20 Cheap Hotel Booking Tricks & Hacks: Save up to 60% or More on Hotel Rooms

By Mike Leighton | Travel Tips and Hacks
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Sun loungers and parasols by the pool at a luxury hotel - cheap hotel booking tips featured image

Over the past few years hotel room prices have been steadily increasing by an average of 2% to 3% each year, but more recently some cities have seen hotel prices rocket by as much as 19% in only a 6 month period.

Talk about a “blatant rip-off”… but if the demand is there then prices will only continue to rise.

With hotels consistently squeezing more profits from their customers it's little wonder there's been an online explosion in travel apps and cheap hotel booking sites, and who doesn't want to save more money… how about up to 60% (or even more) off your next hotel booking?

Those golden deals are out there just waiting to be snapped-up it's just knowing where to look. Here are 20 cheap hotel booking tricks & hacks that will help you squeeze more savings on your hotel stay.

And one more thing…

Just be aware that hotel room safes are NOT safe, at the bottom of this page we've included some very useful hotel room security tips.

1. Be flexible when you travel and avoid popular zones

This one is pretty much common sense, try and be more flexible on your travel dates and book your stay during off-peak periods if you can when hotels have more vacancies.

Secondly, stay away from the popular zones, city center and beachfront hotels will be pricier than hotels located 20 minutes from the center or from the beach.

2. Look out for the NEW hotels recently opened

Keep an eye out for new hotels when researching online. Hotels that have only recently opened and are still relatively unknown to many people will have low occupancy rates. To attract customers they will often offer significantly lower prices than their competition.

3. Avoid international hotel chains and stick with local

Stay clear of the big international hotel chains especially when traveling abroad. Hotels such as the Hilton. Hyatt and Marriott will always charge you their premium rates in popular international cities. You'll get a much better and cheaper deal at a similar quality hotel if you stay in any of the local hotel chains instead.

4. Affiliations and coupon code promotions

Are you a member of AAA or AARP or any other large organization, if you are then have a look at the member benefits. Your organization may have a list of hotels they're affiliated with and who will offer discounts or coupon code promotions that are exclusive to members only.

5. Hotel promotional offers but watch out for sneaky hotels!

Sometimes hotels will have promotional offers, eg. “4 nights for the price of 3”, you can find these offers on hotel websites or on travel aggregator sites. But don't take it for granted, check if the nightly rates are actually cheaper… some sneaky hotels will bump-up the price for those 3 nights so the 4th night isn't really free.

6. Advanced booking discounts (interesting hotel statistics)

Most hotels will generally offer discounts on advance bookings if you book 30 – 90 days early, with some hotels offering as much as 35% discount off the standard rate.

But how far in advance should you book your hotel room to get the lowest price? Travel comparison site Kayak did some research on this and dug into their own data to put together their first-ever hotel study with some very interesting results…

  • Domestic Travel
  • (1) Less than 1 week stay — book 1-3 days in advance for average savings of $15 per night.
  • (2) 1 to 2 weeks stay — book 1-3 days in advance for average savings of $20 per night.
  • (3) More than 2 weeks stay — book 6 days in advance for average savings of $7 per night.
  • International Travel
  • (4) Less than 1 week stay — book 6 days in advance for average savings of $6 per night.
  • (5) 1 to 2 weeks stay — book 2 weeks in advance for average savings of $2 – $6 per night.
  • (6) More than 2 weeks stay — book 4 weeks in advance for average savings of $21 per night.

In addition to the above data, the cheapest ‘hotel check-in' day is on a Sunday, and the most expensive is on Friday and Saturday.

Keep in mind that if you're traveling to any popular destination it's always a good idea to secure your room and book your hotel stay earlier than later to avoid disappointment, especially if you're traveling during peak holiday season.

But how do you know you're getting the lowest rate on advanced bookings?… You don't… the trick is to make your booking with the free cancellation option.

