Vacations can be very expensive, we know. So that’s why we’ve teamed up with the travel experts at AllTheRooms to offer the top tips for booking good accommodation at great prices. There are plenty of insider tricks that can help you save money and find better deals. Here are some of the industry’s best insights.
If you can be flexible with accommodation, you might be in luck. You can often find cheaper prices just a week or a few days ahead of your trip, with some hotels offering between 20% and 60% discounts closer to check-in dates. Many hotels reduce their prices a day or two beforehand after they’ve experienced last-minute cancellations and want to fill the rooms. So, you could end up in a great four or five-star hotel, for a lot less!
This sort of flexibility is great for holidays such as road trips. For example, if you’re on a road trip and passing through various cities and towns, you know you’ll be able to find accommodation somewhere. There’s no need to book in advance when you have accommodation apps on your phone either. Whether you need to pull over to use some WiFi at a cafe or you’ve already got an international data package set up on your phone, you can scan the area and see what comes up -- that’s as last minute as it gets. It also keeps your schedule flexible and means if you pass through an area you love and want to stay there instead of driving on a bit further, you can!
Book Accommodation with Free Cancellation
A top tip is to book accommodation with free cancellation. This means you already have a guaranteed place to stay, and you can wait to see if a better deal emerges in the lead-up to your trip. Many hotels and some Airbnb rentals offer free cancellation up to 24 hours before the time of check-in. Always read the fine print and make sure you know exactly what day and what time you need to cancel, in order for it to count as free cancellation.
If your vacation is somewhere abroad, keep an eye on the free cancellation period and local time. For example, a property in Thailand might offer free 48-hour cancellation before check-in at 11 am -- that is, 11 am local time in Thailand. As Thailand is 12 hours ahead of New York, for example, you would have to cancel before 11 pm EST on the third day before you travel.
Location, Location, Location
Accommodation in the center of town or close to some of the area’s prime spots will always be more expensive. If you’re playing the ‘book last minute game’ it’s also likely that central accommodation will be the most sold out option. That said, many cities in the world have excellent public transportation; do your research and stay a little further out, close to a metro or train station, which won’t limit your accessibility and will save you a ton of money. Thanks to speedy transport, you could be at all the sightseeing hotspots in under 30 minutes.
A great trick is to go onto a travel site and filter a destination by top location score. Locations might come up that you weren’t aware of or hadn’t considered because they aren’t the usual tourist spots. Staying somewhere off the tourist radar is likely to be cheaper and give you a more local experience.
Home rentals are significantly cheaper than hotels, especially if you’re traveling as a family or with a group of friends. There’s often a lot more character to home rentals and you can really establish a home-away-from-home setting. You also can skip the chit-chat or the sometimes clinical feel that many hotels have.
One of the most common mistakes is to panic book accommodation. Often, travelers book flights and then book the first decent accommodation option they see. We recommend taking a bit of extra time to do some research and find a better option. That’s where startups like AllTheRooms come into play. You can scan all the different accommodation options in one location. Simply put in your destination, dates, amount of people and price range, and voila -- there are all your options in one space to compare.
Be a Regular
Being a regular can really pay off and result in great discounts. For example, if you book accommodation several times through online travel site Booking.com, you can sign up for their ‘Genius’ program which offers money off and perks for future bookings, including 10 percent discounts and early check-in. Also, if you’re using travel site apps, you can often unlock deals and be rewarded for loyalty.
Set Price Alerts
Some sites such as Priceline.com and Kayak.com let you set price alerts on hotels. Enter your details for notifications on specific hotels or dates and an email will be sent to your account when prices go down.
Can you Trust Accommodation Reviews?
Reviews are tricky -- you have to be careful what you read online. Real reviews can be very specific. They often go into small details about the hotel, for example, particular things that the guest liked and didn’t like, and even mention managers’ names or particular members of staff. If a person has taken the time to write a review, it’s normally well thought out. That guest wants to say honest good things, or the bad things, about the accommodation.
Fake reviews are often done quickly and without thought. They can use exaggerated vocabulary and don’t go into specifics. If you’re looking to find out more about a particular hotel or accommodation, keep your eyes peeled for the detailed reviews. You can also check time stamps, as some companies have been known to hire ‘fake review’ writers who submit tons of reviews in a day. A giveaway characteristic can be if you spot lots of similar reviews about one hotel that have all been submitted on the same day. Generally speaking, the top online travel sites are watching out for fake reviews and taking them down as soon as possible.