The next time you plan that trip to Hawaii, make sure you pick the best hotel deal available and talk to the right people in advance, so you are not caught off guard at the last minute with a hotel bill that could break your bank. To lessen your lodging expenses, try to live within your means at the hotel, consider alternatives to hotels, and consider enrolling in a rewards program. Other good initiatives that can put a lid on your hotel budget include peak season avoidance as well as finding innovative, often tedious, ways to book your trip.
Should I Start with Online Comparison Tools?
I recommend you always start your hotel search by visiting online travel agencies and data aggregation sites, such as Expedia, Kayak, Priceline and Booking.com. All of them can give you an idea of prices levels for the particular destination and time you want, as well as steer you to special deals that may be in-force when you are ready to book. These sites also are effective in that the cull data from multiple sources, and are able to offer you combos of flight + car rental + hotel at very alluring prices.
Besides Web-based travel agencies, hotel comparison sites like Hotels.com and Hotwire can give you relevant, factual information about the best ways to book affordable yet top-quality hotels. I also like Trip Advisor, especially the way the website smartly ranks hotels based on the reviews of customers who have used the hotels. I suggest you cross-refer to the prices found on Expedia – or another travel portal, for that matter – and then draw up a very short list of hotels that fit your budget and personal preferences. Once you narrow the list to two or three facilities, check the hotels' own websites to see if you can get a better deal than what is offered by the comparison sites.
What Is a Top Secret Hotel Deal?
Believe it or not, high-end hotels often offer great discounts – often as much as 45% - at specific locations, but the deals are kept secret so as not to offset clients who have paid the full room price. Imagine spending your two-week vacation at a 5-star hotel while paying half-price for luxurious rooms or suites! To seize on top secret hotel deals, visit sites like Priceline. The way it typically works, you book and save on the published price, and then the website or travel agency reveals the secret – that is, the name and location of the high-end hotel. Travelocity, for example, even has a dedicated help desk for booking top secret hotel rooms; you can contact the desk at +1-855-270-7189.
How Do I Stick to My Budget?
You must first determine how much you are willing to spend on lodging. A friend of mine, who is a highly regarded budget expert, recommends that you clearly mark the numerical threshold you are not willing to exceed and start from there. For example, if your overall vacation budget is $2,000, try to figure out how many nights you would stay, how many people are coming with you, and what are the hotel's overall policies with things like advance reservation and refundable fees. Assume you find out that costs like food, entertainment, shopping and excursions will eat $1,200 out of your budget. That leaves you with $800, and this is the number you should work with while searching hotel rooms online or canvassing the offices of travel agents.
Can a Rewards Card Help Me?
I think a rewards card always helps, provided it is not replete with many hidden fees and complicated legalese that even an experienced lawyer cannot decode. Talk to your credit card company to determine options that may be available to someone with your credit profile. A rewards card gives you a hodgepodge of benefits, including point accumulation for future trips; exclusive service at airports; and VIP treatment when it comes to things like bag checking, passenger registration, hotel booking and car rental. You can use your reward points to reduce, or even zero out, your hotel charge, and stay at the facility for free. Click here to see the various types of travel rewards cards available out there, from those charging zilch for balance transfers, purchases and annual fees to those charging exorbitant fees on everything from foreign transactions to cardmembership to domestic purchases.
Should I Avoid Peak Season?
Avoid the peak season if you can. That way, you are not caught in the often tortuous process of supply and demand, which makes prices fluctuate upward when too many people try to go on vacation and book the same hotel at the same time. Try to stay away from everything from Spring Break to July 4th. Instead, patiently research hotel room rates during the low season, talking to travel agencies, and monitoring special discounts and promotional offers that hotels often advertise every now and then. Use travel data aggregators – the common name is "online travel agencies" – like Priceline and Hotels.com to simulate how much you would pay, say, for a 7-day stay in Cancun during the low season, such as September.
What Is the Cheapest Way To Book Hotels?
Over the last several years, I've spent some time playing around with online travel tools, and I noticed that, in most cases, you would be better off contacting the hotel – or the airline, for that matter – directly and booking through its reservation desk. This is because online travel agencies invariably charge a fee, which makes sense because they are established to make a profit, not to provide charitable advice on how to fly from point A to point B and to tell you whether it is better to make a reservation for a single room at hotel C instead of hotel D.
Should I Consider Alternatives to Hotels?
If you are open to trying new things, consider alternatives to hotels. Maybe I am asking you to get out of your comfort zone to explore other lodging opportunities besides hotels, but the exercise is worth it and could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, depending on your country of destination, local practices and your own risk tolerance. Hostels - A hostel represents a hotel substitute worth looking at. Who knows, maybe the "s" distinguishing "hostel" from "hotel" is shortcut for "savings" – big savings in some cases. Visit www.hostels.com for more information about why a hostel often can be a cheaper yet valid alternative to a hotel.
Home swapping – In this scenario, you find someone in the destination country who is planning to come to the U.S. – and why not, to your state of residence – and both of you agree to swap houses. The stranger – yes, because he or she is a stranger – lives in your house for a specific period and you do the same at his or her residence in the host country. Check out HomeExchange.com; a friend of mine well-versed in the intricacies of traveling and house sharing and living in an intercultural context says you can use that site as a starting point to figure out available options for home exchange, read travelers' reviews, and learn more about local and international laws covering home swapping.
Vacation home rental – Consider renting a vacation home if your stay will last a while, say, more than 14 or 21 days. That way, you can have peace of mind knowing that you owe a pre-negotiated amount to the owner, a sum that typically would be way lower than what your hotel tag would be, unless the rental vacation house lies in wealthy territory and its value is on the higher end of the real estate spectrum.
Camping – Camping also can be an affordable yet thrilling lodging alternative if you like the outdoors or don't mind hearing the barks, hoots, growls, shrieks and screeches of owls in the middle of the night. To find out the best camping location that fits your situation and personal preferences, use portals like Go Camping America and Reserve America. The beauty of these sites is that they allow you to choose the type of camping spot you want – RV site, trailer site or tent, for example – and set your desired length of stay.
The best tips to save money on hotels run the gamut from considering hotel substitutes to booking during the offseason and making a direct reservation with the hotel. You also can save cash through a house-exchange program and by enrolling in a rewards program.