Save Money on Travel Accommodations

By Debbie Dragon on 20 August 2009 (Updated 26 August 2009) 19 comments
Photo: Tent/Flickr

I don't know about you, but when I travel somewhere it's because I'm going to experience an attraction, see friends, or participate in an event for my business. I don't travel just to sleep in fancy hotel beds, and I prefer to keep as much of my travel budget available for entertainment as possible! Finding cheap hotels or inexpensive hotel alternatives will keep your travel expenses down. 

Most of the time, I just need a comfortable and safe place to sleep when I'm traveling out of town. If this describes your own travel-sleep needs, you might be able to save money on your travel accommodations with the following tips:

Go Camping. I realize camping is not for everyone, but if you can handle pitching a tent and blowing up an air mattress, chances are good that you can save a ton of cash. Campgrounds charge between $5 and $40 a night, depending on the amenities of the campground and whether they're in a popular location or not, but when you compare those prices to the $40-$200 a night for a budget to moderate hotel, you can see how camping can really stretch the budget. Some campgrounds even have electric hook-ups and wireless internet.

Get Out of Town.  If you're traveling to a popular destination or event, most hotels will take advantage of supply and demand and increase their rates accordingly. If you don't mind driving fifteen or twenty minutes between your hotel and event location, you can almost always get a less expensive hotel room in a neighboring town.

Stay Longer. Many times you can rent an entire house or condo for a week for less than you would pay for a hotel for three or four nights – especially if staying in popular vacation destinations. For example, there are fabulous three to six bedroom homes in the Orlando, Florida area (complete with swimming pools, kitchens, dining rooms, living rooms, game rooms, and sometimes even a community center nearby!) that rent for around $700 per week; but if you stay in a moderate hotel room in Disney, you can expect to pay $280 a night or more. The larger accommodations also make it reasonable to share with another family or two and reduce your costs even more.

Use Discounts.  If you're a member of AAA, a member of the military, or own an Entertainment Book, you have discounted travel options available to you. Most hotels offer discounts under these situations. The 2010 Entertainment Book (affiliate link) is now available, and the 2010 coupons are valid now.

Create Discounts.  If you're not a member of an organization that receives hotel discounts, you can always try to create your own! Find out how much it would cost you to stay the duration of your travel in one of the popular hotels in town. Then call a less-popular hotel and ask them if they can offer you a free night or discounted rates if you choose them over the popular hotel. You might be surprised at what they're willing to do to earn your business.

 

This post was included in the Money Hacks Carnival.

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Guest's picture
craig

I have heard good things about priceline.com if you have the patience and can get good deals out of it. I have not used it but the next time I need a hotel will do so to get a cheaper hotel.

Guest's picture
Guest

I really got into saving money this year while traveling back and forth from Fl. to Boston this year. I enrolled my husband in AARP as soon as he hit 50 and he was able to purchase tickets with a discount for family.
There are certain days that are better to fly, certain times the airlines post new flight fees. I had fun finding discounts, it was a game that saved. Glad to be sitting still in Florida though!
Bobbie545

Guest's picture
JCHen

Another way to save on travel is to look into the suite hotels. Some of these hotels not only offer a hot breakfast, full kitchen facilities in the room but there is also a manager's meal usually M-TH that offers a free decent hot meal with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The savings on the meals (especially for a family of four) can be quite substantial. My family recently stayed at a Homewood Suite by Hilton and only paid $109/night and we received hot breakfasts serving eggs, sausage, waffles, etc. and examples of the weekday Manager's meal was Chicken Parmesan with breadsticks and salad. I also utilized the kitchenette and brought frozen sloppy joes, etc. and used the microwave and stove to cook the other meals not covered by the hotel anemities. I do recommend checking the hotels in neighboring areas as we saved $50/night (same hotel chain) by driving an extra 15 minutes to your destination. Examples of these type of suite hotels are the Homewood Suites by Hilton and Grandstay Residential Suites by Marriot.

Guest's picture
Guest

Couchsurfing.org

Seriously can't believe you wouldn't mention this when talking about saving money travelling. Best thing ever.

Debbie Dragon's picture

Thanks for adding these additional options for saving money on accommodations. Keep them coming! 

