Hi guys! I’m back with more travel tips and tricks to help YOU book an inexpensive holiday this year. You guys really LOVED my last post on “How to Book an Inexpensive Flight” and I was shocked. (Click here to read the post.) It’s become one of our most popular posts to date.. we were definitely encouraged by the response and we are so glad you are enjoying the ‘Travel Series’ we have planned so far.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be diving deeper into more travel topics, such as budgeting for a trip, travel insurance: is it worth it?, researching destinations in depth – how this can make or break your trip, our travel plans for 2019, and more! We are so excited. For those of you who don’t already know – I just returned from backpacking in Thailand with my best friend for 3 weeks.. and for those of you who have been asking: YES! I’ll be adding a post all about my itinerary, where I stayed and all of the details plus tips to help you visit South East Asia soon.
Now on to the main topic: hotels and accommodation! Like I said during the airfare blog post; traveling does not need to be difficult or expensive. I promise that the more you follow some of my simple rules… the easier and more fun traveling will become!
Location & Research
After you have booked your airfare – it’s time to book your accommodations! The first step I take once I know where I’m traveling to is to research the destination lightly to find out which neighborhoods are the best to stay in.
Yes, cheap (or inexpensive) accommodations are great at first glance however they aren’t worth it if you’re located far from all the sites and excursions you are planning. When you stay far from your desired location you may end up spending more in time and money in the long run. Transportation can cost a bundle and time is something you want to use efficiently on a trip.
TIP: Staying somewhere near public transportation, food options, popular tourist zones is vital to a vacation!
While doing light research – my #1 tip is to try Pinterest! Normally, people use Pinterest for things like recipes, home decor ideas and more.. but travel guides are surprisingly a very popular topic on the website. Whenever I pick a destination I always check to see where others like to visit in that country and if they have tips on which areas are the best to stay, what type of accommodation is most popular, etc. It’s also important to research whether the city you’re staying in has easy transportation options such as the subway, taxis or other local drivers and trains.
What type of Accommodation suits you?
Once you have your location settled on, the next thing to decide is what type of accommodations are you willing to stay in? Are you only interested in 5 star hotels? Or.. are you willing to broaden your horizons a bit?
The most popular types of accommodations are as follows:
- AirBNB* – Please research Airbnb and the cities you’re planning on visiting to make sure that it’s legal. I’ve used Airbnb’s in many locations throughout the U.S. and Europe and love staying in them! Usually it’s very affordable when compared to hotels. Airbnb has a great new option called AirBnB Plus.. These homes are verified and usually designed beautifully like the Austin home above. Click here to sign up for Airbnb if you have never tried it before.. you can get $40 for free just using my code!
Some of our favorite AirBnB’s we’ve stayed in:
- Rome – This apartment is absolutely STUNNING and is part of Airbnb Plus. It’s in an incredible location, every detail is perfected and the host is a sweetheart. Love! ($158 per night)
- Palm Springs – This little apartment was adorably styled and affordable, within walking distance to downtown & food options.. and it made a great home base for a few days. ($110 per night)
- Florence – My boyfriend and I stayed in a wonderful home right in the heart of Florence in 2017. It is very large and the host left wine, coffee, and chocolates for us when we arrived. We even cooked one night in the kitchen.. we loved this AirBnB. ($58 per night!)
TIP: A tip I have regarding AirBnB is to contact the host directly before booking and ask if you can get a discount on the room. I have had luck doing this before and most people don’t realize that there is an option to do this! Especially if it’s a last-minute booking.. most of the time they’d rather get the room rented vs leaving it vacant. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know!
- Bed & Breakfast – did you know that Chip & Joanna Gaines have 2 popular B&Bs in Waco, Texas? Of course they are designed beautifully.
- Backpacker Hostel (This option isn’t for everyone.. but many hostels are more like boutique hotels and offer quiet private rooms with your own bathrooms for a quarter of the price of a boutique hotel..)
Some of my favorite Hostels:
- Blanco Hostel Koh Lanta – This hostel was a dream. Clean, inexpensive and it had a wonderful social scene. We met so many friends that we will never forget. ($14 per night)
- Sky Backpackers Dublin – This hostel in Dublin Ireland was great.. It had a very social atmosphere and wonderful facilities!
