One of the most daunting parts of being a curious, adventurous 20 (or 30, or 40, etc.)-something is having an insatiable desire to travel and a lack of unlimited funds to do so. Also limited vacation days–but that’s a whole other thing. Luckily, there are countless sites and travel blogs that offer the best deals or hack to get the lowest prices on all sorts of accommodations, no matter what city you’re looking to visit or what kind of place you want to make home for your trip. I’ve been prioritizing travel more and more now that I’m three years out of school and am more settled into “real life,” so wanted to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve encountered to make the lodging portion of your trip as affordable and comfortable as possible.
Here’s what I’ve got…
Have you guys heard of this app? It’s awesome! I’ve mentioned it before, but basically you can book hotels up to a week out at “last minute” rates. The deals are way better if you’re literally booking the day-of (or even the night before), but regardless, it’s a great way to save, especially in pricier cities like DC and NYC. While I personally haven’t used it to book a stay, I have it downloaded on my phone and regularly browse it to see what prices are in my favorite cities (#weird). One thing to keep in mind is that the app is still relatively new, so it may not have all the hotels you might expect. There are options at all price points, though.
It’s seemingly been around for ever, but tried and true Hotwire is still a great way to book accommodations. Sure, it’s a bit of a gamble–the site allows you to choose a specific area within a city, gives you a loose description of the property, shows the price, but doesn’t tell you a name–but that risk generally comes with significant savings. I used Hotwire in Nashville, where hotels are surprisingly expensive. We stayed at a Hyatt Place right downtown and it was great!
AIRBNB + VRBO
Airbnb and VRBO: This all depends on how comfortable you are renting from an individual, but Airbnb and VRBO are becoming increasingly popular options, especially in destinations with limited hotels and pricier rates. As these services have grown, many “landlords” (if you will) have been renting properties that aren’t the homes they live in daily, but are rather a summer house or second property purchased specifically to rent through a service like this. I know people who swear by these rentals and some who say they’ll never try it…sometimes the experience can be as good (or better) than a hotel, and sometimes there can be challenges. I haven’t personally used either, but have friends who pretty much exclusively use one or the other for everything from lodging at out of town weddings to their own vacations.
Seems like a no brainer, but on the flip side of booking last minute through something like Hotel Tonight is looking for special rates associated with booking early. Many hotels offer discounted rates if you plan a few weeks in advance but note that the booking is often non-refundable and you may even be required to pay ahead of time. If you’ve bought tickets, are decisive, and don’t think your plans have any reason to change, this can be a great option if the hotel you’re consider offers specials.
CREDIT CARD POINTS
Depending on your credit card and its rewards, many of you likely qualify for hotel and lodging-related rewards (similar to how airline rewards work). I personally have the Capital One Venture card and love it–you accumulate two miles for every dollar spent and when you’re ready to use them, simply purchase travel and use your points to essentially erase the transaction from your statement. What’s nice is that you can use the points for any form of travel: airfare, taxis, trains, and hotels included. If you travel a lot or plan to start, it may be worth googling a bit to see if there are any cards that meet your needs.
I personally am one of those people who would rather splurge a little for more comfort when I’m visiting a place. I truly admire those who can stay in $20/night hostels for a week-long Europe trip, but this girl just isn’t one of those people. If you are, the hostel route may be a great option for you. Apparently they’ve gotten significantly nicer over the past decade–there are more choices, and some of them actually look pretty nice. Obviously you’ll want to throughly peruse the reviews + ratings before booking!
TIME YOUR TRIP WELL
A factor of traveling that easily gets overlooked in the excitement of potential travel is whether it will be “in-season” at the destination you’re looking to visit. For instance, Europe is “in-season” during the summer months and both airfare and hotel prices reflect that. Do some research as you’re starting to think about where you want to go and what your possible travel dates look like, because going somewhere “off-season” will save you a lot of money. J and I just booked tickets to Europe for under $500 on a major carrier because we’re going in November, and my friend and I paid under $80/night each for a nice hotel (that included breakfast) last year in Germany because we were traveling in March, before peak-season kicked in.
CONSIDER THE DESTINATION
Simply put, accommodations cost more in some cities and less in others. Do your research! For instance, it can easily cost an arm and a leg to get to Thailand (unless you use airline or credit card points, or find an amazing deal), but once you’re there, 5-star hotels can be had for under $100/night depending on where you are and the time of year. Similar to timing your trip well, do your research and figure out what it’s going to cost once you get to your destination. Depending on where you are, you may need to reserve a more significant portion of your budget for lodging!
I’d love to know, what are some of the ways you’ve saved a few bucks booking hotels? Any favorite sites or go-to strategies or things that have worked (or haven’t)? Leave them in the comments below!
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