One of the greatest expenses in travel is accommodation, but employing good strategies to save on accommodation means more money in your pocket and in turn more travel. We lived on the road for five years, so we’ve spent plenty of time searching for the next place to stay. Over the years we’ve built a collection of tricks we use to save on accommodation.
In this day and age, there are tons of travel resources at your disposal to find a great place to stay for cheap. When we started this website we were most certainly backpackers. Unfortunately, we continue to grow older so now we steer more and more away from the former days of shared rooms in hostels.
Instead, we seek out the best value accommodation option. We’ve stayed in just about every kind of lodging option and have a myriad of tips to help save on a hotel, Airbnb, hostel, campsite, lodge, resort, or whatever else.
When we search for accommodation these days, it’s all about the bang for our buck. When we save on our stay that means we have more money for the next trip.
How To Save on Accommodation
Get a Deal
We always like to play around with the length of our hotel stays. Sites like Airbnb suggest that their owners offer discounts for longer stays, and we find this is often the case. The deal usually kicks in at the one-week and 30-day mark and can be up to 10-40% off the average nightly rental.
While resorts often offer 4 nights for the price of 3, a great way to find deals like these is to cut out the middle man and book directly through the hotel’s website. This is a practice very typical of all-inclusive resorts.
Many large hotel chains run point campaigns to incentivize longer stays through their loyalty programs. Sign up for the rewards programs like Bonvoy, World of Hyatt, or Hilton Honors if you travel for business.
Remaining loyal to a brand can net some sweet perks and great rewards stay. Marriott and Hilton both offer the fifth night free for rewards stays and have some dream-worthy resorts in their portfolio.
Say “Hello!” to the shoulder season
The shoulder season and the off-season can be the best times to travel to trendy destinations. Tourists are at numbers are lower which means more space for yourself and significantly lower prices. Hotels are more likely to give you free upgrades, even small ones. On top of rates that are far lower than in peak season.
We often book the cheapest room in smaller hotels only to be bumped up to their nicest room because we’re their only guests. So not only was it cheaper, but we got a much better room than we would when traveling in the high season.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you want to book in the middle of off-season because that can also be a drag. Many times seasonal restaurants and attractions will close while the weather can be downright miserable. It does all depend on the destination because some locations are pleasant no matter the season.
In a general sense the best time to travel is the fall as temperatures are mild and visitor numbers are low after the summer holidays.
Location, Location, Location
This should always be a factor in selecting accommodation. A cheap hotel really isn’t so cheap if you have to take a taxi or public transit every time you want to head to the sites. While a stay in the poshest neighborhood or most desirable location also probably comes with a high price tag.
You don’t necessarily need to be right in the action. We suggest aiming for good neighborhoods—search TripAdvisor forums or google for good neighborhoods in a city before visiting. Often you find comfortable neighborhoods where the locals live but are readily accessible to the city center.
Your time is your money too and a bad location can cost you your time. If you have a particular site or attraction you want to see seek accommodation nearby. Most hotel search engines such as Booking.com offer a map feature when booking a hotel.
Free Breakfast? What about a kitchen? Check out those details.
Always read through the details about the facilities of your hotel. It often does not translate as direct savings when you book, but over the course of your stay, it can become the cheaper option.
Amenities such as a fridge in the room to store snacks may not be the obvious thing to look for when booking a hotel, but it can end up saving you money in the long run.
Our favorite is to find places that offer at least a kitchenette so we can cook because another big expense of travel is food. We also love it when there is a washer at Airbnb rentals so we can wash all our dirty clothes for free!
Skip out on the weekend trips
Prices at popular destinations are at their peak on the weekend. Heading to multiple locations on a trip? If one destination appears to be more popular it’s best to avoid the weekend since rates will increase.
Fridays and Saturdays are when hotels are at their peak occupancy, which translates to higher rates. We guide our itineraries to hit places where rates are lower on the weekend then head to the hotter destination when the work days come. You’ll come to love Mondays!
Travel in a Group
This is another topic we’ve touched on before. Why? Because it’s a great way to save. Traveling in a group means you can split the cost.
Apartments become a great option and can house multiple people, which often come out cheaper than hotels and are far more comfortable.
Hostels Are Great
If you’re young, or just looking to save a buck then hostels are wonderful. They’re cheap, often centrally located, offer kitchens to cook your own food, and will be filled with like-minded travelers.
Truthfully we’ve aged out of hostels at age 30. A good night’s sleep has become too valuable to us, but we utilized them in our twenties!
Check out the neighbors
Another great option is staying in the town over. Smaller towns and cities often have cheaper accommodation and food options meaning you save twice. As long as you don’t mind a commute into the main city this is a great option.
Just make sure to verify the price of transport before booking because you’ll lose if the cost of transportation outweighs the savings.
When we know we’re traveling to a destination far in advance we do a quick search and find a good room with free cancellation. This ensures we have a room at a decent price while we can continue to periodically search for rate fluctuations and nab a better deal.
We like to use booking.com for this since they offer free cancellation on a lot of properties, but always read the details before booking they can be tricky. We find that Booking.com is great for this.
What are you going to eat?
This is one that’s easy to miss but is something that’s become second nature to us. We always check the location of our accommodation and do a quick search of restaurants, cafes, and budget-conscious markets. TripAdvisor is a great way to find places by location almost everywhere in the world.
We also suggest reading some of the reviews from other guests of the hotel, often guests will mention food options in the area – or lack thereof. That budget resort isn’t so budget if you only have their expensive food options, and they know this.
It’s all about the points. Whether it be hotel points, credit card points, or just membership benefits taking advantage of free perks – collecting points is like saving money 101. The actual business of it can be complicated.
Sign Up For Hotel Credit Card
We love sign-up bonuses on credit cards and have many travel credit cards that offer us a slew of benefits. In addition to the rewards points, you can get automatic enrollment in membership programs, international concierge services, free room upgrades, and exclusive offers.
In addition dollars spent at the hotel with their rewards cards can offer large point rewards.
Follow, subscribe, or like your favorite search sites, hotels, and destination pages. They often promote sales and campaigns through their social media channels. This way you won’t miss out on the latest deal they’re offering. While you’re at it follow us on Facebook too.
Sign up for e-newsletter deals too
While you’re at it subscribe to their newsletters. They’ll often push out promotions through their email marketing and if you’re the first to know you’re more likely to get a deal.
Delete your cookies/history
This is one that is not quite as intuitive as some of the other items on this list, but search engines save cookies on your site and will often raise prices based on your actions. Keep looking at the same hotel?
The price may go up in order to make you feel the need to book, they’re crafty like that. Switch your browser to incognito mood, delete your most recent cookies, or try using a VPN such as “Hola!” to get a clean slate and ensure you’re getting the best price.
Our Favorite Travel Resources
- Protect Your Trip — We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen while traveling so it’s best to be prepared. HeyMondo provides excellent short-term and long-term travel insurance plans.
- Travel Backpack – We like the Nomatic Travel Backpack for our travels. Check the price here.
- Rent a Car – We use Discover Cars to find the best deals on car rentals.
- Airbnb – We find some amazing guesthouses and apartments on Airbnb. We like to use Airbnb when we travel so we have access to things like a kitchen and living room. See our top Airbnb rental tips here (plus first time Airbnb coupon!)