If for whatever reason (a) you can't make those dates then you can easily cancel, or (b) should the hotel rates get cheaper closer to your travel date, you can cancel and re-book at the lower rate.

7. Try this creative hotel price-checking method

If a seven day stay at your first choice hotel looks too expensive, then before crossing it off your list and moving onto the next hotel, try ‘price checking' (a) one day at a time, (b) just the weekdays, (c) just the weekend… you might find that making two or three reservations at the same hotel is cheaper than one week long reservation.

8. Always sign-in when using multiple comparison sites

Booking directly with your favorite hotel could leave you short-changed, they may offer a best price guarantee when comparing them to other hotels but their ‘best price' guarantee is not always the cheapest.

Always use multiple hotel booking sites such as Kayak, Agoda and Trip Advisor to compare prices (also try Trivago, Hotels Combined, Priceline and Expedia).

Many of these sites have special deals and discounts available to members only, so be sure to register and sign-in before using their search engines.

9. Done your comparison… now check with the hotel website

You've done the comparison sites and you've chosen your hotel, but before you book your hotel-stay do a quick check on the hotel's website. They might be running a special promotion or they may offer exclusive perks if you book directly through the hotel website.

10. Use hotel credit cards for exclusive perks & rewards

If you often stay at any one of the major hotel chains eg Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Wyndham or Marriott, then getting their credit card will get you exclusive perks. They each have their own loyalty programs which can include, complimentary breakfast, late checkout, free room upgrades, reward points etc.

The Venetian hotel in Las Vegas

11. And what about regular credit card perks?

Check your current credit card for travel and/or hotel-stay benefits that you may have overlooked. Or get yourself a travel credit card, both the American Express Platinum card and City Prestige card are a good choice for travelers with excellent hotel perks.

You may also want to consider the Chase Sapphire Reserve card which not only offers a superb selection of perks but also offers exceptional travel protection.

12. The price match guarantee… but what if they don't?

Most hotel booking sites will offer a price match guarantee, and will refund the difference should you find the same hotel (similar room and same dates) offered cheaper at another site. But what if they don't price match?…

The solution is to always book a hotel with free cancellation, this way if the booking site can't do a price match, you simply cancel your reservation and then re-book the same hotel on the other site at the cheaper rate.

13. Keep checking the hotel rate and be ready to cancel

If you booked a few weeks in advance then every once in a while check the hotel rates, then check them again a few days before traveling and before the cancellation deadline. If the same room is offered at a cheaper rate, then change your reservation or cancel and re-book it.

14. The only time you should book a non-refundable rate

It's always advisable to book your hotel stay with free cancellation, but if your planned trip is only two or three days away and you're absolutely certain of it, then you may find that the non-refundable rate is up to 20% cheaper.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel in Dubai

15. Last minute hotel booking… but just be aware!

If on any day a hotel has empty rooms they'll often offer them at a significant discount to fill them, but you'll have to book on the same day. You can find last minute hotel deals on sites such as Hotel Tonight. The catch is you won't know what room you're getting until you arrive at the hotel

(just be aware that there have been complaints of hidden hotel fees and taxes that you're not made aware off before you book)

16. Save up to 60%… WATCH this Priceline express deal hack

If you're primary goal is to get the cheapest rate and you're not too fussy at which hotel you'll be staying as long as it's in your chosen location, then try Priceline's “name your own price” feature to bid on hotel rooms.

Although you won't know beforehand which hotel will accept your bid, you can at least choose the minimum star rating (the quality of the hotel) before you start the bidding process. It's a small risk to take to secure some great savings – up to 60% discount on published hotel prices.

Then there's Priceline's Express Deals, and again you can save up to 60% on published hotel prices, but you won't know the name of the hotel until after you've accepted the offer and paid for the room. There's no bidding involved, you get the lowest price the hotel can offer on empty rooms at that moment in time.

