Hotels- you find yourself a nice £20 return flight to somewhere but suddenly you’re looking at way more than that for one night in a hotel. That cheap getaway just became not so cheap, but does it have to end this way?
We’re going to look at some of our techniques in securing the cheapest deal out there whilst still getting a good nights stay. Before we begin, we are not endorsed by any company, app or site, these are just purely from our experiences using them.
Should I book well in advance?
Your mind would say yes, and we’ve done this before and found some great deals in doing so. We have also struck gold 2 days before we needed to stay in an area. There is no correct method in this. What we would recommend is getting a hotel with free cancellation till the day before your stay (booking.com is great for this and doesn’t normally cost any extra to get this benefit). This allows you to snap up a deal well in advance, but you can keep an eye out for other offers, sales etc. Some examples;
Iceland- 3 months prior to our trip, we booked a hostel style room (shared facilities including well equipped kitchen!) for 4 nights of our stay- 207 euros
Oktoberfest- When booking in May chose a hotel for the 3 nights we needed, 456 euros (ouch but everyone is after the same thing at that time…) Kept an eye out though, as in July we found a place with the same level of service, but for 243 euros! Plus the bonus of only being a 10 minute walk to the festival compared to a 45 minute walk- very thankful for that after a 12 hour day of drinking.
America- A good mix here, some pre-planned like in San Francisco to get early deals, some booked 2 days prior. Just having a good look around on all the apps and deals available (a few nights on this trip we’d just sit in the hotel of that night, Steve Harvey on the TV whilst booking the next chunk of hotels).
Which site/app should I use?
Everyone will have their preference, and that’s fine. Even we do. But, over the past year we’ve used many more than previously, and some are great in certain situations, some aren’t. So let’s assess them;
This is the one we use the most, it’s a nice interface, we often find it to have the best deals, easy to communicate with the property but also booking.coms service team if there are issues, and 90% of the time offers free cancellation till the day before your visit (great for that flexible option and allows you to keep looking if you think a better deal exists). Once you become part of their genius loyalty scheme as well you can get perks like cheaper stays, free breakfast, early check in etc. Plus, it’s a highly used site meaning every property has lots of reviews from real travelers!
New to us when we did our America road trip, the app isn’t the best, the process of booking is long (asking if you want to pay extra for stuff like insurance, 24/7 support and even pay a tip) but when you get through it, it’s often got decent deals. We both made accounts to use the sign up offer at the time which was knocking off 20 dollars. They have flash sales, and had properties that we couldn’t find on other sites. Whilst definitely more beneficial in America, we’ve used it elsewhere like Iceland, and even recently for a stay in Cardiff!
Again, new to us in America, we were struggling to find somewhere to stay in Fresno then bingo, an amazing deal on this. Was a lovely property, even had a washing machine and tumble dryer which was just perfect timing for our trip! It is a decent interface, has some incredible deals but we have only used it that one time- but will happily use it again when it works for us.
One of the big hitters in the hotel booking market, but for us not all that it’s hyped up to be. Benefits include a free nights stay after 10 nights booked through them, and they use Tesco Clubcard vouchers which (which is what we did the 2 times we used them). The interface is decent, but we found too many issues. Firstly, they always seem quite high from a price point compared to the other sites/don’t have the cheaper hotels available. We also turned up to one hotel and they didn’t even have our booking as it hadn’t been transferred over. So whilst some people love this app and it works for them, for us personally this is our least preferred.
Then there’s all the comparison sites out there, these have their benefits of showing you deals, which sites have the cheapest option if there’s a specific hotel you’re looking for and so on. However, always take a moment to search direct on that suppliers site for the deal direct, often if you’re logged in to your account you’ll see a better deal. We often use comparison sites for many things, extending to flights and car hire also, but very rarely use them to book anything. Most times we find a better price going direct, just use them to see what’s available!
Look at what you want for your trip. Are you paying a premium for a fancy service you’ll never actually use? Is something like parking important? Breakfast? A kitchen? Let’s assess…
For us, a major one is usually parking. Most places offer parking, or have somewhere nearby you can park, but often it’s not free. So, a £30 hotel seems like a bargain, until the £10 daily parking fee, meanwhile a £35 hotel might jump out as slightly more expensive, but if it offers free parking will overall be cheaper.
Breakfast often comes up as a big deal breaker for people. We usually aren’t fussed, if it’s included in the price then great! Stock up on some carbs and fruit before heading out for the day, you’ll save money where you would have bought breakfast elsewhere. If however they charge £8 per person to include breakfast, we turn it down. There will usually be a local bakery or supermarket within walking distance with much cheaper pastries and yoghurts. Plus, always worth having some snacks on you to keep you going in between meal times- something like brunch bars which you can bring on the flight/ train with you and will keep you going are perfect.
A kitchen isn’t something people jump at when booking accommodation, but when on a budget they can be super handy! If the country you plan to travel to is notoriously expensive, having a kitchen where you can cook your own dinners can save you lots of money if you’re clever with what you buy. For example in Iceland, a local burger restaurant for dinner cost us around £30, but we stayed in a hostel with a kitchen and fridge so could also cook our own dinners. We cooked two nights worth of food for the both of us for £25, more than half of the price. You can also experiment with local ingredients and it’s quite fun to food shop and cook in a different country too!
The dreaded shared bathroom. Understandably some people much prefer a private bathroom and this for them is non negotiable, however, having a shared bathroom can really cut the price of accommodation and 99% of the time they’re perfectly clean and easy to use. For example when staying in Toronto we stayed in a university halls turned hotel while students weren’t there for the holidays. This had shared bathrooms that were cleaned multiple times a day and we never even crossed paths with anyone else while using them- may as well have been private, but took our cost down massively. Further, in an airbnb in America we used a shared bathroom with other travellers using the house, and again never crossed paths with anyone and the bathroom was spotless.
Yes, they exist and sometimes are amazing! Others are just simple ways of bringing down the costs.
A big one is cashback, we use TopCashback ourselves, but others exist like Quidco, or the company you work for might have a discount site that offers money back too. From all of our booking.com transactions last year that got cashback, we made £52. Doesn’t seem like much, but that’s easily a cheap trip away and doesn’t cost anything extra to get. Just a simple click.
Sales do come around. If you know a date of somewhere you’re definitely going, use sales to look for the best prices. Likewise, it is sometimes cheaper to book a non-refundable room, so if you know that you’re definitely going there why not save a bit of money and book that. If plans change, most places let you move the booking to an alternative date.
Cashing in loyalty points can save you money also. Tesco Clubcard as mentioned above work with Hotels.com, so for every £5 of Tesco vouchers you receive £15 in Hotels.com vouchers (although this is changing to £10 from 13 June when Tesco change the value on these). Essentially any loyalty points or scheme is free money for you to cash in on!
Ready to start looking for those cheap hotels? Perfect! Whilst the things we’ve listed above may take a bit of time to do compared to your standard one click book, it can save you a lot of money that can be used elsewhere on your trip like going out for dinner, local activities, or just making the whole trip possible in the first place! You’ll know doubt get your own preferences of site to use, cashback schemes or loyalty deals and that’s great, it’s all about whatever works for your travels. If you have any questions about our ways, do get in touch! Likewise, if there’s something we’ve missed that could help us and others, feel free to leave a comment down below so we can help each other explore the world!
Adam & Lauren 🙂