Bagging a bargain on a hotel doesn’t have to be a painful affair. The internet has helped drive down the price of rooms by offering you more shopping options than ever before.
Top tips for cheap hotels
Price comparison sites
Starred Hotel Deals
Other Ways To Cut Accommodation Costs
Top Tips For Cheap Hotel Bookings
Regardless of what you need a hotel room for (business trip, holidays abroad, short breaks) you’re going to need to do a little research. Don’t panic! There are plenty of websites offerings you the chance to pick up some massive savings.
Tip 1: Hotel price comparison sites should be your first port of call prior to booking.
Tip 2: Before you book and if you’re staying within the UK, give the hotel a call and find out if you can get a better deal by going direct.
>Price Comparison Sites
There’s a price comparison site for just about everything you can think. They grow faster than weeds but are infinitely more helpful. Regardless of where you’re going or how much you want to spend there’s a deal waiting for you.
Here’s my list of the top 5 hotel price comparison sites on the. I’ve added a few of my own thought about usability.
Trivago are a newcomer to the hotel price comparison game but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a great range of offers available.
The site features hotels from around the globe.
The system lets you order the listings by price, star ratings and reviews. Pricing details are pulled from a pool of brokers (currently 111).
Trivago is one of the fastest sites I’ve seen and is probably the easiest to use, in my opinion. The search results page may seem a little cluttered for some though.
An offshoot of Moneysupermarket (is there anything they don’t do?) this price comparison site pulls pricing data from a number of brokers and hotel chains around the world.
Visually, the layout is more attractive than Trivago.
Although they have a pretty comprehensive pool of suppliers, the interface isn’t the friendliest.
Personally, I find it a little slow for my liking but it’s hard to argue with the number of offers on the site.
The only major flaw I can see is that, to find the best deals, you have to select a star rating of the hotels you’re interested in.
HotelPriceBot is one of the better newcomers to the hotel price comparison scene. The site creators have put a lot of effort into building a comprehensive database that’s fast and attractive.
When you search for hotels by popular location the results produced are a little clutter. This site designers could also do with moving the list of links to the top of the page (you’ll see what I mean when you get there).
The only downside I can see with HotelPriceBot is the page loading time when you click a link to a specific hotel: they’re not fast!
www.hotelscomparions.com isn’t the most attractive looking site and the interface might seem a little a clunky when compared to Trivago. That said, it’s still one of the better options available for sniffing out hotel deals.
The site queries a list of over 20 brokers which means there’s a pretty comprehensive list of destinations to choose from.
In the early days of the site there were a lot of complaints about the speed and it hasn’t got much better (in my humble opinion). Sit back have a cup of tea and watch an episode of your favourite soap whilst the search tools hunts down a list of hotels that match your criteria!
Easy Voyage is fairly new having launched in 2010. The site has a pretty broad focus on all aspects of travel and holidays but there is dedicated hotel price comparison search engine.
The interface is very simple to use and even tries to predict where you want to go as you type – very Google-esque.
The selection of hotels is good – over 1,000 are currently listed on the site.
The searches can be slow if you’re not specific about where you want to stay. I tried a search for ‘London’ and it took about 25 seconds for teh page to load all the results. If you use www.easyvoyage.co.uk make sure you drill down to as small a geographic location as possible.
Starred Hotel Deals
A few years ago, Lastminute.com came up with a blinding idea; 5 star hotel deals at bargain prices. The idea behind their Top Secret Hotels plan was to find 3 to 5 star hotels that could be booked on the cheap. This proved so popular that other websites quickly scrambled to give you similar deals.
Navigating The Maze Of Last Minute Deals
How does the scheme work? At any given time, most hotels are far from full. Empty rooms cost the hotel owners money. By renting them out at low prices, the chains ensure they’re making some money (even if it is just enough to cover costs).
Who has the best deals?
Lastminute Secret Rooms
The first of the big hotel price comparison sites, www.lastminute.com has a monstrous assortment of offers available.
The most popular feature on the Lastminute.com website is their Secret Rooms section. Book a featured 3 – 4 star hotel and you will be automatically upgraded to a 5 star hotel for the same price. You won’t know which hotel you’re going to stay in until you’re booked a room. Once you’ve paid, you’ll receive an email informing you where you’ll be staying.
There are ways to plan in advance.
Some of you will no doubt like the idea of a little mystery hotel. Some of you are a bit more inquisitive. There are ways to find out which hotel you’ll be upgraded to. Once you have this information you can put some planning into your travel requirements.
- Copy part of the mystery hotel’s description and paste it into your favourite search engine. Lastminute.com has a habit of scraping content about the hotels and pasting it into their site word for word.
- Ask. Most of you will be using the Secret Rooms feature based on a recommendation. If friends or family have used the service and been to the places you’re planning to visit then ask them where they stayed.
