As with airfares and car rentals, hotel costs take a big chunk of your holiday dollar. And, like finding low airfares and car rentals, there are some tricks you can use to help lower your accommodation costs. All you need is a little time and knowledge. Here are our top ten tips:
1. Search online using aggregator sites like Travelocity and Expedia to get a general idea of rates. Some of these sites now offer the opportunity to book “secret” hotels or pre-pay for a room. Be careful as many of these pre-paid options are non-refundable.
2. After getting a general idea of rates at your destination, drill down using sites like Hotels.ca and the hotel’s own website. But don’t stop there. Often you can get an even better rate by calling the hotel directly – and by this I mean the hotel itself, not the 1-800 number for their reservations centre.
3. Ask the hotel if they have lower weekly rates and weekend specials, or if they have a special where you stay for a couple of nights and then get one free.
4. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot demanding the “rack rate” – that’s actually the normal rate before any discount! If you’re negotiating for a lower rate at the hotel’s front desk, leave your bags in the car – it makes it much easier to walk away from a rate that you’re not quite happy with.
5. Staying away from major attractions and city centres is a good way to save. Hotels located in the suburbs are generally cheaper and a good option if you don’t mind driving or relying on public transit. Suburban hotels and motels often don’t charge for parking.
6. Some hotels offer special low rates to local residents (or residents of a province, state or country). Ask a friend who lives at your destination to book a room for you.
7. Check coupon websites like RetailMeNot for discount promo codes. Another way to find these coupon and promo codes is to do a Google search. Just enter the name of the hotel (or chain) and the word coupon.
8. Use bidding sites like Priceline to find hotels within your budget. The big caveat? You don’t know what hotel you’ll be staying in until your bid is accepted.
9. Become a member of the hotel’s loyalty program. You can earn points towards free stays and get access to special discounts and rates.
10. You may already be eligible for discounts through CAA, your credit card, the hotel’s retail partners, your employer, etc. And if you’re a senior, you’re almost guaranteed a discount.
Once you’ve checked in, don’t fall prey to extra costs. If you’ve got a car and the hotel charges for parking, check out rates at nearby lots. And stay out of the bar fridge! Do you have a great tip? Let us know.