Chances are good that a hotel room will cost you more this year. The Hotels.com Hotel Price Index reports that global hotel prices rose 3 percent in 2014, the fifth straight annual increase.
Fortunately, we know a few tricks to help you slash rates. Here are 10 ways to make your next vacation a bit more affordable.
1. Go in the off season
The top way to save on your hotel room is to travel during off-peak times. Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson says traveling in the off-season can cut your hotel costs by up to two-thirds.
Traveling at off-peak times helped me save more than a $100 a night at Cedar Point. With fewer people traveling, hotels drop their rates in the off-season to pull in as much business as they can.
2. Stay midweek
If off-season travel doesn’t work for you, try to hit your destination during the week rather than on the weekend. Unless the hotel you’re staying at caters to business travelers, you’ll probably find cheaper rates on weekdays.
3. Search online for promo codes
Before booking a hotel, try searching online for coupon codes or promo offers. If you’re booking through a third-party website, don’t forget to search for codes associated with the booking site as well as the hotel.
In addition, follow your favorite brands on Facebook and Twitter. Companies occasionally distribute codes or announce flash sales on social media. You might even send a message to the company and ask if they have a coupon for loyal customers like you.
4. Shop around
Hotels are a bit like cars: Each one offers roughly the same thing for a different price. Find the best rate by searching for hotel prices on a couple of different sites or use an aggregator site like Trivago.com. Be sure to clear the cookies from your computer between searches to ensure your search history isn’t influencing your results.
Also, don’t neglect calling the hotel directly. In my experience, some of the best rates are offered by the hotel itself.
5. Think outside the hotel
Sometimes the best deal isn’t a hotel at all. If you have a large family or are traveling with a group, you may find it’s cheaper to rent a vacation home.
For a different experience, you could try a bed and breakfast, Airbnb or a hostel. Really adventurous souls can try couch surfing.
6. Bundle your vacation
If you’re using a third-party site, try bundling your vacation. Some sites will provide discounts if you buy airfare or rent a car at the same time you book a hotel room. However, you should also price out your airfare and room separately to ensure you’re getting a bargain.
7. Rethink the entertainment package
Many hotels offer entertainment packages that add meals and attraction tickets to your room. On the face of it, many of these packages seem a good deal. But do some research before making your reservation.
Learn what is in the package so you don’t spend on perks you don’t want. Also, it may be just as cheap to buy the included items separately. And by waiting to make those ticket and meal purchases after you arrive, you’ll likely have greater flexibility in your schedule.
8. Sign up for a loyalty program
From Choice Hotels to Hyatt, hotel chains fitting every budget offer loyalty programs. They often work like frequent-flier miles, earning you free nights after a certain number of stays.
They may also entitle you to discounts and other perks, like evening receptions or room upgrades. Best of all, most are free to join.
9. Join a club
Membership has its privileges, and some organizations have negotiated discounts with hotel chains. AARP and AAA are two groups known for helping members get rate cuts. If you’re a member, be sure to ask about special rates before booking your stay.
10. Ask for a deal
Finally, the best way to cut your hotel rate may be to simply ask. Don’t bother using a third-party booking site or even the hotel chain’s 800 number for this strategy. Just call the front desk of the hotel and ask for the lowest nonrefundable rate they offer.
Another option is to make a refundable reservation and then continue to shop around. If you find a lower price, go back to your preferred hotel and ask if it can match the competition’s price. At the very least, the hotel may offer you an upgrade.