One question I get asked frequently is how I am able to travel economically . To answer that have put together a series of posts with some of my go-to strategies for saving money on a trip as well as strategies to avoid.
This is Part II, which focuses on accommodations (Part I discusses flying and Part III discusses transportation). Trying to find a good price on a hotel without sacrificing comfort can seem overwhelming. Here are some of my tips to help make it simple.
Checking sites such as hotels.com or Trip Advisor is helpful for getting an idea of what rates are and to read reviews. For members of AAA or Costco discounted rates are available for some hotels through their websites.
Unless you have your heart set on a specific hotel, booking on hotwire.com can be a great way to get a hotel room at a below market price. While you cannot see the hotel you are staying at until after you book, they give you a specific enough set of parameters that you have an idea about the type of hotel/location you are booking. One downside is that it is non refundable so only use this approach if you are 100% certain on the dates.
Stay in the Outskirts.
In some cases you can save money by staying at a hotel that is a little farther from popular points of interest. An example would be staying in New Jersey and taking the train into New York. I was able to save at least $100 per night, park my car for free, and it was only 25 minutes travel time to Lower or Midtown Manhattan.
Earn points either from your favorite hotel chain or a comparison site (like hotels.com) so you can get the occasional free stay.
Stay at a Hostel.
While this is admittedly a last resort, it is a strategy I have used on multiple occasions when I have exhausted all other options. While not for everyone they can make sense in the right situation. Besides a considerably cheaper price than a hotel some benefits include having group activities going on and meeting new people who might have similar interests. Drawbacks are that it can be more noisy than a hotel and you have less privacy. Some hostels do have individual rooms for rent, although you still have to share a bathroom, which helps a little with these issues. The clientele tends to be people in their twenties which can be a plus or negative depending on the person. Look at reviews on sites such as hostelworld.com and hostels.com before booking.
Stay at a 1 Star Motel.
Staying at a sleazy and or rundown hotel just to save a quick buck is not worth it. Always read the reviews before booking.
Stay in a Questionable Neighborhood.
Having to worry about your car being broken into and other crime is not worth any cheaper prices. Previous guests will usually mention in reviews if a hotel is in a bad neighborhood.
Splurge on an Expensive Hotel.
Not everyone is going to agree with me on this, but if you are just using a hotel for sleep then staying somewhere really pricey is not worth it. You can get a comfortable bed at a moderately priced hotel. It might seem backwards but moderately priced hotels are more likely to have free wi-fi and free parking.
Show up without a reservation.
There are exceptions but generally showing up at a hotel and asking if they have rooms available will lead to getting a bad price. If you need a last minute room consult a comparison site (my go-to is the hotels.com phone app) and either book online or call the hotel over the phone.