7 Ways to save a bundle on your next stay. You're welcome!
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.
And there’s good news for families planning to travel within the USA this year. Foreign travel to the USA is down by 4%; fewer travelers from outside the country will be visiting places like New York City, Las Vegas or our national parks. Hotels and lodges will likely be offering deals to entice visitors to fill those empty rooms. So there’s no better time to travel with your 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’ve likely never heard of. According to Frommer’s Travel Guides’ research, HotelsCombined gave the best room rates 92% of time when compared to other sites. If you’re looking for more interesting, mom-and-pop properties, try Booking. Want a deal on a hotel in Asia? Check out Agoda. If you rather bid on a room, check out The Bidding Traveler first. It spills the beans on exactly how much people bid and what rooms they got.
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 web 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 email an existing hotel reservation (must have a free cancellation policy) to email@example.com. If the rate drops before your check-in date, you’ll be notified via email to rebook. Pruvo gets paid a commission from the booking platform.
Pruvo claims that your reservation will experience a price drop of up to 67% after booking in 4 out of 10 cases. In nearly two years of operation, this service says it has saved customers in 72 countries over $900,000 on their hotel expenses. We say that it’s worth a try!
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. For more information on what you need to know before agreeing to a swap, 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 a makeover. You’d be surprised at how modern today’s hostels can be. Many offer breakfast, 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 ofter private rooms with en suite bathrooms.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re a family of three traveling and the hostel only offers a private quad, do the math. Even if you end up paying for four people, the cost will likely 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 your 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!”
7/Use an app to pocket cash
Along with checking hotel rates online, check rates on DOSH. It’s an app that gives you cash back for spending money on hotels. How? When you book a hotel on an aggregate travel website like Kayak and Expedia (called Online Travel Agencies or OTAs), that site gets a cut from the hotel, sometimes up to 60%! Instead, DOSH gives that cut (minus 15%) back to you. The cash can be transferred to your bank account, PayPal account or favorite charity; it’s real cash, not points.
As a former consumer investigative reporter, editor Shellie Bailey-Shah enjoys finding a deal on travel almost as much as the travel itself.