Watch this Priceline express deal hack – this regular traveler found a simple way to ‘back engineer' any express deals offers. Not only does he consistently save a ton of money on top rated hotels, he also knows in advance at which hotel Priceline will make the reservation.

A simple way to “back engineer” Priceline express deal offers

On a side note: if you've prepaid in advance and the cost of your vacation is non-refundable then it's important you get travel insurance with cancellation coverage without delay. You never know what's around the corner – you may get sick, have an accident or for some other unforeseen reason you may have to cancel your trip.

17. Try looking beyond hotels for even bigger savings

If you really want to trim the fat off your hotel expenses you need to look beyond hotels – for example, booking a bed & breakfast instead of a hotel, booking an Airbnb or even a hostel… then there's couch surfing?

Here are three alternative accommodation options you might want to consider

Hostels – these are great for backpackers and young travelers who want to explore new towns and cities, and save as much as they possibly can on their accommodation costs. If you don't mind sharing a room with other travelers then you just can't beat hostels on price, compared to hotels they offer massive savings.

You will of course have to share a room with strangers, but most hostels do provide a personal locker for your valuables and other belongings. A good place to start your hostel research is Hostel World, Hostelz.com and Hostel Bookers.

Airbnb – this is an online marketplace which allows ordinary people from all over the world the opportunity to rent out their spare room, an apartment, a house, a villa, a beach bungalow etc.

The benefit to travelers who book through Airbnb is the sheer variety of accommodation on offer, and compared to hotels, you can save more of your money if you travel with a group of friends and share the rental fee between you – the bigger the group the bigger the savings!

Couchsurfing – Imagine if you could travel the world for free?… No hotel or hostel fees to worry about, you simply sleep on someone's couch, or in a spare bed that's provided by a friendly local while you're on vacation or backpacking from town to town. Couchsurfing really does give the words ‘low cost' and ‘budget travel' a whole new meaning.

Honolulu Waikiki Beach in Hawaii

18. Use these ‘tricks' to buy discounted hotel gift cards

You can buy discounted hotel gift cards directly from the major hotel chains when they have sales and promotional offers and usually get them for between a 5% and 10% discount.

You can also buy them online from ‘cash back' websites such as Ebates (now Rakuten) and from other reputable gift card resellers. Some resellers are offering as much as 15% discount on hotels.com gift cards, ie. $100 gift card for $85. Here are some Google searches to try…

discount hotel gift cards
discount hotel vouchers
discount hotel coupons
hotel discount codes

Also try more targeted searches…

hotels.com discount code
expedia discount code
booking com discount code
agoda discount code
priceline discount code
ebookers discount codes
trivago discount code

And expand your searches for each of the above to really dig deep

hotels.com promo code
hotels.com voucher code
hotels.com coupons
expedia promo code
expedia voucher code
expedia coupons etc. etc…

Caesars Palace Las Vegas hotel and casino

19. Join several hotel loyalty programs (top 15 rated)

Even if you're not a frequent traveler it's well worth joining several hotel loyalty programs just for the entry-level benefits and perks you can get, and it costs you nothing to join.

Not many people know this but most hotels will actually offer lower rates to their loyalty program members. Other benefits can include, more flexible cancellation terms, late check-out, free room upgrades during hotel slack periods, free in-room Wi-Fi and even free breakfast.

Here's a list of the top 15 hotel loyalty programs as given by the usnews travel site

Hotel Rewards ProgramHotelsRating
1. Marriott Bonvoy4,000+9.56
2. Wyndham Rewards 4,000+ 9.54
3. World of Hyatt 500 – 9999.14
4. Choice Privileges4,000+9.02
5. Best Western Rewards4,000+8.74
6. IHG Rewards Club4.000+8.12
7. Radisson Rewards1,000 – 3,9997.52
8. INVITED500 – 9997.16
9. Sonesta Travel Passunder 1006.34
10. Hilton Honors4,000+6.10
11. Stash Hotel Rewards100 – 4995.98
12. Leaders Club100 – 4995.88
13. Omni Select Guestunder 1005.48
14. Le Club AccorHotels1,000 – 3,9995.08
15. I Prefer Hotel Rewards500 – 9994.60

On the other hand you prefer to use online travel agencies to do your research and price compare, then these three hotel booking sites have their own rewards program – Expedia.com, Orbitz.com and Hotels.com.

