As an avid traveler of the U.S. (and soon to be Europe!), where you stay can ALWAYS end up making or breaking your trip, whether from a chain-owned hotel in South Beach, or a family-owned business in NYC. Even though you ideally don’t spend much time in the confines of your room, staying somewhere where you feel like you have to sleep with one eye open at night can be a little unnerving!
On the flip side, I am known as the person who finds hotels for a bargain; usually ones that are high quality AND under $100/night!
SO in this post, I’ll be sharing a few of my tips and tricks to shaving off some extra $$ you can use for entertainment instead!
**Throughout this post, I will be using example pictures from Pod 51 Hotel in NYC, a recent stay of mine in August of 2016. I would recommend this place for anyone looking for a budget price in a safer neighborhood of NYC! I also will be using an example from the South Beach Hotels group, which I also booked through in August of 2016!**
1. Be Obsessive!
This may be the tip that comes more naturally to some people than others. When it comes to travel, I love to leave room for spontaneity, but I ALSO like to be extremely thorough and structured with my planning. Truthfully, I probably spend an upwards of at least 4-5+ hours looking at hotels before I find one that I feel will be the perfect fit. Psychotic? Probably! But it hasn’t failed me yet!
It’s important to know the area in which you are trying to stay. Is it a safe neighborhood? Is it known for being expensive? Is it very touristy? Depending on your level of comfort and experience traveling, you have to find parameters that meet what works for YOU.
Since I do a lot of solo traveling, I tend to opt for spending a few extra dollars a night in exchange for having a little more piece of mind in a safer neighborhood; it’s always good to be cautious.
2. DO Use Sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia-but Avoid Booking Through Them!
This tip I had to learn through my travel-savvy mother. TripAdvisor and Expedia are EXTREMELY handy for finding hotels and hostels that are within your price range, while getting to read REAL reviews and see pictures of the building taken by people who have stayed there in the past. I prefer TripAdvisor, as you can view more content and it is much easier to navigate and compare deals.
On the contrary, it is usually better off to book through the actual hotel site than these travel sites, even though it tends to cost a few bucks more. Why? Because when you book through the hotel, you are guaranteeing a room will be reserved for you. When you book through one of these 3rd party booking sites (Especially during peak travel times such as Spring Break), they have the ability to double-book rooms, meaning you risk the possibility of showing up to your hotel and having them turn you away because their hotel is already full.
If you are comfortable with running the (albeit slim) risk of this happening, by all means book through them!
3. Play With the Hotel Site to Unlock Deals, But Not too Many Times!
This is an easy tip that could take anywhere from a few seconds, to a couple of minutes of browsing. Many hotels have specific “deals” pages on their websites, while some have a deal that toggles once you go to exit out of the hotel page itself.
4. Find Hotels With All-Inclusive-Type Deals
The picture above is a good example of this. South Beach Hotels Group is extremely good at offering lots of reduced price/free deals if you stay at their hotel. I took advantage of the free shuttle that ran between Miami Int’l Airport and the hotel I stayed at, a drive that easily could’ve cost $20 one-way in a taxi. Half of the hotels in the chain also offered “Free Happy Hour” between 6-8pm in the lobby’s bar, among morning yoga sessions, etc.
Most, if not all hotels do have small incentives like such for their guests, but they usually are hidden in the hotel’s site and you have to find it yourself. For someone like me who is [usually] not of the age to legally rent a car, I always look for hotels that offer free/reduced price trips to and from the airport I fly out of.
5. Know Your Budget Before You Even Begin to Look
Of all the tips and tricks, this one will end up being the most applicable. Your budget may depend on how much money in your bank account, but remember the hotel price will be affected by the location as well; For example, a hotel in NYC is going to cost a LOT more than a hotel around your hometown, simply because more people are booking hotels and traveling to that destination.
For my budget, I usually stick to the formula of $90 +/- $20 for hotels (hostels differ), meaning I expect to pay about $90/night for a hotel, but I would be okay spending $110/night. Anything less than $70/night is a bargain, but investigate why it’s a bargain. Are they that cheap and have relatively good reviews, or are they in an unsafe area/do they have poor reviews?
Sometimes, you do just end up striking gold and finding a really, really good deal on a great hotel. Pod 51 is a great example of this, as most stays hover around $80/night, but the hotel was extremely well kept and the shared bathrooms (yes shared, by about 6 rooms) were ALWAYS clean.
Overall, the best advice I can give is to have a budget, stick to it, and take a lot of time to find the hotel that works for you. In the long run, it’s much better to feel safe about the choice you have made, than it is to cut corners on cost and end up somewhere dangerous!