- Get your travel plans in order. If you know the city you’re going to stay in then check out the local transport systems. Advanced travel bookings using sites such as the thetrainline.co.uk will save you a lot of money.
If you’ve ever travelled to the United States you may well know about Hotewire.com. The site has been the first port of call for American bargain hunters looking for deals on hotel accommodation.
Hotwire launched their UK-based website in 2011.
Like Lastminute.com, Hotwire also allows travellers to stay in 5 Star hotels at bargain prices. Now, if you’re like me then you hate surprises especially when you could end up paying for a less than amazing hotel room. So let’s look at how you can find out which hotel you’re going to be staying in…
Once you supply all your requirements on Hotwire click search. You’ll now be presented with a list of untitled hotels. All that you’ll see are descriptions.
Now open betterbidding.com and scroll down the Winning Bids section for the area you selected on Hotwire. Now match up the two descriptions and you have your destination hotel. Easy.
Priceline Mega Discounts
“Who?”, I hear you say. Priceline.com are a company based in the United States. They have one of the biggest selection of hotel pricing details you can imagine.
The mainstay of Priceline’s offers come from U.S hotel chains with savings of up to 63% off the marked price.
Unlike Lastminute.com and Hotwire, Priceline has taken a slightly different approach to selling discounted hotel rooms. The ‘name your own price” system is sort of like reverse bidding. All you need to do is enter the your destination, select the required hotel stars then place an offer price that you’re prepared to pay. If any hotel accepts you’ll be notified.
Like any bidding system, it’s within the hotels rights to reject your offer so you might need to up the amount you’re prepared to pay. If so, make sure your bids only go up in small increments.
Other Ways To Cut Your Accommodation Costs
If a top notch hotel on the cheap isn’t your thing then there is a multitude of other ways to cut your travel and holiday costs.
Off Peak and Weekday Bookings
You can save an awful lot of money if you book your accommodation during off peak periods. Typically, most hotels put their prices up during the school holidays. Now, even if you don’t have kids this will affect you but only if you let it.
Checking in on a Sunday is normally cheaper as are off peak periods. You could waste hours trying to find the best off peaks deals by sifting price comparison sites or you could simply go to www.offpeakluxury.com/. This site specialises in finding off peaks deals for to suit your needs.
Get a group discount on your accommodation.
Tired of hotel accommodation? Why not book a group holiday in one of hundreds of locations around the world. There are plenty of websites offering larger rental opportunities to tourists. The more people in the accommodation the less it’s going to cost you.
Back To Basics: Camping
Fancy getting back to nature? In that case you’ll want to try a camping holiday. For a listing of campsites around the UK, check out www.ukcampsite.co.uk/. Site are listed by region and each one is accompanied by user reviews and a listing of all the amenities on offer.
Experience The Call Of The Wild
If camping isn’t hard core enough for then it’s time to really head back to nature. www.forestholidays.co.uk and www.logcabinholidays.org.uk/ are two great sites featuring woodland holidays complete with a wooden hut (which is where you’ll be staying for the duration of your holiday).
Free food and accommodation in return for a bit of hard graft. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Most working holidays are on farms so you’ll be getting a breath of fresh air as well as a real taste of country life.
For more information on working holidays take a look at www.helpx.net. If you want to try something a little different then check out these working holidays in a Buddhist meditation centre – zentastic!
Keep Out of The City Centres
Don’t worry! That’s not a warning. It’s a simple fact that, the further away you are from a city centre the lower the cost of your accommodation.
You’ll need to consider transport if you’re planning to pay regular visits to the city centre but, in most cases, all the major cities have efficient shuttle services available.
B&B Or Guest Houses
Forget the room service and dedicated land line and really save yourself some money with a stay in a bed and breakfast or guest house. Prices are far cheaper than the average of over £100 for a hotel room and you tend to find the environment is much more homely.
For a really huge list of UK-based B&B’s and guest houses, check out these sites: www.bedandbreakfasts-uk.co.uk/ and www.bedandbreakfast.co.uk/ (this second link has an excellent review system).
The Youth Hostel Association has been around for years. My first experience of them was back in the mists of time (according to my daughter). The facilities have come a long way since the 1980’s. Not only are most of them well maintained, the room rental is dirt cheap when compared to hotel prices and the YHA covers just about all the most popular destinations around the UK.
Swap Houses For A Week Or Two
If you’re planning a longer stay then it’s definitely worth considering a house swap. What’s the idea? Basically, over the past 15 years or so a number of websites offering house swapping holidays have sprung up. Register your details, pay a small fee and then browse homes in desirable holidays spots.
Once you’ve found what you’re looking for simply contact the owner and see if they’re up for the swap. Oh yeah, the swapping part – it’s free.
More details over at www.homelink.org.uk and www.homeexchange.com/ .