Traveling isn't cheap. Whether you're going away for business or taking a well-deserved vacation, it's just too easy to rack up a bill worth hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of dollars. And often, your biggest budget buster is your hotel room.
Luckily, there are various savings strategies you can use to find the perfect hotel that fits within your budget — or at least offers free perks. Click through to find out how you can uncover secret deals and save money on hotels.
Buy Someone Else’s Reservations
To save money on your next vacation, consider snagging a last-minute hotel deal through RoomerTravel. The website allows you to purchase other travelers’ unwanted hotel room reservations at a low rate, said consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.
"The site connects you with travelers who are stuck with a reservation they can’t cancel, but are willing to sell and transfer the reservation at a discount," she said.
Use Coupon Codes for a Cheap Hotel Deal
Hotels don’t regularly offer coupons, said Woroch. But if you search, sometimes you can find coupon codes for third-party booking sites that will score you a cheap hotel room. For example, Coupon Sherpa offers 50 percent off select hotels at Hotels.com, said Woroch.
Ask for a Price Match to Save Money on Hotels
Price matches aren’t just for Target shoppers, they're also for travelers looking for a cheap hotel room. Although hotels might not heavily advertise it, many of them will match a competitor’s lower price if you ask, Woroch said. That goes for third-party sites, too.
"Hotels.com offers to price match any competitor or hotel's price — just book, then submit the cheaper-priced link," said Woroch. "I do this because I earn a free night through their site after 10 stays, so it's a win-win."
Negotiate a Home Away From Home
Sometimes, the best leverage you’ll have is not with hotels, but with individuals who are renting out their vacation homes, said Woroch.
"If you find last-minute availability through VRBO or HomeAway, haggle with the homeowner for a cheaper price," she said. "He or she will be motivated to negotiate in fear of missing out on the last-minute booking."
Ditch the Hotel: Insane Vacation Rentals From HomeAway, Airbnb and More
Check Your Warehouse Club
Costco has offers for hotel discounts — and more — for members, said Woroch. "If you’re a member [of] a warehouse club, check their travel site for deals on hotels and vacation package values," she said.
Stay Midweek to Save Money on Hotels
If you can avoid staying in hotels Friday and Saturday, you could score a cheap hotel deal.
"Most hotels offer a significant discount on rates starting on Sunday through Thursday," said Woroch. As an added bonus, the pool, restaurants and spas will be less busy and sometimes offer deals, she said.
Look for Inclusive Hotel Deals
It can be incredibly frustrating to find a seemingly great hotel rate, only to see your cheap hotel deal get jacked up with daily parking fees, internet fees and even resort fees. The solution — find an inclusive hotel that includes these perks in the price.
"Free breakfast, WiFi and parking are big perks that should be considered when comparing hotel rates, as those daily fees can add up quickly depending on the length of your stay,” said Woroch.
A family of four can save nearly $40 a day by opting for a hotel with free breakfast, she added.
Maximize Your Credit Card
No, no — we’re not saying go hog wild with your Visa. But often, credit card holders get exclusive, attractive hotel deals, said Woroch.
"For instance, MasterCard card members can get an extra 10 percent off select hotel bookings through Hotels.com, via a deal posted on Coupon Sherpa,” she said. The deal is good through the end of 2017.
Use Memberships to Save Money on Hotels
Warehouse members and credit card users aren’t the only ones who get cheap hotel deals from memberships. If you’re an AAA, military or AARP member, there’s a good chance that can help you score a cheaper hotel room, too, said Woroch.
"For example, Hilton Garden Inn offers 10 percent off for senior citizens ages 65 and older," she said. Plus, the hotel offers up to 15 percent off for AARP members, as well as AAA members.
Take Advantage of More Deals: 30 AAA Discounts You're Missing Out On
Buy Discount Gift Cards
Gift cards are good for much more than Starbucks or California Pizza Kitchen. And on sites like GiftCardGranny, you can find discounted gift cards that will effectively make your hotel room cheaper. For example, Woroch found BedandBreakfast.com gift cards discounted more than 20 percent at the GiftCardGranny site.