Although you won't get the same perks as you would with a hotel loyalty program, the obvious advantage is you won't need to book at the same hotel chain in order to earn enough reward points for a free stay, booking at any hotel will earn you points and you get up to 270,000 hotels to choose from.

20. Don't suffer in silence if you are unhappy… complain!

If you experience any problems with your room or your hotel stay, if you are inconvenienced in any way at all and it's clearly the hotels fault, then don't suffer in silence but complain to the hotel staff and speak with the manager.

Hotels don't like unhappy customers, they would much prefer to resolve the issue immediately to your satisfaction, than have you ‘bad mouth' them via social media and travel review sites.

And depending on the seriousness of your complaint they may compensate you by upgrading your room, offering you free nights, free hotel vouchers, or they may even give you a partial or a full refund.

(20 cheap hotel booking tips & hacks / source: yellow productions)

Top 10 Travel Apps to Book Hotels & Accommodation

The following 10 travel apps are briefly reviewed in this video – Booking.com (0:36), Airbnb (1:06), TripAdvisor (1:36), HotelTonight (1:58), Trivago (2:19), HostelWorld (2:33), Luxury Hotels Apps (2:49), Worldpackers (3:27), HomeExchange (3:50), Couchsurfing (4:05).

Top 10 cheap hotel booking apps reviewed

Hotel room safes are NOT SAFE (hotel room security tips)

It's a known fact that almost all hotel room safes are NOT safe at all, they can be opened by entering an administrator password which overrides any password that has been previously set.

This is a fail-safe that is known to certain members of hotel staff who will only ‘supposedly' use it to open the safe if a customer forgets his/her password and asks for assistance.

Watch this video you'll be shocked at how easy it is for dishonest hotel staff to enter any room and open the safe in less than one minute.

Beware hotel room safes are NOT SAFE!

Even if they steal nothing, if you leave your credit card in the safe they can write down your card details, number and CVV security code, replace it and lock the safe. You'll be non the wiser until you receive your next credit card statement and notice several internet purchases were made without your approval.

If you're wondering, yes there is a way to secure a ‘locked' hotel room safe namely the BloXsafe and Milockie safe locks, but the best advice is to keep your valuables at home, if you don't need it don't bring it… Also on the point of security have you prepared a home protection to-do-list?

Here are 3 practical tips for the security conscious traveler

(1) Hide it in plain site – as an alternative to the hotel room safe why not use a diversion safe or container with a hidden compartment.

For example, a hair-brush with a removable lid, a fake coke can, a zipped coat hanger with hidden pouches, a water bottle with hidden bottom, a candle with a screw-off bottom, a book safe and many more ideas can be found on this page.

(2 ) Use this universal door lock – if you're worried that someone will sneak into your hotel room or airbnb room while you're asleep or taking a shower, then attach this ingenious device to your door.

Not all door locks are secure but the addalock portable door lock gives you instant peace of mind… there are more door security devices here.

(3) Setup a hidden spy camera – setting up a hidden surveillance camera in your hotel room is a lot simpler than you might think.

This compact plug-and-play spy camera charger is a 2-in-1 device, it looks and works like any other standard USB charger but it can also record full 1080p HD video, with loop recording and advanced motion detection.

There is one obvious disadvantage with spy camera chargers, they have to be plugged into a power outlet to operate, and most outlets are at ankle height or not where you would like them to be… if you like the idea but want something a little more portable then take a look at these hidden spy camera clocks.

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