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Hidden ways to save money at hotels

One of the biggest reasons people put off traveling is the cost. If you’re driving, there’s the cost of gas to consider, as well as wear and tear on your vehicle. If you’re flying, there’s the cost of your plane tickets.

Tip within a tip: Psst! If you’d like to save money on the cost of airfare, click here for a secret formula to see if your tickets are priced too high.

No matter where you go, or how you get there, one of the largest expenses you’ll encounter will be for your lodging. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to be staying with family, the cost of your hotel room can quickly add up. But here are a few easy ways to shave some dollars off of the bill.

1. Speak the language

No, we’re not talking about the local language if you’re traveling abroad (although that might help). We’re talking about the language of the hotel industry. If you call the hotel directly to book your rooms, don’t ask for the “best deal on a room.” Instead, ask for the “lowest non-refundable rate.” This simple act of rephrasing will boost your chances of getting the clerk to quote you the best rate.

2. Ask for membership discounts

Are you a member of AAA? How about AARP? Or, has your employer partnered with certain hotels and negotiated a standard discount? Looking into these benefits is definitely worth your time. For example, AAA members can save up to 50 percent at some of the biggest hotel chains in the country, including Sheraton and Marriott.

3. Change your web browser setting

If you’re shopping around online, the prices you see one day may not be what you’ll find the next. This is because booking sites often use “cookies” to track your browsing behavior. Say you’re headed to Paris, but not for a few months. Browsing once to get a general idea of ticket prices lets booking sites know you’re interested in taking that particular trip.

When you come back to book your tickets a few weeks later, the prices may have gone up. Not because of seasonal demand, but because of an algorithm that’s running behind the scenes on these websites. To combat this, it’s a good idea to browse and book using a feature called “Incognito Mode,” or “Private Web Browser.” These browsers don’t save any cookies, so you’ll always know that the price hasn’t been inflated based on your browsing history. Click here for step-by-step instructions on using Incognito Mode.

4. Skip chain hotels

If you’re traveling solo, booking a stay at a smaller hotel could actually save you money. This is because larger hotel chains don’t typically offer discounts for individual travelers. If the room sleeps two, the bill is for two. However, smaller hotels are more likely to be open to negotiating the room’s rate. can help you find some quaint locations to stay.

5. Look outside the U.S.

If you’re traveling internationally, don’t rely entirely on U.S. travel planning sites such as Travelocity, Priceline, etc. You may be surprised by the deals you can find by reserving your room at the hotel directly, or by using international sites such as Escapio, Momondo, Agoda, Venere and Opodo.

6. Skip the hotel altogether

Rather than booking a hotel room, you might find a cheaper option is renting someone’s home or apartment at your destination. Not only could it save you money, you can get amenities like a full kitchen, and washer and dryer. You might even have better access to major attractions. So, how can you find somewhere to rent?

VRBO will help you find a place to stay. It lists vacation rentals around the world. Simply put in where you want to go along with the dates and you’ll have a list of available rentals in no time.

You can sort the list by the rate, how many people it sleeps, location type, features and more. Finding the right place for your vacation shouldn’t be too hard.

7. Don’t miss out on amenities

A free breakfast is included at many hotels these days, but what if your schedule doesn’t allow you to take advantage of this service? Here’s a little tip: When you check in, explain your situation and ask for a to-go box. Not all hotels will accommodate this request, but many do. And that saves you the extra cost of buying breakfast from an expensive restaurant.

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