I focus a lot on finding the cheapest flights for your trip. However, there’s another part of most trips that can be sometimes be very expensive and that’s finding somewhere to stay.
In this post I share where I go to find great value accommodation so you can save even more on your trip.
Don’t wait until the last minute to book accommodation. Generally, the earlier you book the more choice you’ll have and the better the rates will be.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting a good deal then book accommodation which can be cancelled free of charge, then check for better deals later. If you do this please read the booking conditions before booking the room that you may want to cancel. You need to know how far in advance you can cancel and if there are any hidden charges for doing so.
There can be a huge difference in the price of the same hotel room between different online travel agencies. I always start by looking for the best price at Tripadvisor.co.uk*, which searches many online travel agencies and hotel chain websites. Then I see if I can get anything better through the hotel’s own website. Hotels often claim that the cheapest deals are always available on their websites but in my experience this is only sometimes true.
One way to try and get further discounts direct from the hotel or the hotel chain is to register for their frequent guest programme. These work like frequent flier programmes but with some hotel chains you get a discount or access to special offers just for being a member of the programme.
After searching on Tripadvisor and the hotel website, I do separate searches with booking.com*, agoda.com* and expedia.co.uk*. I always log in to my account with these sites before searching to get access to special rates. At some hotels this can save 10-20% or more so it’s worthwhile doing. If you don’t have an account with these sites I recommend you create one before searching to access the special deals.
One thing to watch out for is taxes and charges that sometimes aren’t included in the headline price. Some websites have an option to include taxes in the final prices but others don’t. The only way to really see the final price is to click through the booking until you see the final price calculation.
Hotel ‘Resort Fees’
Hotels in the US, especially Las Vegas and New York, some parts of Mexico and some parts of the Caribbean add on a nightly ‘resort fee’ to the price of each hotel room. The ‘resort fee’ isn’t included in any of the prices you’ll see when you’re booking but you still have to pay it. It’s supposed to cover things like internet access, gym access, bottled water in your room and many other ‘benefits’. In reality it’s a way for the hotel to appear to be cheaper in the search results than it actually is.
I hate these hidden charges and always try to book at a hotel that doesn’t have them. In some locations though this is becoming very difficult. If you can’t avoid staying at a hotel that charges resort fees then remember to factor them into the cost of the hotel as they can make a bid difference to the cost of your stay.
Bidding For Hotel Rooms
My favourite hotel bidding sites are Hotwire.com and Priceline.com. Betterbidding.com is a great resource for hotel room bidding and Money Saving Expert’s article on secret hotels is a great place to start before bidding.
Bidding for a hotel room can sometimes save you a load of money. It’s particularly good if you have a bit of time to do some research and you want to make sure you’re getting the absolute best deal, especially for pricey cities in the US like New York.
The way it works is that you bid for a category of hotel in a particular area and the bidding site tells you the name of hotel after you’ve paid. You can’t change or cancel your reservation so I recommend taking some time to work out which hotel you’re likely to be staying in before you book.
There’s a couple of way to try and work out the hotel name. The easiest way is to Google the hotel description from the bidding website. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, so I also use betterbidding.com to help with the detective work. The Better Bidding website has a lot of information about how to do this.
The prices on the bidding sites are usually lower but not always so comparing the prices elsewhere is important. Also watch out for the bidding sites adding charges and fees during the booking process. The only way to see these is to click through to the end of the booking and see the final price breakdown.
You can stay in anything from a spare room to a castle with these accommodation rental sites. Most often you’ll be renting an apartment and as they’re usually cheaper than a hotel they’re a good way to reduce accommodation costs.
When you’re considering a place to stay read the reviews carefully and always pay through the website, never direct to the person advertising the accommodation.
Hostels aren’t just for young people on a gap year. People of all ages, families and groups stay in hostels. Some hostels are better than budget hotels with central locations and clean, comfortable single, double and twin en suite rooms. Yes, there are some that attract young travellers who are looking to party but these are pretty easy to weed out if you read the reviews.
Last Minute Hotel Rooms
HotelTonight is the best site I’ve found for truly last minute bookings. I don’t recommend you wait and book at the last minute to try to get a better rate as this rarely works. HotelTonight is good for times when you unexpectedly need a hotel, for example when a flight is cancelled.
I last used HotelTonight when I was connecting through Miami and the airline cancelled my onward flight because of snow at my destination. I was able to search and book a great value hotel at Miami airport using the HotelTonight app (the link for the app is on their home page). HotelTonight confirmed my room whilst people around me were still thinking about which website they would use to try and find a hotel.
University Colleges and Residences
My favourite site is University Rooms.
When university students are on holiday and don’t need their university accommodation, many universities and colleges rent out the rooms to people visiting the area.
The accommodation is clean and comfortable, and very close to hotel standards.
You don’t need to be a student to use this service. There are universities and colleges around Europe, the Americas and Australia which offer their rooms using this service.
Register and log in to your account for these sites to get the best rates and look at the hotel’s own website to see if it’s any cheaper.
What are your favourite websites for finding and booking great value accommodation? Share your thoughts in the comments below, I’m always on the look out for new ideas!
The links with an * are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you I earn a small commission if you make a purchase through some of these links. This commission helps keep this site free. Please read my Affiliate Disclosure if you would like more information.