This article is an excerpt from Travefy’s ebook – “Planning a group trip on a budget”! This free ebook provides travel tips to save you time, money, and headaches. The below article is from Chapter 3: Saving Money on Hotels and other Lodging. You can download a full copy for FREE at http://hello.travefy.com/ebook/.
Saving Money on Hotels and other Lodging
Hotels (and other types of lodging) can be expensive and typically consume a large portion of a trip’s total cost. To conserve some of your budget there are several important strategies to follow.
Source: Hotel Price Index (Hotels.com) as of 11/24/2013
Hotel Savings Tips
On the whole, hotel prices are rising, and increased by 2% in the first half of 2013. The U.S. has increased the most (by 5% since 2010) which is the largest in recent memory. Conversely, Europe is experience a slight dip in hotel prices, so it may be the right time for a European adventure.
Generally, hotel prices have many factors and vary depending on season, location, and hotel availability among others. Taking these factors into account, here are some tips.
Book early to save!
If you know what location you are traveling to months in advance, then it is wise to try and book a hotel as well. The earlier you book, the lower price you are bound to get. Obviously you want to book as soon as you know, but the general rule is to book at least a month in advance to ensure room availability. You don’t want to be driving around the first night you get somewhere and have to worry about which hotel you’re going to stay at. Another way to plan for this is to look up any large events (sporting, concerts, etc.) that could decrease availability and increase prices.
Sometimes if you wait until the last minute, however, you can get lucky with a discounted price because hotel managers hate empty rooms – but don’t count it. For every manager who discounts, there are more hotels that no matter how many empty hotel rooms there are, won’t drop below their published room rate. If everybody knows they offer a last minute discounted price then people won’t book in advance which will cost the hotel money.
Factor in all additional fees. When estimating the price of a hotel, make sure to factor in all additional fees. Even though that 5-star downtown hotel might seem like a good price for $100, you might find is a $30 parking fee and $20 fee to use the wifi. Always look for these amenities and if you don’t find clear answers, call the hotel.
Seasons matter. You should also factor in which seasons offer the best rates. For instance, Fox Business reports, “If you want to go to a luxury hotel in the Caribbean, it’ll cost you a lot more if you go in February than if you go in June” and others report that London offers cheaper hotels in the winter as opposed to the summer months, which is typical European vacation season.
There are also general red-flags to avoid like the winter holiday season in which all hotel rates go up because they assume more people will be traveling. And our favorite family trend – family destinations will have lower pricing when the kids are supposed to be in school.
Days of the week matter. You need to choose your days wisely when booking a hotel as well. If you choose a destination where there is a lot of business travel such as Chicago, then the rates may be lower on weekends. The opposite is true for places like Miami or Los Angeles since most people travel there on weekends for leisure. Their rates will more than likely be higher during the weekends since people are just going there to have a good time.
Exploring Vacation Rentals
If you are traveling with family or a larger group of people, then a vacation rental might be a great idea. Vacation rentals are helpful if you are planning on being at a destination for an extended period (like a week or even longer). By some accounts, a vacation rental can save up to 65% as compared to two hotel rooms.
The perks of a vacation rental typically include a kitchen, which could save you money instead of eating out every night, more living space, and a “homey” atmosphere since you are staying in an actual house. The cons are the lack of typical amenities provided by hotels like maid service, gyms, and pools. You really can’t go wrong when choosing between a hotel or vacation rental, just know yourself and your priorities. If you factor in the cost for transportation and food then that will help determine which is best for your group.
The Power of Groups for Hotel Discounts
In general, when you are looking to book a hotel with a larger group, they offer special discounts or benefits to that group. Group discounts are real, but a lot of it depends on how large of a group you are traveling with. The magical number is usually 10 rooms. Hotels typically don’t offer much flexibility from rooms one through nine. When it gets to that tenth room, however, a lot of hotels have the power to offer massive discounts and perks.
Large groups can sometimes net you lower rates, and it is also easier if you are trying to negotiate other terms in the deal. If you aren’t actually sure how many rooms you will need then it is best to choose on the conservative side otherwise you may get stuck paying for the over-estimated rooms. It is also best to try to be flexible when booking with a hotel. If you are able to change which days you are there then the hotel owner will be more willing to throw in some extras.
One of the biggest money-saving tips that can be offered is to make sure you have good history with a hotel. In addition to strength in numbers, hotels love repeat customers and will discount for it. If you have contracted a large block with a hotel in the past, there is trust and it’s less risky for the hotel to contract with you again.
In a similar vein – be cautious. Hotel owners know which groups have been good to them in the past and which ones haven’t. Your event history is more than just attendance numbers and room nights consumed. If you can show how much business your group historically brings to the hotel and other businesses in the area then you’ll continue to increase your leverage with the hotel. A lot of places also offer a loyalty plan especially if you plan on visiting there again and again.
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