Guest's picture
Zathras

The $280 price you quote is what Deluxe resorts go for a night (and even most of those are cheaper - in the $250 range). I just checked and a Moderate resort for a week in November averaged $109 a night (values are at $74 a night). Also if you stay "on property" at Disney they have a bus that will take you directly to your resort (and they will handle your luggage) which would save on having to get a rental car. Then on top of that you won't have to pay for parking (I believe $12 a day for off site guests), can get into the parks early/late to maximize less busy times, and can just hop a bus back to your hotel at any point during the day.

If you think no rental car = no cheap groceries - there are several grocery stores that deliver and I've even heard of people ordering things like water from Staples with free delivery to be waiting for them at their hotel.

Also there are a large number of deals to be had from time to time such as free dining.

Anyone heading to Disney should check out Mousesavers.com

Guest's picture
Zathras

in the above it should be
"... Disney they have a bus that will take you from the airport directly to your resort (and they will handle your luggage) "
instead of:
"...Disney they have a bus that will take you directly to your resort (and they will handle your luggage) "

Guest's picture
Zathras

in the above it should be
"... Disney they have a bus that will take you from the airport directly to your resort (and they will handle your luggage) "
instead of:
"...Disney they have a bus that will take you directly to your resort (and they will handle your luggage) "

Guest's picture
Guest

Somebody already mentioned couchsurfing.org. Another option is to search for hostels - usually much cheaper than hotels.

Guest's picture
Bucksome

Travelzoo.com is a great place to find hotels at 50% or more off regular price. I've used it for hotels in Washington DC (georgetown), Miami (South Beach) and Los Angeles.

Guest's picture

Another way would be to stay in motels or hostels. I've never tried or even thought about creating discounts. Thats an interesting way.

Guest's picture
Amy K.

I tried Priceline for the first time in May, and we did get an amazing deal. We were going to sleep at a friend's place, but they already had guests planned that weekend so our Priceline attempt was at the last minute.

If you like to plan ahead a bit more, you may get an advance purchase discount. Labor day weekend we're going away, and Microtel gives a 14 day advance purchase discount. I tried priceline (this was 2 months in advance) and they couldn't beat it. Ditto for the rental car: that far in advance it was cheaper to buy through aaa.com than priceline.

I prefer to plan ahead. If you wait until the last minute, though, you can get some phenomenal deals. In Massachusetts and New York (and presumably elsewhere) there are hotel magazines in the racks near the rest stop doors. The rates in that publication are incredibly cheap, but they are only for people without reservations, and only if the hotel isn't already booked. With the modern marvel that is the cell phone, you can call ahead to make sure there's still space at the inn. We used this method for a road trip last summer, when our final destination was much further along. We drove as far as we could stay awake, then slept at the next cheap hotel and continued on bright and early. In this case, the flexibility was more important thanthe absolute-cheapest-rate, but it was still pretty cheap. The rates are best monday-thursday night because the publication is geared toward weekend vacationers. I wish I could remember their website, because you might be able to use it for Debbie's "Create Discounts" strategy above.

Guest's picture
Sarah

The money I save on travel through AAA more than pays for my membership. They also have discounts on movies, dell.com and target.com that that make it a great investment even though I've never had a flat tire.

Guest's picture

Check out the web sites of the community visitors and convention bureau where you are traveling. Many of them offer special discount cards that can help you save plenty of cash. It's like getting free money! I used this tactic when traveling to San Diego and saved a ton of cash at the zoo and various museums.

Guest's picture

Another alternative is to travel in a group. Everywhere are group discounts where you get discounts if you get some friends together. If you come to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia you could rent a Serviced Apartment that has 3 or 4 bedrooms, it costs as much as a hotel but you can stay in there with up to 8 finds, when sharing the bill it is less than a youth hostel.

Guest's picture

Hello -

Your carnival submission has been posted. Don't forget to grab the post permalink to link your post back to the carnival for the convenience of readers. Thanks for participating. Next month, we will be setting a theme around holiday savings.

Lisa

Guest's picture
Travel

If anyone is thinking of visiting new zealand then its a great place to go campervaning becaise it is a small country with little population making it easy to find free camping spots!

Guest's picture
Brittany

You could try searching by travel sites that are city-specific. Sometimes they feature better deals and can give you inside information on hot hotel deals. Orlando Travel Hotels is a great place to start for those traveling to the Central Florida area.

Guest's picture
Trish

If you live in Wisconsin check out the $30 a night disabled accessible cabins if you have a physical disability. At $30 a night they sure are worth it.

dnr.wi.gov/org/land/parks/access/cabin.html