You probably wish you had relatives all over the country. Maybe you wish you had them all over the world. As long as they liked you, you could completely eliminate the financial burden and responsibility of having to find and pay for a place to lay your head when the sun goes down. Instead, we all cringe as we make our travel arrangements, wondering if we'll be able to enjoy ourselves while hotel stays erode our holiday budget. If you're willing to do a little extra research or try the path less traveled, however, you may be able to trim away some excess instead.
Pay Attention To Membership Or Commercial Programs
Every company and organization is trying to win brand loyalty and offering perks to do it. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has long offered discounts, as does AARP. Many of the hotel chains offer discounts and points for regular customers, including free nights and package deals. Warehouses like Costco, BJ's Wholesale and Sam's Club all offer members additional savings, often 15 percent, as well as bundling and package deals that might save you even more than that. USAA is another organization which offers travel discounts to members, along with a price match guarantee (if you use a USAA credit card like USAA Cash Rewards® Visa®, or have a USAA insurance policy or bank account, then you are already a member). Pay attention to those inserts and junk mail, you just might be tossing more than you realize. Don't forget, either, that most places honor military service with discounts.
Use A Credit Card With Benefits
Some credit cards were designed with travel in mind. In addition to airline credit cards, there are also hotel credit cards. Most have added bonus points for the first purchase as well as subsequent spending. It's a great way to make purchases and hotel stays count by earning free nights at the chains' best hotels. Interest rates range from 13.99% to 23.24%, so using it only for what you intended on spending and paying monthly balances off are two must-dos.
Compare Through Online Search Engines
Online hotel booking has become an industry all of its own, letting you compare, arrange and rearrange until you find what you're looking for. On 10TopTenReviews.com, reviews considering sorting features, hotel details, reservation process and booking help gave Hotels.com top honors, with Travelocity, Expedia and Hotwire all close behind. Plenty more online booking sites do an equally good job, so take the time to look, and compare, before you leap.
Call Before You BookUsing online booking sites offers customers a convenience, but most of those companies also take up to a 15 percent commission (or more) from each reservation made through the site. Instead, find your hotel and your price, and then call the hotel's direct line to get that specific hotel; yes, skip the toll-free line. You may be able to negotiate an even better price than what you saw online, even if it's for another hotel, simply by edging out the middleman.
Check Out Package Deals
If you're going to need an airline flight, a car rental and a hotel room, why not book them together and save, too? Online sites like Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak and Hotwire all offer discounts when you bundle services. BookingBuddy promises you'll "save up to 30 percent" when you book a flight and hotel stay together.
Explore Locations And Dates
Even within a mile or two of each other, hotels within the same chain, with the same name even, usually sport different rates. The one by the airport may be considerably cheaper than the one downtown or vice versa. A nearby, smaller town may see little traffic and have an even more significant reduction in price. Certain days of the week may be more in demand than others. The hotel by the convention center may be higher priced during the week because of conferences but sparsely booked for a nonevent weekend. Likewise, avoiding the football Saturday in a college town and shifting your stay by a day may save you half or more. Being flexible can save you money.
Share Or Sublet Spacious Vacation Rentals
Are you headed to the beach or the mountains? Beautiful areas attract plenty of folks who want to own a home there but aren't able to stay year-round. Their solution is often to rent the entire house out for weeks at a time. While paying two or three grand for a six-bedroom beach villa might be out of your budget alone, coordinating with a few friends or close families to share a place will cut your cost by half or more and may be more fun than you'd ever dreamed. Even for hotel rooms, Easynest provides a way to share cost, letting you list your booking or find others who already have one; if you're willing to double up, you can cut your costs by half.
Swap Or Search Airbnb Or FlatclubIf you're more adventurous and don't need the maid, the gym or the hotel waffle-iron breakfast, you might want to check out Airbnb. The site connects people who have a room or house they're willing to rent for a day, a week or even by the month with people who are looking for a place to stay. The service is global, and many times, you can stay for a fraction of a hotel's cost as well as negotiate a better price from your host. All listings have reviews, and when you're done, you can leave your feedback, too. Flatclub is similar, matching members of participating clubs and organizations, letting you take advantage of your inside connections.
If you use an American Express card with Membership Rewards, such as The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card from American Express or Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, you can redeem your Membership Rewards® Points towards Airbnb stays.
Check And Check Again
Prices can and often do change. If you decide to put off reservations, check back on the hotel's website or even competitors' sites. Booking on one day may be cheaper than another. If a major event fails to win the expected number of reservations, you may have more leeway. Even up to a day or two in advance, reservation loads can change, and hotels may be more willing to negotiate a stay. At sites like Roomer, you may be able to buy someone else's nonrefundable deal – just be sure it's transferable, as not all are.
Investigate Alternative Accommodations
Farms, ranches, monasteries and even academic housing (also known as dorms) are all options. Bed and breakfasts may also offer a comfortable slice of homegrown service, and some farms and ranches take it a step further, letting you work a little to earn your keep. Sites like MonastaryStays.com and GoodnightandGodBless.com can connect you to monasteries and convents around the world, where you can stay for less, sans partiers and other disturbances. Even colleges are getting into the act, with some private institutions of higher learning offering rentals through the residence hall portions of their websites; just keep in mind that you might have to bring your own linens.
Adam Luehrs is a contributing writer at GET.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.Editorial Disclosure: Any personal views and opinions expressed by the author in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of GET.com. The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the companies mentioned, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
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