Smart Spending

Summer Travel on the Cheap – Strategies for Getting Cheap Hotel Rates Online

With the arrival of warm weather and the end of the school season, many families plan their annual summer trips. This is a good time to unwind and spend quality time together. And for some families, this is an opportunity to explore a new location. But while many families look forward to a trip, they don’t look forward to travel expenses.

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a week-long vacation, family trips can get expensive quick. Hotel accommodations can easily break the bank, but there are ways to enjoy summer travel on the cheap. Finding affordable accommodations doesn’t suggest staying at a roach motel or a trashy inn. There are several strategies to get a cheap hotel rate online.

1. Travel websites. These websites let you compare rates among different hotels in a specific area. This takes the hassle out of comparison shopping. You can research nearby attractions, hotel amenities, rates and book directly through the travel website. And if you need airfare or a rental car, you can find affordable vacation packages online.

Additionally, you can book through a discount travel website like Hotwire and find the lowest rates for four or five-star hotels. Because some hotels don’t like to publicize super low rates, discount websites typically hide the name and address of the hotel until after you’ve booked a non-refundable reservation.

2. Book directly. Travel websites offer low rates, but they don’t always offer the best rate. Even if you find a low rate through a travel site, it doesn’t hurt to visit the hotel’s official website and compare rates. Some hotels feature a “best rate” on their websites, which beats the rate offered by the competition. Plus, some hotels have weekend or last-minute travel deals, which can’t be found on other sites.

3. Use all eligible discounts. Whether you’re booking through a travel website or directly through the hotel’s website, take advantage of discounts available to you. Are you a AAA member? Senior citizen? Government/military employee? Select the appropriate discount when booking online and reserve your room at a lower price. Additionally, you can search online for promotional codes and apply these to your reservation. A promo codes might take a percentage off a night’s stay, or give you a free night with a minimum stay.

4. Be flexible. You may prefer to travel during holidays, as you probably have additional time off from work. Likewise, weekend travel may better accommodate your schedule. Unfortunately, these are popular times to travel, and if you book a hotel during these times, you’re likely to pay more.

When booking your hotel online, be flexible with your dates. Rather than search for a particular date and immediately book your stay, play around with the dates and compare rate. For example, modifying your check-in and check-out dates by one or two days can make a huge difference in price. Some hotels offer weekend specials, but it’s typically cheaper to arrive mid-week.

5. Prepay for your room. Some hotels offer online-only rates, which can be significantly cheaper than the standard room rate. But there’s a catch. These bookings typically require prepayment, and this payment is non-refundable.