I’ve previously mentioned that I’m really not a fan of doing the whole youth hostel/backpacker scene, however as a student I still have to travel on a budget. While I will admit that I don’t exactly pick the most budget friendly options all of the time, I can’t just pick the first rate I find at a five star hotel. That means I spend a lot of time researching and selecting my hotels. This involves a number of steps (and a lot of time emptying my cookies!), a few of which I’ve laid out below:
- First things first, if I know I have to be in a certain city on certain dates, I try and have the money for accommodation in that city ready as early as possible. That means when I spot an awesome deal, I can snap it up straight away.
- I’m a member of a lot of hotel loyalty programs. While I only regularly use my Hilton Honours membership, I sign up for others because I want access to their member’s only sales. If one of these manages to match your dates it’s super useful as they’ll often be up to 40% off, and included added bonuses like breakfast or free premium wifi.
- If I’m a bit more flexible with my plans (and this is often the case in the first few parts of planning), I’ll start shopping around for deals in different cities on different dates. I usually use websites such as booking.com, LastMinute.com and Priceline for this. I tend to use this process to help me plan my itinerary, as if a certain city is significantly cheaper at a specific time, that’s when I’ll want to head there.
- It’s in this flexible planning stage that I also like to take advantage of Booking.com’s Book Now, Pay Later option, which also usually includes cancellation up until the day before you travel. I love this option, because it means I can lock down a deal when I see it without the fear of having to miss out on any potentially better deals that come along. On my most recent trip, I had booked into a hotel in Washington D.C., but later bid on a Priceline deal which saved me hundreds of dollars (and the new hotel was in a better location AND of a similar quality to the first!). It’s not always possible, but flexibility is key!
- When it’s still a little while until my trip, I also look into Advance Rate options offered by various chains. I love the Hilton Honours Advance Purchase rate, because I can collect loyalty points (for both Hilton AND my favourite Frequent Flyer program), stay in a comfortable hotel, and get a great price. The only downside to these is they’re pay when you book and have a no cancellation policy, so only get one of these if you’re certain you’re not going to get a better deal or change your dates.