We Asked 4 Travel Pros the Secret to Booking a Cheap Hotel, and Here’s What They Said

published Feb 21, 2024
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Whether you’re planning a bucket list vacation or you’re headed out of town for a quick weekend, travel expenses can add up quickly. That’s why saving money everywhere is essential — especially when booking hotels. After all, why should an extra $20 a night end up in the hotel’s pocket when you could use it toward food, excursions, or that last-minute gift you forgot to bring?

As a freelance writer who travels often both for work and family visits, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to put more buffer in my travel budget. But still, I wanted to see what sage advice experts would offer on how to get cheap hotels. From a simple social media click to finding the courage to ask a question, here is what four travel pros had to say about saving money on hotel rooms.

Follow hotel brands on social media.

When companies need to get the word out fast, they often turn to social media. “Keep an eye on social media and direct deals on hotel websites,” says Greg Kott, CEO of the travel app App in the Air, where members receive discounts and cash back on hotel stays. Follow hotels you’d like to visit on platforms like Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook to stay in the know. If you enjoy large hotel chains, you can follow both the brand and their individual locations. However, you should still pay attention to boutique hotels, as they often tend to be more active than their larger counterparts on social media.

Check Google for last-minute hotel deals.

As a search engine, Google isn’t just stellar at helping you find hints for today’s Wordle, but it also compiles hotel deals so you can find the best rates. “Search on Google for your destination and see what pops up, as Google will aggregate all of the hotel deal websites for you,” advises solo travel blogger Kristin Addis. Your first instinct may be to go to booking sites like Hotels.com or Kayak, which both are great choices, but Google can help point you in the right direction first.

Subscribe to email lists.

Although your inbox may already feel crowded, being on certain email lists can come in clutch when trying to save money. Hotel brands will send alerts for nationwide offers but often have subscriber-only specials you want to take advantage of. “While it can be annoying to fill up your inbox, some hotels will send special deals to their subscribers that can result in substantial savings,” adds Kott.

Consider unconventional accommodations.

Thinking outside of the box can open up some more expensive options when figuring out where to stay. Travel blogger Maria DiCicco suggests an atypical approach: “Consider something offbeat like cabin camping,” she suggests. “Search for campgrounds through a Google search or — what I like to do — simply zoom in on the map.” DiCicco has found unexpected, cheap accommodations this way. Of course, you can always book an Airbnb or search for a Vrbo, but be sure you’re looking at the bottom line that includes all the taxes and fees, not just the per-night price.

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Be flexible with your dates.

If you’ve ever tried to book a hotel during a popular date — such as a major concert, festival, or sporting event — you probably reconsidered when you saw the inflated hotel rates. “If you have some flexibility when booking your trip, it could serve you well by comparing rates over a larger date range,” recommends Kott. 

Some hotel sites offer a calendar view where you can see how prices fluctuate over some time, allowing you to pick a less expensive time to go. Kott also suggests being open to staying in other areas, such as on the outskirts instead of downtown, or opting for a different room type to shave off the total cost.

Addis also advises going in the off-season or shoulder season for the best rates. “When hotels are fully booked, they don’t need to offer deals, but when they are mostly empty, you can get them for much cheaper,” she says. Many accommodations lower prices to attract guests to their properties during those lulls. 

Ask directly about upgrades.

Although this tip for how to get cheap hotels doesn’t necessarily save you money, according to Addis, it’s a way to get more bang for your buck: Ask for a last-minute room upgrade the day before or when you arrive. “If they’re not booked, they are probably happier to let a room go for much cheaper than just have it sit empty,” she says. Book whatever room you’ll be happy with, and then see if you can get an upgrade. It never hurts to ask!

Join loyalty programs.

In avid traveler Luke Xavier’s opinion, you need to sign up for reward incentives. He suggests using travel and hotel points from credit cards or brand loyalty programs. “Whether it’s credit card rewards points or loyalty program points, using your points to offset costs is an easy way to save on hotels,” says Xavier. Some hotels have branded cards, while some have no-cost, point-earning programs for their guests. Go to the hotel website or ask a desk agent about the available programs to earn free and discounted stays.

Watch for hidden fees.

Sure, the room may seem like a steal, but hidden fees can add up quickly — be sure to scour the hotel site for fees you might not expect. “Some hotels might charge for parking and others for WiFi,” says Kott. “And you might be surprised at the cleaning fees some apartment or vacation rentals charge.” As a frequent traveler, I’ve also read hotel reviews to search for those pesky charges that aren’t mentioned in the description. Former disgruntled travelers who unexpectedly had to pay more often sound off in their ratings, which can be helpful to those looking to book cheap hotel stays.