Here are three ways we’ve gotten great deals on hotels:
Option #1: Go Through a Travel Site
If you’re willing to be adventuresome, you can purchase your hotel “blind” through Hotwire or Expedia and get a great deal. You’ll save at least $15 or $20 — often more! — if you’re willing to purchase the hotel room without knowing what hotel you are staying at. You can search by lowest price and star rating to see what prices are for the area you’ll be traveling to. We are typically able to find a three-star hotel for around $50-$60 per night this way.
Unless you don’t mind staying in rather questionable hotels, I wouldn’t suggest getting anything less than a three-star hotel as we’ve learned the hard way that two-star hotels can be hit and miss and one-star hotels should be avoided altogether. (Ask me to tell you the story of the roaches and the guy trying to break into our room in San Antonio at the one-star hotel we stayed at there if you need further proof. Yikes!)
While you can get some great deals this way, you are taking a risk. Sometimes it pays off well, other times, you end up with a less-than-stellar experience. But the savings have been worth it to us in most cases.
If you’re going to purchase your hotel room online, always go through Ebates to get cashback and check RetailMeNot.com for any applicable coupon codes. Do keep in mind that you usually cannot get a refund on hotels reserved online through Hotwire or Expedia so you’ll want to make sure your travel plans are set in stone before purchasing.
If you want to get to pick your hotel before you purchase or be able to get a refund if your travel plans change, I’d recommend going through Orbitz. They have great deals, they show you the price including fees, and they do not charge you if you cancel your reservation. Usually, their prices are a little higher, but it might be worth it to pay a little to know what hotel you’re reserving ahead of time, and to not be charged if you cancel your reservation.
Option #2: Call and Haggle
Jesse loves to do this. He’ll pick out a few hotels he’s interested in having us stay at and then he’ll call them and ask them for the best rate they can give us. We usually can’t get as great of rates as we can reserving the hotel online, but we almost always are able to get at least a 15-20% discount off the price they initially quote us.
Be sure to ask for any applicable discount that might apply to you (AAA membership, AARP, Military, etc.) and call knowing exactly what you’re willing to pay. If they aren’t willing to do it, call the next hotel on your list.
As always, though, be polite and courteous. There’s no need to get irritated at them if they aren’t willing to go down on the price. Many hotels have specific pricing policies and can’t go lower than a certain price point.
Option #3: Walk In and Ask For a Bargain
This is what we did on our road trip last week. It was our first experience and it actually worked out really well. The advantages were that we were able to scope out the hotels and area ahead of time, instead of just relying upon pictures or information on the internet.
While we didn’t get quite as low of a price as we could have by purchasing through Hotwire, since we had to change our travel plans at the last minute due to the tornado in Joplin, it worked out well that we hadn’t reserved hotel rooms online anyway, as we would likely have been out the money.
We both decided on a price we were willing to pay per night and then picked out a few hotels in the area to go into and ask for a deal. Because we were traveling in the middle of the week, most of the hotels were quite empty and seemed more than willing to work with us to give us a discounted price. If we were going somewhere during a busy season, this approach likely wouldn’t have been as successful.
Coming tomorrow: How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children
What are your best tips for getting a great deal on a hotel? Tell us in the comments!