Next month, my wife is traveling for a pharmacy conference. Since I can work from anywhere with an Internet connection, I thought I’d follow her and take advantage of the free hotel room the government is giving her (as part of an agreement for her participating on some policy boards). Unfortunately, as the economy would have it, the government found the need to revoke it’s promise to provide a room. It left us scrambling, but it also made me think… how can I save money on a hotel room? Hence the birth of yet another Save Money article…
Use Online Tools
I’m an Internet kind of guy and it just so happens that it is packed with ways to help you save money on hotels:
- Find the Best Prices – There are a number of place you can search for cheap hotel rooms. A few places to start with are Quikbook, Hotels.com, and Orbitz.
- Find the Best Quality – You can get hotel reviews from a number of places, but the gold standard in my mind is TripAdvisor. The reviews are aggregated from a number of users – in much the same way Amazon’s reviews are. Many minds working together make TripAdvisor a crowdsourcing success. It also gives estimated prices – making it one of the best places to start your hotel search.
- Search Ebay – You can get gift cards for hotel chains at Ebay. It could be a quick way to save 5-10% on your stay. Though the Ebay gift card tricks for any store, it’s worth mentioning.
- Name Your Own Price – If you’ve done the research above and found a couple of suitable places, why not try to undercut the published prices by naming your own price with Priceline?
- Look for Coupon Codes – Sites like Retail Me Not have discount codes for Marriott and other hotel chains. It’s worth a couple of minutes of entering codes.
Maximize Amentities and Reduce Other Costs
- A Hotel Gym – I used to belong to Boston Sports Club. It was a fine gym – as long as you went to the one you signed up. If you went to another affiliated gym, you had pay a fee. If your hotel has this amentity it can save you a few dollars.
- A Hotel With a Fridge and Microwave – Having a microwave available opens you up to all sorts of frugal dining options. Four words – Chef Boyardee / microwave popcorn. The refrigerator is great for saving leftovers. Even if you don’t have a microwave, you can save some milk and have cold pizza from the night before.
- Internet Access – My biggest pet peeve is that the more expensive, luxury hotels love to stick you with a $10 a day Internet access fee. However, if you go a discount Motel 6 or Red Roof Inn, it seems they almost always include Internet access. I like to call and ask specifically what the Internet policy is. Sometimes you find that becoming a member of the hotel’s loyalty club (which is free) gives you Internet access. The Omni hotel is one example of this.
- Get Free Breakfast – There are a lot of chains that offer free breakfast. It’s always worth checking to see if you can get this perk as it can put a few extra bucks in your pocket.
Other Ideas to Consider
- Join Every Hotel Program – We belong to every hotel program there is. My wife travels for work (as previously mentioned) and when she can chooses to stay a Marriott resort (since we own a timeshare there). She not only picks up a lot of reward points, but since she stays nearly 50 days a year there, she has a special membership and has special privileges. It takes only a few minutes to sign up for almost every major hotel chain. I store all my hotel membership numbers in my cell phone so I have them available in my pocket at all times.
- Use a Reward Credit Card – My wife uses a Marriott reward card which pays extra points for every dollar spent. Of course she charges everything she can to the room so when she pays it off with the reward credit card, it’s all eligible for points. (Though this is likely an unnecessary step, it just seems more fool-proof of a way to get all the points coming to us.)
- Use Reward Points – It’s pretty straight-forward. If you’ve been doing the above, you may be working up enough over time to earn a free room here and there.
- Book a Cheap Room You Can Cancel – The concept here is to book the cheapest room possible as a safety room, but make sure that you can cancel it. A few days before you travel, you may find a preferred hotel has a sale. If so, you can book that and cancel your safety room. This is a little dirty and you may find that it against your morals. If that’s the case, don’t do it. I’m putting the idea out there.
- Travel Off-Season – Everyone wants to go Aruba when it’s winter in New England. Hotels are cheaper if you go when the demand is low. (Of course you might not care to go to Aruba in the summer.)
- Military? Try Navy or Air Force Lodges – My wife is military. When we travel back home to Boston, we can stay at Hanscom Airforce Base for around $39 a night. You don’t get all the perks, but it comes with a nice bed, a refrigerator, microwave, and free Internet in the lobby. It’s everything we need when we are likely to be spending our time elsewhere.
- Check for Special Member Discounts – Government employees and AAA members get discounts. If you work for a big company, like General Electric, you may even find that they’re a special corporate rate for people that work there. I’m not sure if the corporate rate has to be for corporate business… but I’m not sure if they care.
So there you have it… the best tips I could come up with. What are your tips for saving money on hotels? Drop me a comment below.
Photo Credit: Fatty Tuna