No one ever said excellent hotel stays have to cost an arm and a leg. But who’s taken the time to tell you all the secrets and tricks to finding the best deals on cheap hotel rooms?
If you want to stay at a nice hotel, you don’t need a limitless budget. You also don’t need to blow your entire vacation fund. Read on to discover the best tips for securing great hotel prices and upgrades and all the best sites to get your search started off right.
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Top 10 Tips for Landing Cheap Hotel Rooms and Upgrades
Your vacation fund is precious. You want it to give you the most bang for every dollar spent. Overpaying for a hotel room or missing out on easy perks to upgrade your stay is essentially dollars wasted.
So, keep your hard-earned money. Check out these terrific ways to save big and upgrade your experience on your next hotel stay.
1. Check-In in the Evening
Experts recommend that you check in to your hotel room closer to the end of the day. By then hotels have a better grasp of their occupancy rate and know if they have vacancies on hand. In that case, you may find hotel staff more amenable to upgrading your room at no extra cost.
2. Consider Staying at a Business Hotel or Boutique Hotel
Business and boutique hotels may not share many of the luxury amenities that resorts and chain hotels offer, but they have their perks, primarily that you can save on hotel prices.
Additionally, business hotels often have locations near city centers, convenient transportation, and highway accessibility. For the best savings, look into staying at business properties in the summer and on the weekends. Occupancy rates tend to drop during these times, meaning you can stumble on some fantastic opportunities to score those cheap hotel rooms.
As for boutique hotels, the smaller room sizes often mean a more intimate experience in a hip and trendy setting. Think luxury experience without the price tag. And to pick up the best room rates, look into booking your stay during the week.
3. Contact the Hotel Directly
It may be easier to book your room online through a third-party site, but they can be challenging to work with if you’re looking to upgrade your stay. So, instead, try contacting the hotel—not the reservation number—directly. Frequently, staff at the property have the best grasp of occupancy rates, vacancies, and the ability to upgrade your hotel booking.
Simply call and ask about any ongoing promotions. Whether the upgrade might include free breakfasts or an oceanview room, it pays to be flexible with your requests. Open rather than specific inquiries make it easier for the hotel staff to indulge your upgrade request with whatever is available.
Just remember the golden rule when calling: be nice!
4. Book During the Cancellation Window
If you’re flexible enough to wait until the last minute, it could pay off in a big way, with cheap hotel prices.
Most hotels have a cancellation window of 24-48 hours. If you time your reservation right, you can hit the sweet spot and take advantage of cheap hotel rooms coming available at a lower rate.
Pro-tip: Have a backup plan if you can’t snag a lower room rate. Set aside funds to pay for a hotel room at full price or cover other accommodations you’ve scoped out in advance.
5. Ask for a Corner Room
No harm in asking, right? Right. Putting in a request for a corner room could get you a bigger room for the same price.
Just be sure to time your request right. You want to make your inquiry to the hotel staff without a queue of other guests waiting for assistance behind you.
6. Use Hotel Loyalty Programs
Scared of commitment? You might want to overcome your fears and buckle down with a favorite hotel chain anyway. Joining hotel loyalty programs can help you get exclusive hotel deals, guarantee you the best room rates, and score you free upgrades.
A loyalty program is a gift that keeps on giving, too. Tiered loyalty programs provide more bonuses the more you stay with one particular hotel.
The benefits speak for themselves.
Pro-tip: Can’t commit to a hotel loyalty program? Another option is to take advantage of OTA loyalty programs to score cheap hotel rooms and other perks like a free night with 10 nights booked.
7. Book Your Flight and Hotel Together
Booking your hotel and flight together is another savvy way to save money. Many hotels, airlines, and booking sites offer vacation packages. These bundles allow travelers to combine hotel reservations with flights and take advantage of additional savings and discounts.
To score the biggest savings, look into using a third-party site to find lower hotel or airline costs.
At Next Vacay, for example, we find flight deals customized to your home airports and send them right to your inbox. From there, travelers can book directly with the airline website and utilize airline rewards and promotions to get further discounts on their flight and hotel booking. It’s a smart way to find cheap hotels and bring down the cost of your vacation even further.
8. Sign Up for Price-Drop Alerts
You might not have time to search dozens of hotel websites and online travel agencies to find the best prices on cheap hotels. In that case, you don’t have to work harder, just smarter. Set up price alerts for specific hotels through OTAs like Expedia and Kayak. Another option is to utilize handy tools like Google Trips and the Hopper App to determine pricing averages and the best time to book cheap hotel rooms.
Pro-tip: Take advantage of Google Trips hotel overview pages for money-saving booking recs, location info, pricing history, guest reviews, and similar hotels.
9. Mention a Special Occasion
Don’t be shy about sharing any good news. If you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or the first stay at a new hotel, let the staff there know you’ve chosen the hotel for a special occasion. You may be gifted with perks or upgrades to commemorate your stay and make it all the more special.
