Where you sleep at night is one of your major fixed travel expenses, so learning how to find cheap accommodation will help you to keep more money in your pocket for spending on activities. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and website resources these days to help you find safe, practical and value for money accommodation. As a family, if it’s longer than a weekend getaway we prefer to stay in apartments. They offer several benefits:
Access to a full kitchen saves you money by not eating out every night. Separate bedrooms from the living room make it easier to put the kids to bed. You have your own laundry.
You can book a 3 or 4-bed apartment and split the costs with another family or friends. These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
If you are on an extended trip around the world, consider spending more of your time in countries and regions where your money travels further, and when visiting the expensive countries lower your accommodation standards.
1. Think location
There is no point finding cheap hotel accommodation if it is miles out of town and you have to pay extra in transportation costs.
Stay in a central area close to public transport, airports, local attractions, food outlets, the beach, the park, and the ability to get out and walk to most things.
2. Stay more than 1 night in your accommodation
Many accommodation providers offer their best deals when you stay more than one night. Often we’ve had deals like stay 4 nights, pay for 3. Especially in the off-season.
3. Stay over Sunday
Many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night accommodation bookings from leisure travelers and Monday to Friday bookings from their business travelers, so there can be a void on Sunday nights meaning possible cheap accommodation.
4. Stay mid-week
In certain locations like Las Vegas, avoiding the peak Friday and Saturday night periods is a strategic way to find cheap hotel accommodation – so avoid the big cities over a weekend if possible.
We’re stunned by how much the prices for accommodation can rise on the weekend – some places triple.
5. Travel in the shoulder-season
Are hotels cheaper in different seasons? Of course!
One of the obvious tips on how to find cheap accommodation is by traveling in the shoulder season, that time period between the peak and off-peak season.
6. Stay in Apartments or Suites and share the costs
Apartments and rental homes like on AirRentalz.com are a great way to cut costs. They are usually cheaper and more practical than a hotel. If you’re traveling with other family members or another couple why not get an apartment big enough and share the cost?
7. Consider a Hostel
Staying in hostels may not be a great option for the USA due to the lack of quantity and quality, but in places like the United Kingdom, France and Thailand the network is extensive and the quality is ever increasing.
Don’t think of hostels as just dorm rooms for backpackers. Many offer private and family rooms so they can be one of the best cheap alternatives to hotels. We’ve stayed in several hostels with our kids around Australia including the Sydney Harbour YHA and the Apollo Bay Eco Hostel on the Great Ocean Road. Hostels in major cities are located close to public transport and tourist sites. A private or family room is typically cheaper than a hotel room and they generally have cheap and free services such as wi-fi, a laundry, luggage storage, fully-equipped kitchen facilities, and local tours. But read the hotel reviews. Like all accommodation types, some properties are better than others!
8. Stay in a nearby town or outside the city center
If you can’t find cheap hotels in the city center, staying slightly outside of the city will almost always save you money on the cost of hotels and apartments. If you don’t mind the short commute you might save a bundle.
9. Book rooms that offer free cancellation
Book accommodation in advance at the best rate you can find online, then keep an eye on prices to see if you can get a better deal at another property, or even at the same hotel.
10. Check the dining options
When staying in a major city it will almost always be cheaper to walk to a nearby cafe or restaurant than dining in the hotel, unless you get free breakfast as part of your booking.
If you do eat in, does the hotel have a restaurant with reasonable prices? Does it have a kids menu? Does it have room service? Does it cater to your dietary needs?
11. What facilities does your accommodation have?
Does your hotel have free WiFi, free airport shuttle, free breakfast, free cable TV, laundry facilities, a pool, BBQ areas, private rooms with en-suites, a tour booking desk, 24-hour reception?
Is there a fridge, microwave, coffee machine? A fridge and microwave can be great for storing and reheating leftovers which saves you money on eating out. This is great for families storing milk, juice, and yogurts and other kids breakfast items to have on hand first thing in the morning.
12. What’s the hotel room configuration?
Who are you traveling with? Can you share beds to cut costs per head? For our family of four, we require two double beds, or a queen and two singles. If you have a baby make sure a portable cot is available and for free!
13. Check for family deals on your accommodation
Always ask about discounted family rates, free meals for children, and an upgrade at check in – they can only say no.
14. Use accommodation reward programs
If you frequently visit the same hotel chains or hotel booking sites, join their rewards or membership program. We can’t say which is the best program, it depends on your travel frequency, how and where you travel, and what your priorities are.
To maximize your earnings in any rewards program, charging your hotel costs to a credit card tied to the rewards program is essential. All cards will give you bonus points for spending, and the best cards will also give you instant elite status in the hotel program, which means more bonus points.
15. Use Credit Card Reward Points
Check the program and benefits for your particular credit card, you might be able to use your points for accommodation costs. In Australia, we had the American Express card through the Commonwealth Bank that allows us to use our reward points for booking travel.
16. Follow on social media
Go and “LIKE” your favorite search sites on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. It’s getting more and more common for sites to release cheap accommodation deals directly through their social media channels.