Traveling and hotels are inextricably linked: travelers depend on hotels for their comfort, convenience, and security. The industry has expanded tremendously in recent years, driven by globalization and digitalization, sustainability, the coronavirus pandemic, and increasing consumer demand for more authentic local experiences. The hotel business is one of the largest industries in the world and employs millions.
Fortunately for the savvy traveler, there are many ways to save on hotel accommodations. The key is comparison shopping, checking multiple websites and apps—including the hotel’s own site—and taking advantage of booking discounts and perks. For example, loyalty programs such as American Express’s Amex Platinum offer free stays at thousands of locations worldwide. Some credit cards also offer points that can be applied to hotels or airlines.
If you’re a frequent traveler, it’s worth signing up for a hotel’s guest list. Most will email you offers for free rooms, upgrades, and perks, such as spa credits or restaurant discounts. In addition, signing up for an online account at a hotel gives you the ability to track future reservations, which makes it easier to plan ahead.
Staying at a smaller, less-known hotel may also save you money. Smaller, independent properties are often able to offer lower rates because they don’t have the advertising budgets of larger chains. Additionally, a small number of independents can offer more personalized service—such as room-service delivery or an on-call physician in the event of a medical emergency.
Whether you’re staying at a hotel or an Airbnb, it pays to know the cancellation policy before you book. Although both hotels and Airbnb typically have flexible cancelation policies, some can be more restrictive than others. For instance, a luxury property with a strict policy may not allow you to change or cancel your reservation even if it’s booked well in advance.
For this reason, it’s best to book hotels as early as possible—especially in popular destinations and during peak travel times. This will ensure you get the best rate and avoid potential headaches down the road. Pro tip: Calling hotels directly can sometimes be cheaper than booking through a travel website or app. Some hotels offer package rates, member discounts, or pre-purchased inventory blocks that aren’t advertised online.
Hostels can be a great budget option for travelers who don’t mind sharing bathrooms and kitchens. Most hostels are geared toward young people and set age limits for guests, but there are options for older travelers as well. Besides saving on the cost of lodging, hostels are great places to meet fellow travelers. They can provide valuable tips on where to eat, shop, and see the sights.