10. Book at an Off-Time
One of the best ways to get cheap hotels is to book during an off-time. Consider centering your travel out of a destination’s peak season—summer for seasonal destinations or winter/summer for beach destinations—and outside of weekends. Hotel prices are at their lowest and vacancies at their highest during this time, so you could scoop a cheap hotel booking by simply avoiding the crowds.
The optimal time to travel is between peak and low seasons and during the week, all times when fewer people travel. You’ll be much more likely to find some of those coveted cheap hotel rooms during the shoulder season and on weekdays.
Pro-tip: Want to get cheap hotels in the summer—and on weekends—too? Look into booking your stay at business hotels instead.
18 Great Places to Find Cheap Hotel Rates
Booking direct with a hotel is great and can help you score cheap hotel rates and perks to upgrade your vacation. But when you’re hunting for a cheap hotel booking—and weighing price versus bonuses—you may find that other sites will give you a better hotel deal.
So, here is a breakdown of all the best places to find and book cheap hotels at popular destinations from Las Vegas to Myrtle Beach and with prime locations near airports, major tourist attractions, and even top national parks.
Generally, using OTAs means you won’t earn loyalty points or other bonuses you would get by booking directly through the hotel. However, you can weigh the importance of hotel rewards against the convenience of OTAs and some of their loyalty programs to consider the best options for you.
Priceline is a big name in the flight search game, but it’s also an excellent resource for getting cheap hotel rooms.
Arguably, their biggest hotel deals come through their Express Deals feature. This opaque booking feature keeps the details of your hotel reservation secret until you complete your booking. While Express Deals have some downsides, they can help you save big and score major discounts on average nightly rates.
But, if entirely blind bookings aren’t your thing, don’t fret. Pricebreaker deals, which show you three hotel options before you book, might be a more attractive option.
- Express Deals
- Priceline VIP
- Only guarantees 1 room, 2 travelers occupancy
This website is a metasearch engine rather than an OTA, but don’t let that put you off. Kayak will tell you exactly which OTAs currently have the top deals on cheap hotels if you want a quick look at the best rates around.
The Kayak website is effortless. The convenient maps feature lets travelers search for their destination. They can scout out the best prices and compare them to the hotel location and distance from sites of interest.
Keep an eye out for member rate discounts and Pricebreakers to take the cost of your cheap hotel down even further.
- Explore map
- Pricebreakers and member rates
- One-stop-shop for travel planning
Expedia is one of many travel companies under the umbrella of the Expedia Group Company and offers deals on everything from airfare tickets to cruise trips. However, Expedia’s rewards program is the standout feature that makes it especially attractive for cheap hotel bookings.
Here’s a breakdown of the point earnings:
- $1 spent = 1x points
- Using the app = 1x points
- VIP Access stays = 2x points
You can stack these points on each hotel booking as well. So, if you book a VIP Access stay through the app, you’re automatically earning 4x points.
Other than all these points—which is a pretty sweet deal on its own—the best part is that it’s free to join.
Like most OTAs, you won’t earn points through the hotel. However, you can book your stay through Expedia with a travel credit card and receive card points to use on future travels.
- Expedia rewards program
- Member-only rates
- Some bookings are non-refundable
Momondo is another metasearch engine option you can use to book rooms in cheap hotels around the world. Once you find a hotel of interest on Momondo, the site directs you to the OTA or hotel website, where you can complete your booking.
While Momondo doesn’t offer anything out of the ordinary, users rave about its easy-to-use interface. And when you’re spending precious time scrolling through endless options, a site that’s easy to navigate is a must.
- Sleek, well-designed interface
- Variety of filters
- Hotel reviews from guests
- No rewards program
Booking.com is a bit of a one-stop-shop for all kinds of stays, from hostels to villas and everything in between, including cheap hotel rooms.
This site stands out in other ways as well.
- Liberal low-price guarantee
- Genius discounts
We’ll start with the low-price guarantee. Booking.com guarantees that if you find the same room for a lower rate, they’ll refund the difference up to 24 hours before your check-in date at the hotel. That’s hard to beat!
Their Genius discounts are available on select rooms, but you can save up to 10% just by logging into your account. In addition, the Genius loyalty program offers benefits such as room upgrades and more.
- Great accommodation variety
- Low-price guarantee
- Genius discounts
- Genius loyalty program
Another OTA with a large variety of options, Orbitz keeps things simple with filters to narrow your search and a loyalty program packed full of rewards. The site offers Orbucks on travel purchases, including flights, hotels, packages, and more. Here’s the breakdown:
- Earn 3% back for stays booked on a desktop
- Earn 5% back for stays booked on the app
It’s helpful to note you can only earn Orbucks through prepaid bookings. But, their tiered loyalty program means you can take advantage of increasingly beneficial offers. You can save more on cheap hotels and flights without the loyalty program using their package bookings.
- Orbitz Reward program
- Vacation packages
- Can only earn Orbucks with prepaid bookings
Another travel service from the Expedia Group Company, Hotels.com is a favorite among users for its generous rewards program. For example, when you stay 10 nights, you get 1 night free.
It comes with caveats, though. Your free night is the average price of your previous 10 stays, and you still have to pay taxes and fees.
