The 20 Best Hotel Hacks to Save Big

Jillian Knox Finley

Where you stay on a trip can make all the difference. Accommodations have the potential to be the tipping point between a stress-free, luxurious getaway and an ill-fated journey. Hospitality is a competitive market ruled by service and amenities. If you’re planning a trip soon, we’ve put together a rundown of our favorite go-to hacks for saving big. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned jet-setter, keep scrolling for our best tips.

Stream your entertainment. Bring your iPad or laptop to enjoy your favorite Netflix shows, or rent a movie off iTunes. The rates are generally substantially cheaper than those you’ll find on the hotel menu. If your room has a TV with an HDMI port, pack your Google Chromecast and stream it directly.

Bundle your room and airfare. Sites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity offer discounts for bundling airfare and accommodations. Depending on your destination and length of stay, you could save as much as 20% putting everything on the same tab, from hotel to car rentals. The only hitch is it makes reservations less flexible. If you plan on making changes, bundling can result in extra fees.

Book directly with the hotel. If you call the hotel directly, it may have discounts or upgrades available that are not advertised. Or you may be able to charm your way into a cushier spot, particularly if it’s the off-season.

Cash out on complaints. If any part of your stay was subpar, from room cleanliness to a noise complaint, take it up with the management. It could result in a full or partial refund, vouchers for discounted rate, or a free upgrades on a future stay.

Compare rates on aggregate sites and apps. Booking aggregators like Kayak enable you to compare room rates across a variety of different sites. Travel apps and discount sites like HotelTonightHitist, and Jetsetter also offer flash sales and last-minute savings.

Sign up for a credit card. New credit cards offer hefty signup bonuses. Enrolling in a new program could land you a slew of points, free airline tickets, discounts, or free nights. Two prerequisites: a solid credit score and enough lead time to register for your bonuses pre-trip.

Join AAA. You don’t need a car to be a member. A AAA membership gets you discounts on hotels all around the world. The membership fee is small, so small you could fully recoup it after a vacation.

Enable incognito browser settings. If you’re planning a trip abroad, use an incognito or anonymous browser window when loading the hotel’s website. Compare rates on both the U.S. and foreign site. Room rates can vary across the different versions. Prices could be cheaper through the hotel’s foreign page.

Ask to see other rooms. Not all suites are created equal. Before you commit to a space, ask to see a couple different available rooms of the same type. You may luck into one with a better view or easier access to amenities.

Sign up for loyalty programs and partnerships. There’s no downside. Loyalty programs cost nothing to join, and the perks range from free Wi-Fi access to preferred room rates and advance notification of upcoming sales. Next time you stay at a place you plan on returning to, sign up. Some airlines have partnerships with hotel loyalty programs. For example, Starwood Preferred Guest platinum and gold members earn Starpoints for every dollar spent on Delta Airline fares. If you have a loyalty credit card, check what other brands sync up.

Gain elite status. Elite status for hospitality groups can afford you such luxuries and perks as late check-out, early check-in, complimentary breakfast, and free upgrades. Work it out with management. Ask if they’ll waive your minibar fees. Check the requirements for elite status; Some midrange chains will grant elite status simply for staying over a certain number of nights.

Match your loyalty status. If you already have elite status with one hotel loyalty program, reach out to other brands and inquire about a matched status. Many hospitality groups will happily honor a request to match your status.

Hit up social media. Brands offer regular flash sales via their social pages. Like the loyalty pages of hospitality groups on Facebook. Check Pinterest and Twitter for any 24-hour deals. Posting or tagging the hotel and mentioning how excited you are for your trip, or plugging their services could even result in a free upgrade.

Get a group rate. If you are traveling with friends or for a special occasion, call ahead and let the hotel know about your event. Most places offer discounted group rates or fees to upgrade to bigger suites. If it’s a birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon, you may even stumble upon the good graces of a manager that wants to upgrade you for free.

Ask for an extended-stay rate. Most hotels offer discounted room rates the longer you stay. Even if it’s just over a long weekend, the longer your trip, the more the room rate will likely drop. Contact the hotel directly. If you plan on staying for more than seven days, odds are the staff will cut you a deal.

Book during off-season. If your dates of travel are flexible, be aware that pricing can fluctuate dramatically from month to month. New York City typically offers lower rates in July and August. Both flights and accommodations drop for Hawaii in January and February. The periods immediately before or after peak season are the sweet spot.

Book around events. Research local happenings and conventions. The weekend directly before or after a holiday or major event might offer big savings. Hotels in Austin, Texas, surge during SXSW. The weeks leading up to the fest, however, are wide open.

Look for free Wi-Fi. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 84% of luxury hotels charge for in-room Internet access. Only 8% of economy hotels charge for Wi-Fi. Even as a nominal daily fee, charges can really add up over the course of a longer trip. Opt for a room with Internet included in the room, or inquire as to whether free Internet is available in common areas. Some hotel groups, such as Fairmont, offer free Wi-Fi in common areas if you join the loyalty program.

Use Tingo for refunds. This handy website keeps tabs on your refundable room reservation rate. Book through the site, and if the rate drops, Tingo will automatically refund the difference to your credit card post-checkout.

Don’t use the phone. Instead of splurging on in-room phone rates or data roaming charges, place international calls and texts via Wi-Fi-fueled apps. You just need Wi-Fi or a mobile hotspot to use WhatsApp, Skype, and Viber for free international texting and calls.

Where is your next dream vacation? Tell us in the comments below.

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