Next to airfare, lodging tends to be the most costly travel expense that families face when booking a vacation. And the bigger your family is, the more dollar signs you’ll see. However, there are ways to save, if you’re willing to think a little outside the box. In my experience, those accommodations have been some of the most memorable for my family.
Photo courtesy: HotelsCombined/Niyama Maldives
1/Research on the best websites
Dozens of websites offer so-called discounts on rooms that hotels themselves haven’t sold. But the site that offers the best deals is one that you maybe haven’t heard of. According to Frommer’s Travel Guides’ research, Bookings consistently gave the lowest price for center-city locations under $200. Agoda and Priceline also are worth checking.
Photo courtesy: HotelsCombined/Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring Resort
2/Get price protection
Pruvo calls itself “the Robin Hood of the hotel industry.” It’s a free, automatic service that tracks price drops for existing hotel reservations and notifies you if it detects a better price for the exact same room.
Here’s how it works: You import your reservation information into the app. If the rate drops before your check-in date, you’ll be notified to rebook. Pruvo gets paid a commission from the booking platform. It applies to reservations made directly on hotel sites as well as aggregator sites like Kayak or Trivago.
KidTripster Tip: Pruvo also has a new Chrome extension that you can install. It monitors price changes without having to email your reservation.
Keep in mind, you’ll only be able to take advantage of price drops if you’re able to cancel your reservation for free.
Photo courtesy: Pruvo
3/Look beyond Airbnb
Many families find renting a space - whether it be an apartment, a house or even a boat - is not only more economical but also gives them more room to spread out. Plus, you have the added benefit of eating some meals in and saving money on restaurants. Check out sites like Airbnb, HomeAway, FlipKey, and VRBO.
KidTripster Tip: Use the advanced search features to find more interesting properties like treehouses or tiny houses.
KidTripster Tip: When comparing prices, make sure to factor in any cleaning fees which may not be evident until you initiate the payment process.
KidTripster Tip: Make sure you know the refund policy, in case you have to cancel. In some cases, you can’t get your money back.
Photo courtesy: HomeAway
Admittedly, home swapping isn’t for every family, but if you’re game, you could save a bundle. There are several websites like HomeExchange, Guest to Guest, and Knok that list properties where owners are willing to trade. To read KidTripster’s advice on homeswapping, click here.
KidTripster Tip: Never use Craigslist to arrange a home swap. The most reputable sites are the ones that charge an annual fee to have your home listed. This fee tends to weed out questionable matches.
Photo courtesy: HomeExchange
5/Don't thumb your nose at hostels
Hear me out on this one! Many of the hostels from your college days have gotten makeovers. You’d be surprised at how modern today’s hostels can be. Many offer free breakfast, an on-site lounge and bar, and free WiFi. And your family won’t be sharing a room with a bunch of co-eds. Many hostels offer private rooms with en suite bathrooms.
KidTripster Tip: If you have three people in your family and the hostel only offers a private room for four, do the math. Even if you end up paying for a non-existent fourth person, the cost likely will be less that a hotel room, especially in some of Europe’s more expensive cities.
Photo courtesy: YHA Port Elliot Beach House
Having a conversation with a real person can pay off. Call the hotel directly (not the 800-number) and speak to someone who has the ability to negotiate. You want to talk with the manager on duty or the head of sales, not a representative or operator. If the hotel isn’t particularly busy for the dates in question, that person may be willing to cut a deal just to fill the room.
If you’re not able to negotiate a lower nightly rate, don’t give up. Ask to eliminate the dreaded resort and/or parking fees. Ask for free WiFi (yes, amazingly, some hotels are still charging for this). Or ask if the kids can eat free at the on-property restaurants. The worst that the person on the other end of the call can say is “no.” You’ll be surprised at how often the answer is “yes!”