The holidays can be a wonderful time for visiting with friends and family, but they can be a terrible time for your wallet. Flights, hotels, restaurants, gifts — it all adds up. But there are ways to save.
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Whether you’re planning your winter holiday for this year or dreaming about visiting a new destination in the future, these hotel booking hacks will help you get more for your money on your next hotel stay.
1. Compare prices across websites...
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it's worth repeating: Comparison shop. Online travel sites and hotel sites may have different prices, and it never hurts to check.
2. ...and across devices.
Maybe you already know to check different websites, but when looking at hotels, the platform can also make a difference. Prices on mobile, whether in a browser or in an app like Expedia or KAYAK, might be cheaper than a price found on desktop.
3. Save by bundling.
Bundling your flight, hotel, and car (or any combination thereof) can save you hundreds of dollars. According to Expedia, Christmas holiday bundles can save travelers as much as $600, and according to Orbitz, bundling a car rental can save travelers as much as $500.
4. Check prices early.
While it's considered almost common knowledge that last-minute bookings can save travelers on hotels, it may not be so simple. Airfare forecasting app Hopper just recently added hotel room rate predictions, and so far the data suggests the best hotel rates are found two to three months ahead of time — often before flight prices are at their best.
5. But don't be afraid to wait.
Unless your destination has high occupancy around your travel dates (because of an event, like a conference or the NFL playoffs, for example), waiting until the day before or even day of your stay could save you money. Check out HotelTonight to see last-minute deals on great properties.
6. Try the Honey Travel browser plug-in.
Honey is a browser plug-in that can offer discounts on Amazon and other retail websites by searching the web for coupon codes. The company recently added a version for hotels, and can offer codes that could save you money on your next stay. You can also search for coupon codes on other sites that aggregate discounts.
7. Book a “secret” hotel room.
“Secret” rooms are ones that hotels will typically sell at a reduced rate when they haven’t yet been filled. You won’t know what the exact hotel will be until you make your reservation, but savings can top 60 percent. Check out Hotwire and lastminute.com.
8. Call the front desk.
It's easy to book hotels on desktops or even on a smartphone, but sometimes a phone call is worth the effort. When you call, ask for the “cheapest nonrefundable rate.”
9. Join a club — or take advantage of ones you're already in.
Costco, AAA, AARP, professional organizations — all of these can offer discounts on travel. Familiarize yourself with the discounts they offer so you don't spend more than you have to.
10. See if your employer gets a discount.
Work for a large company? Your employer may offer travel discounts, either through a direct discount or through a program like PlumBenefits.
11. Look for business hotels.
Business hotels and hotels near financial districts can be less busy during the holidays, meaning lower prices. The location may not be ideal for travelers hoping to walk around and explore the neighborhood of their accommodations, but the savings could make it worthwhile to make the jaunt to the more residential neighborhoods of your destination.
12. Check with convention and visitor bureaus.
Convention and Visitor Bureaus, or CVBs, often partner with local hotels to offer travelers additional discounts and perks when booking through their site. Deals can range from up to 50 percent off on Sunday nights at hotels in Chicago to complimentary breakfast and casino playing credits at Des Moines resorts.
13. Split your stay.
Travelers with a willingness to be flexible — and mobile — can save by switching hotels mid-stay if another property gets cheaper. Nightly is one site that offers users the option to book multiple hotels for a single trip.
14. Bid for your room.
Booking sites like Priceline give you the option to bid for your room, letting you select the neighborhoods and star levels you’re interested in to set competing prices. Similar to secret hotel rooms, you won't know the hotel until after you've booked, but you will be able to set your budget. Additionally, sites like BiddingTraveler.com can help you determine a bid that's not too high, or too low, by looking at recent bookings and savings.
15. Join hotel loyalty programs.
This may not help you this time, but rewards programs will save you in the long run. Whatever hotel you stay at, make sure to sign up for the (usually free) program that could get you free stays or upgrades down the road.