Many people have asked me what some of my secrets are for finding cheap accommodations. As a solo traveler, this is a hard one because accommodations are cheaper when you’re splitting the costs with at least one other person. Not only that, sometimes you get charged an additional fee for renting alone, particularly if you’ve booked through a group.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that I have discerning taste in lodging. I’m sure there are really nice hostels out there, but you won’t find me at any of them. At the very least, where I stay has to have a deadbolt separating me from all other persons at the end of the day, and 4.0 or higher guest ratings.
Don’t confuse guest ratings with star ratings–I don’t need to stay at the Ritz Carlton or another 5 star property, but I value knowing that recent guests have had a 5 star experience.
Here are some tips to help you find cheap accommodations for your next trip!
1. Register with discount travel websites
Expedia offers 10% off hotel rates as standard practice for all its members. Not only that, they keep a points system and reward you as you rent with coupons and discounts. If you’re a frequent traveler, Hotels.com gives you a free night after your 10th rental. TripAdvisor always runs incentives to get you to book on their site. My first rental with them led to a $50 Amazon gift card.
By comparing rates on different sites yourself, you can make sure you’re not only getting the best hotel deal, but also utilizing all incentives. Also, if you can find a preferred booking site and remain loyal, you’re more likely to reap rewards.
2. Book and pay in advance
Most accommodations have an option for you to book and pay in advance in order to save a certain percentage of the nightly rate. Use this option sparingly, since you’re usually out of luck if your plans change and I research hotels so exhaustively that if I later come across even one review hinting at “bed bugs,” I want to be able to cancel without repercussion.
Still, if you know your plans are set in stone and you’ve researched your intended destination well, this is a great way to secure a rate early-on for high traffic places. I used this method to secure two nights in Santorini in a hotel overlooking the Caldera for only $100 a night over Memorial Day weekend, compared to the average nightly rate of $250+.
If you’re booking through AirBnB, you have no choice but to pay up front. Each property has its own cancellation and refund policy so be sure to read the fine print before booking.
3. Wait until the last minute
It may sound contradictory, but hear me out. In the event you don’t luck out and secure your accommodations early on, your next best bet is to wait till the last minute, within a month of your visit. This is the point where a lot of hotels will assess any open space they have and offer deals to entice guests to stay with them. After all, it’s better to have a guest paying a discounted price than no guest paying nothing at all.
This is especially true of larger cities with plenty of hotel competition, like Las Vegas and Hong Kong. If you know you’re going somewhere rural with high demand and limited space, like the Grand Canyon during the summer months, don’t risk this strategy.
4. Compare hotels with private rentals
I usually do a thorough search of both hotels and private rentals in my destination city. There are a several private rental sites, like Home Away, but I usually jut stick to AirBnB because it’s user friendly and I’ve had good luck with their properties. The picture above shows the view of the Acropolis from my AirBnB in Athens, 2 blocks away from the Parthenon and just $70 a night over New Year’s week. It had a king bed, lift, and even homemade cookies from grandma. You can’t beat that!
My secret to ensuring a successful AirBnB stay is to book with SuperHosts whenever possible. AirBnB takes the designation seriously and only awards it to hosts that have received rave reviews. Not only that, they re-assess the designation regularly so you know where you’re staying has remained up to par. Sometimes a host will be too new to have earned a SuperHost rating. In that case, I look for at least 3 reviews from people who have already stayed there and no less than an average of 5 stars. The goal is to find cheap accommodations without sacrificing quality.
5. Search for coupons and discount codes
Before booking on a travel site or app, it’s advisable to do a Google search and see if there’s a discount available for first time users or promotion currently running. AirBnB is offering $40 off your booking this month, and regularly runs some sort of deal.
If you like to stay with a certain hotel chain, sign for a loyalty membership which can include bonuses like free wifi, breakfast and a free airport shuttle. If you took my advice as to how to book cheap flights and have a travel credit card, check to see if your card partners with any hotels to offer bonus points on spending there.
Many brands also offer their own credit cards, allowing you to receive free or heavily discounted nights. With a little research and redirection of funds, cheap accommodations could be a credit card away.
6. Don’t be afraid to stay at more than one place
So you have that $40 AirBnB coupon and you found a place that’s $50 a night and has views for days, but it’s only available for one night. Should you say forget it and book somewhere you can stay the length of your trip instead? Perhaps. It depends on your tolerance for minor inconveniences. But sometimes one night at a luxury rental for a great price is worth the pain of moving your luggage somewhere else in the morning.
I used this strategy to upgrade mid-way through my Barcelona trip to the Yurrban Trafalgar hotel (pictured above) and even though checking in and out of the other hotel was a pain, the trip instantly picked up once I arrived there. If you can land a good deal, don’t be afraid to stay in more than one place.
I hope these tips can help you save money and find cheap accommodations. Till next time, safe travels!
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