple booking sites. It’s a great starting point for any hotel search, particularly if you’re only looking for a hotel (no flights) and don’t have access to Booking.com’s discounts.
- HotelTonight: If you’re a spontaneous traveller, HotelTonight offers fantastic last-minute deals on top-rated hotels. It can be hit-and-miss, so the prices are not always a steal, but it’s worth watching.
- Loveholidays: While these have hotels for all budgets, they’re particularly good at highlighting the lower end of the price market, and they’re usually the cheapest site out there for most hotels or holidays. Keep an eye out where the hotels are, as they’re often not in the most convenient location. Still, this is the site for you if you need a room at an almost unbearably cheap price.
Conclusion and Final Recommendations
Finding cheap hotels doesn’t have to be a chore. You can find great deals and increase your travel budget with flexibility, the right tools, and a few insider tips. Remember, the goal isn’t just to find a cheap hotel room but a room that offers value for your money. So, start exploring those hotel booking sites, set up price alerts, and get ready to book your next great deal. Happy travels!