This article is not only for those on a tight budget. If you are rich and value your comfort, I fully understand why your preferred accommodation would be hotels for your travels instead of focusing on cost. It’s easy, you have privacy, and you can often count on a good night’s sleep and WiFi that works. If there are any problems like noise or no hot water, people can take care of it quickly. Yes, I definitely prefer hotels, but there is often a significant price difference between hotels and hostels/home stays.
The challenge for me is to bring that difference down by booking great hotel deals, so booking the hotel instead of alternative accommodation is worth it. There are many options to save money on hotels, and it’s often something that can be time-consuming if you would like to make sure you are getting the lowest rate because none of the hotel search engines compares all booking sites.
One tip is to start your search on a hotel search engine like HotelsCombined.com, and then compare with booking sites not included in their hotel search engine. Also, the hotel’s official website might be the cheapest option. For people that don’t want to waste time on making sure they get the best deal, Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site, and is often the cheapest, but not always.
In 2020, I found a low rate on Booking.com for Steel House Copenhagen that is part of Arp-Hansen Hotel Group and based on the past experiences with the brand I remembered that it was cheaper to book on their website and sure enough, it was. They even had a different room category than Booking.com, a single room at a very low rate.
Booking directly with the hotel is definitely preferred if the price is lower or the same, as you don’t pay a high commission to a third party website like Hotels.com, and in case of any problems or change of plans, you are more likely to be able to make changes if you have booked directly.
While HotelsCombined is my favourite hotel search engine, I often start at Booking.com, then find the best deal for me, depending on the purpose of the trip, then compare with HotelsCombined.com, and finally, I might check the official website and other sites and apps to make sure I get the best deal. Some of those sites include Nustay.com, SnapTravel.com (via Facebook Messenger), HotelTonight.com and HRS.com. You might also compare with other hotel search engines such as Kayak, Skyscanner and Trivago to see if any additional sites show up with a better deal.
Once you have found the deal you want, there are additional ways to save money or earn credit for future travel. For Booking.com it is possible to get 5% back as WizzAir credit if you first visit WizzAir.com, click “HOTELS”, and book through them. It’s the same price, but you receive 5% of the booking amount as flight credit to use on WizzAir.
WizzAir is a Hungarian low-cost airline with an impressive route map so this option is one I highly recommend to do if the best deal is on Booking.com. Ryanair also offers 5% back as flight credit when booking through their hotel search engine, including several booking sites like Hotels.com and HRS.com, but not Booking.com.
Some of the booking sites have their own loyalty program, like Hotels.com that gives you a free night after ten eligible nights, that is the average of the price you have paid for the ten nights. Hotels.com is rarely the cheapest website based on my experiences, but when they are, it obviously makes sense to register the nights through their loyalty program.
Also, there is a marketplace for hotels. RoomerTravel.com is an online marketplace for selling and buying discounted hotel reservations. Plans often change, and many have experienced getting stuck with a non-refundable hotel reservation, but instead of losing the money, they can sell it online and just have Roomer change the name of the reservation.
You can also search for coupons for specific booking sites, hotel chains, or individual hotels. My favourite free coupon website is RetailMeNot.com that might bring the price down a bit. For more significant discounts, it might be worth it to buy coupons, like I did some years back from a guy selling 50 and 100-dollar Expedia coupons. Also, it might be worth checking out FlyerTalk.com where users can post hotel deals, and if you become an active member and have a minimum number of posts, you can get access to “Coupon Connection” where you can exchange coupons, points and miles with other users.
Finally, you can also save money on hotels by collecting points in loyalty programs, and get great sign-up bonuses on credit cards if you live in the US, but since I don’t, I would instead like to mention some benefits of elite status in loyalty programs which can include free upgrade subject to availability, welcome amenities, priority check-in and other benefits.
I was once a platinum member of Starwood Preferred Guest, and it was an excellent experience. I didn’t earn the status. I saw a promotion where Accor’s loyalty program offered free status, so I got that, and then I found out that Starwood Preferred Guest status matched. Another positive result of spending a lot of time online researching ways to make my travels better and cheaper. Some say time is money, and as my budget was low, I definitely paid with my time instead.