There are many different ways to shop for a hotel, but you always need to set some parameters ahead of time. Is money no object? Are you on a shoestring budget? Do you want luxury or are you OK with more basic accommodations? Follow our tips to find the best hotel to fit your vacation budget.
Sort out your budget
Personal finance site ValuePenguin crunched the numbers on travel spending and found Americans dish out an average of $150 on lodging for a four-night domestic vacation. If that sounds low, it’s because this number covers everything from luxury stays to people who crashed in a spare bedroom at grandma’s house. If you’re staying in a hotel, chances are you’ll be paying more than $38 per night.
The Hotels.com Hotel Price Index shows the average cost of a night’s stay can vary quite a bit, with New York City coming in at around $250 per night while Las Vegas hovers around $140. Get a feel for pricing at your destination and remember that special events can drive up costs considerably.
Look at your overall travel budget, factor in the must-haves (Tickets to Disneyland? Helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon?) and figure out how much you can delegate toward your hotel. Now you have a price to work with and can search for accommodations that will fit your needs.
Check hotel booking sites
Get the lay of the land with the big online booking sites like Expedia, Hotels.com, Travelocity or Orbitz. Aggregator sites like Kayak or Trivago search multiple booking sites. Put in your destination, select your dates, and then narrow down the results by looking for the price slider, which is usually located on the left side of the page. From here, you can further filter the offerings by reviews, amenities, and location. If you’re not finding a good match, consider trying different dates or widening your search area.
If luxury is your goal, then check with booking sites that specialize in high-end hotels. Prepare to be pampered when you check out the offerings from sites like Mr & Mrs Smith and Select Hotels & Resorts.
Consider the amenities
It’s easy to get caught up in the game of looking solely at hotel prices and star ratings, but amenities can make a big difference when it comes to fitting a room into your travel budget. What looked like a good deal might not stand up to scrutiny if you also have to pay for parking, additional-guest fees, resort fees, and internet access.
Check to see what’s included before you commit. Even a free hot breakfast can go a long way toward saving you money when you don’t have to eat out for one meal a day. Hotel booking sites let you filter results by amenities such as free breakfast, free parking, free internet, or a free airport shuttle. Play with these options to find a good deal.
Google offers an under-the-radar way to find the perfect hotel. Go to the main Google search box and type “hotels in [your destination].” Google will generate its usual list of search results, but it will also give you a map at the top of the page showing the city and the locations and prices of available hotels. Use the drop-down menus to choose your travel dates and let Google take you to a bigger map that also lets you quickly sort by price and rating.
The map interface offers a fun and helpful way to search for a hotel. A slider at the top lets you set a maximum price. From there, you can move around the map and click on the blue markers to see more about a particular hotel. Google also gives you a list of booking sites where you can go to secure your room. Keep in mind that you may get better rates by booking directly through a hotel’s website or calling the hotel directly.
Are you open to unexpected possibilities? Check out the intriguing travel site Wander. You provide your home base, total trip budget, the number of passengers, and dates and then let it find you a trip that fits your parameters. Wander factors in the cost of airfare and hotels and offers up a variety of options, which can range from budget trips around the U.S. to international voyages that take you to London or Rome. You can then read hotel reviews, get more details, and customize your vacation.
If squeezing a hotel into a tight budget is your main concern, then check out our Komando tips for getting the absolute lowest price on a hotel room. From loyalty programs to simply picking up the phone, it’s all covered here.