Download an App for Discount Hotels
Woroch has seen last-minute hotel deals for up to 50 percent off. That might make the breakfast buffet affordable again.
Use Your Mileage
You might not realize you can use your credit card airline miles to save money on hotels, too, said Woroch. You can also often redeem credit card rewards for gift cards to use toward a cheap hotel room, she added.
So when asked, “What’s in your wallet?” Your answer could be, “A free hotel stay.”
Choose a Business Hotel
Hotels that cater to business travelers might not offer all the flashy and splashy amenities a resort does, but they could help you save enough to bolster your vacation with more fun in the sun. Going parasailing or scuba diving can make up for a smaller hotel pool in no time.
"During the summer months and on weekends, [business] hotels are typically slower," said Coupons.com savings expert Jeanette Pavini. "You’re more likely to get a good deal at these hotels if you book a room during those off-peak times.”
Or Stay in an Igloo: 12 One-of-a-Kind Hotels You Never Knew Existed
Travel a la Carte
It might be assumed that any hotel will have minimum features, such as a queen- or king-sized bed, towels, private bathroom and more. But that's not always the case in Europe — and it could work to your advantage when you're looking for a cheap hotel.
"Many hotels allow you to pay less for a 'single' room, which often means a twin bed or a shared bathroom," said Pavini. "There are even budget hotels where you pay a low base price and a la carte for add-ons, like daily housekeeping, towels or an in-room TV. If you’re open to bare minimum accommodations, then you stand to save a bundle."
Check in Late
"Once your hotel has checked in the majority of its guests for the night, they can better evaluate their vacancies and may be more inclined to upgrade your room for free,” she said.
Stay at an Apart-Hotel
Apart-hotels are serviced apartments, routinely found in Europe, that come with a small kitchen, which can save you money on eating out. These might cost a little more upfront, but the amenities can help you save in the long run, said Pavini. Plus, they are listed on many travel sites that offer coupon codes.
"For example, three nights in a highly rated apart-hotel in Kensington, London, cost $896 — including taxes — for a family of four," she said. "We had a coupon code for 15 percent off on Orbitz, bringing the cost down to $761."
Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees
When booking hotel stays in foreign countries on your credit card, you can get hit with foreign transaction fees before you even leave the states, said Pavini. That's why it's important to know which credit card offers the lowest or no foreign transaction fee — and book travel on that card.
You might be able to avoid some foreign transaction fees by booking on a third-party travel site where your money does not need to be converted, she added. "Those sites like Orbitz and Hotels.com also typically have high-value coupon codes at Coupons.com."
Join a Hotel Loyalty Program
Like most businesses, hotels love loyal customers and are willing to offer them perks, said Woroch. "For instance, Best Western Rewards members can save 10 percent or more, and earn points for free nights,” she said.
Loyalty rewards can apply to third-party sites, as well. “At the coupon codes pages on Coupons.com, we found that Hotels.com will give you one night free when you stay 10 nights through their loyalty program,” said Pavini.
Which One Should You Choose? Top Hotel Rewards Programs That Can Save You the Most Money
Look for Reciprocal Hotel Deals
Many hotels and airlines have point partnerships. But, often, the chance to earn points doesn’t stop there, said Pavini.
"For instance, right now Starwood Preferred Guests can earn one Starpoint per $2 spent with Uber," she said. And during your stays with SPG, you can earn two Starpoints per $1 spent with Uber.
Sign Up for the Hotel’s Credit Card
Sure, a hotel credit card might not have the best interest rate. But if you pay it off each month, you can still cash in on some rewards, which can really help you save money on hotels.
"You'll often receive an automatic upgrade to a mid-tier loyalty status, which comes with perks," said Lee Huffman, travel expert and founder of the travel and financial advice site BaldThoughts. "And you'll rack up points much quicker when using the hotel’s card to pay for your room. Some cards even give you free nights when you pay the annual fee or spend a certain amount on the card."
Travel Goals: Hotels Around the World Only the Super Rich Can Afford