- Boutique Hotel – A small hotel which typically has between 10 – 100 rooms in unique settings. They can be less pricy than a large chain hotels with a more cozy feel. Love the personalized aspect.. they tend to go above & beyond to make sure everyone has a beautiful stay.
Some boutique hotels we’ve stayed in:
- Hotel Eden – One of the top boutique hotels in the world.. I stayed here with my parents a few years ago. It was so beautiful! It has since undergone an entire renovation and while incredibly gorgeous, it’s also expensive.
- Summer Beach Luxury – Loved staying here in Thailand.. it was a last minute booking but it was wonderful and inexpensive!
- Homestays (In Asia.. this option was the most inexpensive and enjoyable for us.) We stayed at the Pha Thai House in Chiang Mai (featured above) and we had a wonderful, cultural experience.
Pha Thai House in Chiang Mai. This little homestay was run by a wonderful family and it was everything we could have asked for! We were in the heart of old town and could walk everywhere. It felt like a little jungle oasis in the heart of the city because it was surrounded by gardens. The room was beautiful with hand carved Thai furniture and it was very clean. $25 a night.
- Hotel – usually more space, amenities and name-brands.
Some of our favorites:
- The Willard D.C. – This hotel faces Pennsylvania ave and the monuments.. within walking distance to everything including the white house. We have stayed numerous times and have enjoyed every stay.
- The Millennium Hilton Bangkok – I stayed here last month for 5 days and loved the service, the price of rooms, and the location directly on the riverbank. It was wonderful and as a diamond member (check out the benefits of this program in my last travel post linked above) they upgraded me and gave me free breakfast + lounge access.
- Four Seasons Singapore – We stayed here when my dad went for work.. and wow – this hotel is incredible. The service was top notch and we loved the high-tea they served.
- Resorts – Large hotels that are self contained and provide most everything a vacationer wants, such as food, all-inclusive options, drinks and sports & entertainment packages.
- Vana Belle Koh Samui – This may be one of the nicest resorts I’ve ever stayed in.. absolutely gorgeous and the service was amazing. My friend and I had a butler and a private pool on our balcony overlooking the ocean. We didn’t leave the resort for 3 days!
- Four Seasons Maui – My parents had the wonderful chance to stay here for their 30th Anniversary in the fall and they said everything was incredible. The service was impeccable.
- The J.W. Marriott Cancun – We visited this resort a few years ago and loved everything from the location, beach, room and service. So relaxing and the water here is crystal clear.
I have stayed at all of the above accommodations at one time or another and each provided me with a different experience and special memory.
On my last backpacking trip to Thailand, my friend and I tried all kinds of accommodations. Throughout our trip we stayed at a couple of $100-200 4 and 5-star resorts.. as well as $10 a night hostel rooms. Mixing it up allowed us to experience the many different vibes and have a well-rounded vacation that suited our budget!
Now on to the tips & tricks for booking…
It’s time to research more in-depth. But this time, I recommend using a few different websites to get the gist on the average prices using your dates. The tools I recommend are:
- Tripadvisor – For an overall view on prices of hotels in the city you want to visit during your dates.. I would recommend looking on Tripadvisor. It shares the averages prices for every type of accommodation. Tripadvisor also gives you reviews, photos and prices from all major 3rd party websites. I usually find hotels that I like through Tripadvisor and then go to the hotel’s website directly to get more information.
On the left, you can plug in what types of accommodation you are looking for specifically which makes it really easy.
Third-Party Websites I like
- Booking.com – Normally I’m not a big “third party” website type of gal.. but Booking.com does tend to share pretty low prices for different types of hotels. It’s a good place to research a little bit more about pricing and to see different hotels that you may like! What I love about Booking.com is you an select a “cancellable” option then opt to pay the place when you actually stay rather than ahead of time.. This way you never have to pay anything to the third party website.
MAJOR TIP: If you are using these third-party websites.. make sure to create an account with them. They tend to drop prices 10-20% lower if you are a member! You can also “save” points and accumulate them like a normal Hilton or Marriott membership would. You can even use ebates with them from time to time!
- Agoda is another third party website, but it’s extremely popular in Asia. Due to a tropical storm I ended up booking a couple of different last minute stays through Agoda while in Thailand and everything was made so easy. (+ more affordable rates than I would have gotten through the hotels directly!) It was difficult to navigate the Thai websites on mobile for a couple of different hotels while I was in Thailand and Agoda made it easier for me when I didn’t have a computer to book. I even booked the beautiful hotel above in the last minute and on the same day that I needed it for 78% off. (Click here to see the hotel.)
