Vacations are the long-awaited days of relaxation and rest. However, planning the vacation — where to go, what to do, where to stay — is anything but relaxing. The costs of a vacation can send you into a panic. Usually, the largest single cost of any vacation is for your accommodations.
Here are a few hints and tricks to help you save money on a hotel stay:
Things to Look for on the Internet
When you have decided where you will be going, begin searching for your rooms on the internet. Yes, your family may have stayed at the same place for years, but unless there is a sentimental attachment to the place, look at all of your options. You may be able to find a better hotel for less money. Always remember that there is a difference between a cheap hotel stay and a cheap hotel.
A quick search will show hundreds of hotels available on your dates. Narrow down your search with specific amenities. Do you want an indoor pool? Is an attached restaurant very important to you and your family? Does the thought of free coffee make you happy? Most websites will allow you to select amenities that will shorten the hotel list.
Here are a few of the amenities that are important to travelers:
- Exercise equipment
- Continental breakfasts
- On-site restaurants
- Pillow options
What is the Bottom-Line Price?
Now that you have selected the amenities that you must have and the options that delight you, how much are you going to pay? Never pay full-price for your hotel stay. Hotel rooms are listed on many different websites and almost every site has a different price. Do your homework.
It is helpful to have a small notebook and pen for the search. When you find a site you like, with a price that works, mark down the name and price. After a while, you will forget all of the places and prices if you do not do this part. This information is also helpful when haggling for a better price (which we will discuss in detail shortly).
As you look online, make mental notes. Does the cheapest rate have anything tossed in for free? Breakfast buffets, free parking, a nice meal in the on-site restaurant — all of these are great budget-stretching perks. Look for them. If they are not mentioned, ask about them.
If the place is already listed in your little notebook, add the freebie and a star. This is one of your finalists. Think of it this way — the money you would have spent for parking or breakfast can be used to buy tickets to attractions. The best hotel packages will have two or more free perks. Some will even offer free attraction tickets and extra night stays when you buy three nights, for example.
Rewards for Loyalty
If you have stayed at the same place for years, cash in on that loyalty. Most hotels want their customers to return year-after-year. To ensure this, they offer loyalty programs much like the grocery stores. You can accumulate points for each stay. These can be redeemed for free nights, free gas and upgrades. These hotel rewards programs are another way to stretch that vacation budget.
If you have never stayed at a particular hotel, upon arrival ask about their loyalty program. Most will be glad to count your first stay. They will even help you sign up. Since most hotels are part of a chain, once you are signed up, you can stay at any of their hotels and still receive the points.
Haggling is Not for the Faint-Hearted
For those who really want to rock-bottom price and the best perks for their money, haggling is essential. Many people are intimidated to ask for a better price. Remember: they want you to stay at their hotel. They need to fill those empty rooms to stay in business. You hold all of the cards because you have nothing to lose by asking. Here are some pointers for the first-time haggler:
- Be assertive, but nice
- Ask for a lower price than any listed on the internet
- Ask for extra perks
Sometimes you will need to talk with the manager to get what you want. Most front desk personnel will not have permission to authorize extra discounts. This is a great time to bring out your little notebook and mention competitors with lower prices and better freebies. If they will not beat the price, they may at least match it.
Never just settle for a cheap hotel. A cheap hotel equates to a lumpy mattress, leaky bathroom faucets and questionable cleanliness. A cheap hotel stay is much different. It means a great hotel room with posh bedding and plenty of high-quality shampoo, that you booked for a fantastic low price. Cheap hotel stays in top-of-the-line hotel chains are the way you want to stay.
Hotel booking comparison sites, mental and written notes, a little research and a great attitude will get you the hotel you want and the price you love.