I recently stumbled upon an article from the Huffington Post with some tips for getting a cheap hotel room. While they gave some sound advice, to me it seemed that they had really only hit the tip of the iceberg. A few of my “go-to” tricks weren’t mentioned, so I’ve decided to share what strategies and tools I use when trying to figure out my travel accommodations without completely breaking the bank.
1. Pay Later and Free Cancellation
Let’s say you’re planning your next adventure and happen to stumble across a killer deal on a hotel room. The only problem is that pay day isn’t until next week. An alternative problem is that perhaps you have the means to reserve now, but you’re unsure of whether or not to commit for fear that a better deal may come along later. Well, my friends, there may be a solution to this agony… Booking.com!
To be honest, I’m somewhat new to the world of booking.com, but I’m certainly kicking myself for not using it sooner. Many of their hotels have “Pay Later” and “Free Cancellation” options, both of which come in handy for the scenarios I described above. I took advantage of these features when booking accommodations for our honeymoon. While we already had our primary accommodations arranged, we needed a place to stop-over on our way to and from our destination. In the weeks leading up to our departure, I would peruse the website to see if the prices had gone down. If they had, I continued to cancel and re-book my way down to a much cheaper price.
Above is a screen shot of the website when searching for accommodations. On the search results page, you are able to see many details about the hotel without having to actually click on the link (another great feature). In green, this is where you will see specialty options such as “Free Cancellation”, “Pay Later”, “Free Breakfast”, etc. All you have to do is hit “Reserve”, and you don’t have to pay a cent until you check-in. Let’s say a week later you find that the room rate has dropped… no problem! Just cancel the room and rebook the room/hotel with the lower rate. Easy as pie. Of note, be sure to actually register on the website, as you may be eligible for further discounts and savings. By the way, I highly recommend Savannah if you ever get the chance. My husband and I took a day trip there while honeymooning in Charleston, and I fell in love!
2. Rent a Room or An Entire Apartment
While hotels can be great, we all know that they are not always the most budget-friendly, particularly when traveling to large (ahem, expensive) cities. This is why for my international travels, I am now turning to Airbnb.com.
Airbnb is a website in which you can connect with hosts around the world that are offering up a room in their home, or even their entire home for more privacy. There are thousands upon thousands of options out there. To demonstrate, let’s look at a search for Prague. After selecting your most basic needs (dates/location), you can decide whether you want just a room or an entire place. Then, decide what your nightly budget will be. Tip: Don’t be afraid to aim low, you can get great quality accommodations for very little money. Prague tends to be less expensive than Western Europe, but I’ve still managed to find plenty of accommodation options with comparable pricing even in more expensive cities, such as Paris.
Click on the “More Filters” option to get to the screen shot above. Filters are your friend. Not only are they a great way to narrow down your search—thousands of options can be a bit overwhelming, obviously—but you also have the ability to customize your experience. Select any amenities that are important to you (internet may be especially important for traveling, work, etc). I also like using some keywords to pinpoint a more specific location.
Voila, we’ve narrowed it down to a solid 100, which is much more manageable. The map to the right is also a handy tool, as you can see exactly where the property is located. Once you find a property you’re happy with, click on the heart in the upper right corner to save it to your favorites. $52/night for an apartment is already a fantastic deal, and even better if sharing with a travel buddy. Beyond just the low monetary cost of the accommodations, there are other ways in which this is the perfect option for budget travel. For example, since you have access to a full kitchen, you can save a significant amount of money by not eating out for each meal. More money saved on accommodations and food means that there’s more money to go towards your experiences—or you know, back into your savings for a future trip.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Try a Hostel
If you want cheap accommodations with a greater sense of community, a hostel might be right for you. Many people who have never traveled before or used a hostel are afraid to step foot in one. Just as there are hotels at every end of the spectrum, the same rings true with hostels, so don’t knock it until you try it. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, all your really need to do is find a clean place that gives you a bed to sleep in. Be sure to check out the reviews to help with the process of finding a reputable place. Whenever I’m looking for a hostel, I personally prefer to use Hostel World.
Like usual, enter your preferred dates and location.
When you come to the results page, you will see some details about each hostel. Take note of what amenities are offered, the ratings/reviews, and the pricing.
Speaking of pricing, you have a multitude of options when staying at a hostel. You can make it as cheap or as expensive as you’d like, depending on your budget and preferred experience.
At this particular hostel, a private room for two with a private ensuite bathroom will run you approximately $295 per person for 4 nights . . .
. . . whereas a 16 bed mixed dorm will be just $135.80 per person. Obviously the huge differential in pricing is due to the privacy of the rooms, so it’s up to you to decide whether you would be happier spending an additional $160 to have a room and bathroom to yourself. If it’s in your budget and you feel the privacy is worth the extra $40/night, great! If not, then there are some other middle-of-the-road options with fewer beds, as well. Just choose whatever option is the better fit for you.
I hope demonstrating some of my strategies for finding budget-friendly accommodations will help you when planning your future travels! Remember that hostels aren’t necessarily always the cheapest option and that hotels don’t always have to break the bank, either. It’s all about being savvy and doing your homework.
Do you have any tips and tricks up your sleeve not mentioned here? Let me know!