- Hotwire.com – This website is definitely an interesting one. While I have never used it, I know people who have and love it. Basically it’s meant for last minute booking… and they have a feature called “Hot Rate” where you can book last minute hotels without knowing exactly which one you’re staying at. I know this sounds odd.. but you save SO much money and you’re always guaranteed to get a certain type of hotel/room. In the screenshot above, you can see that if you book this room.. you can guarantee that it will either be a Hyatt, Hilton, Intercontinental, or a Westin.. and you get all of the same amenities as someone who booked ahead of time for less. So if you are a little less picky and want to get a great deal.. Hotwire can be a great tool for you.
Tips & Tricks to Save
- Become a “member” of the hotel – either to gain points for each stay or to sometimes get 10-15% off your room just for signing up through their e-mail list. Signing up is almost always free and when you check-in, they may upgrade you for free! (My boyfriend and I are Hilton Diamond members, and my parents are high-up Marriott members. We always get upgraded/free breakfasts when we stay at these properties!)
- Book Directly on a hotel’s website – Usually this is better than booking through a third-party website (double check though!) and sometimes you’ll find promo codes or perks that you can add to your stay that you wouldn’t normally be able to get otherwise. I just helped my mom book a hotel in Barcelona for the cruise she’s taking and we saw on Booking.com that the rate was more expensive than what was being offered on the hotel’s website. We also added in a promo code they were offering & signed up for the e-newsletter, so my parents saved an additional 30% off the room for 3 nights!
- E-mail or Call the Hotel for a better rate – I have done this before and it has worked! Sometimes if you notice that a rate on a third-party website is lower than the hotel’s rates.. or you just want to see if you can get a lower rate.. contact the hotel through their reservation or help e-mail. Sometimes they will honor or give you a lower rate just because you asked! This tip is especially true with smaller boutique hotels, B&B’s, or Homestays.. because usually you’ll be speaking with the owner of the hotel rather than someone at the front desk. The nice thing about this is avoiding the 3rd party rules, etc.
- Never include breakfast in your booking – this will save you upwards of $20-30 per day.. and breakfasts at hotels aren’t always that great anyways. It’s better to wait once you arrive and check it out first.. if it looks like something you might want, you can always add it on after. Also, you will sometimes get upgraded to get the free breakfast.. so it’s better to wait.
- Don’t forget about Groupon – Sometimes Groupon has incredible deals on hotels/travel for last minute booking!
- Delete your cookies/history – This tip works! Make sure to clear your cache/cookies when searching numerous times for hotels.. usually the price will go down. Also use incognito mode!
- Sign up for alerts on price drops – You can sign up for price drop alerts through websites like kayak.. good to know if you want to wait a little bit to book!
- Try to stay mid-week – This tip can really save you! Especially in destinations like Las Vegas.. the weekdays are SO inexpensive compared to the high price of the weekends.
- Book a room at a new property – usually newer properties won’t be as busy, so they are willing to offer you an upgrade/make your stay even more enjoyable in return for a review.
- Check your memberships – Many hotels offer discounts for different reasons.. if you’re a government employee, AAA member, corporate discounts, senior discounts, Costco/Sam’s Club membership and of course, military! If they don’t offer discounts directly on the booking area of the website, it’s always a good idea to contact the hotel directly to check on all possible discounts.
- Read through reviews thoroughly.. at least a few pages worth on multiple websites. It’s really important to check the red flags before staying and to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck!
- Ask for an upgrade when checking in – Don’t be afraid to ask for perks! If you’re visiting during a slow time or during the off season.. ask for an upgrade or let the the hotel know that you’re celebrating something. (If you actually are..)
- Check in at the end of the day – if you are staying for a few days, try to book your flight or incoming transportation to drop you off at the end of the day. Usually the hotels have a better sense of occupancy at that point, and they are more likely to offer an upgrade.
Hopefully all the above information will help you in your selection process when booking a hotel. Just remeber that there is always a better deal out there… just looking for you. ;) I plan to continue the travel series next week with more topics like, ‘how to budget for vacations’ and ‘how to pack for beach vacations’.. So many tooics about travel that I can’t wait to delve into.
Please leave any questions or comments below and I’ll be happy to respond to them as soon as possible. :) Thanks for reading!
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