Still, it’s a pretty big win on top of the other ways Hotels.com helps you save on cheap hotel rooms. Another benefit is Hotels.com’s Secret Prices. Subscribing to their emails can generally save you 5-10%, with the possibility of even more savings.
- Hotels.com Rewards program
- Secret pricing discounts
- Have to pay taxes and fees on reward nights
8. American Express Travel
The Amex Travel Portal is considered a third-party site. Therefore, you won’t earn hotel points here, but you can earn 5x points if you’re an Amex Platinum or Biz Platinum cardholder.
You can also gain access to The Hotel Collection and perks like lower rates, free room upgrades, $100 hotel credit, and more with an eligible card.
- Can earn 2-5x membership points
- Access to additional perks
Hotwire is an old-school OTA that most people have heard of, even if they’re not familiar with it. Hotwire’s best hotel deals are offered through their Hotwire Hot Rates, another opaque booking feature similar to Priceline’s Express Deals. You won’t know the property you’re booking with until after you’ve completed the process, and bear in mind it may not be cheaper than if you’d booked directly through the hotel.
If you’re not keen on their blind bookings, Hotwire offers other great discounts, most notably through their vacation bundles.
- Hotwire Hot Rates
- Vacation packages
- Discounted rates from some properties aren’t shown
Travelocity offers searches on everything from flights to cruises. However, don’t fall into the rabbit hole of choices. Your best bet to save money is to book vacation packages or sign up to access their member rates. Members rate can help you save up to 10% or more on your stay.
- Vacation packages
- Lower member rates
- Price match guarantee
TripAdvisor is your go-to site for hotel reviews and guest experiences and the best way to get a feel for a place you’ve never been to before. Ratings and comments let you see exactly what you’re in for during your stay with unbrushed photos and realistic perspectives. Of course, you can also see pricing, but TripAdvisor will direct you to another website for booking.
- Real hotel reviews
- Displayed prices don’t include taxes or fees
Like other OTAs, Agoda lets you search for all kinds of accommodation types. It also offers its own rewards program. You can earn AgodaCash on eligible bookings, and you can redeem it to cover all or part of your accommodation price.
On top of AgodaCash, you can join AgodaVIP and reap bigger benefits as you move through its tiered system.
- AgodaVIP program
- Great accommodation variety
Don’t let the name fool you. HotelTonight may be geared toward those hoping to scoop up last-minute hotel deals, but you can also book in advance. Downloading the HotelTonight app will ensure you find the best deals and avoid missing out on savings.
While it’s easy to use, HotelTonight isn’t for travelers seeking specific accommodations. Filtering options are limited, and without a doubt, the site’s best tool is its price alerts.
- Last-minute deals
- Price alerts
- Additional features only available through the app
14. Google Hotel Finder
One of our favorite beginner metasearch engines, Google has upped its travel advice game with Google Trips and its Hotel search specifically.
You can choose a popular destination or input a region or city of your own. From there, you can click through different prices and properties on the map and use the filters to modify your search results. When you find a property you’re interested in, you can quickly check the hotel’s location and search for everything from airport hotels to top national parks hotels and beyond.
Google also offers helpful travel insights into the best neighborhoods to stay in, optimal times to visit, and pricing information.
- Pricing trends
- One-stop-shop for travel planning
- No loyalty program
Hopper has a website, but all the magic happens on its mobile app.
Like Google, you can get started simply by entering the city for your next trip into the search. The color-coded calendar shows the best dates for booking cheap hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, the map view shows useful location info to help match your cheap hotel to top destinations in the area. You’ll notice the map is color-coded, so you can see which hotels offer the best prices, and Hopper will advise you on whether to book now or wait.
Hopper also has a handy price freeze feature. With a small deposit that goes toward your final accommodation cost, you can freeze the price for one day, saving some extra cash if the price increases or paying a lower price if it drops.
- Color-coded calendar and map
- Booking advice
- Price freeze
- No desktop functionality
16. Skyscanner Hotels
Skyscanner is better known for helping users score cheap flights than cheap hotel rooms. Still, they have a handy functionality to help you scope out the best prices on hotels. If you’re looking for something simple, Skyscanner Hotels certainly delivers, with a straightforward search, convenient map feature, and easy to view pricing information. The only real downside is a lack of filters to narrow down options.
- Easy to use
- Clear pricing
- Lack of filters
Trivago is a metasearch engine you can use to compare prices from multiple hotels and OTAs all at once. As a basic search engine, it does its job, allowing you to find a hotel at the right price for your next vacation. However, it doesn’t offer any standout features that make it a must-use over other metasearch engines. Consequently, it may come down to a simple preference for using this site.
Trivago also provides featured prices for some hotels. However, users should note that these aren’t always the lowest price available.
- Easy to use
- Featured prices aren’t always the cheapest
- No rewards program
From the name, you can probably guess what StudentUniverse does. This website is an OTA that provides deals for students 15 years old and up. Using your status as a student, StudentUniverse can find and apply discounts to your booking, even ones that aren’t available directly through the property.
Because it’s catered exclusively to students, the website is centered around affordability and helping you score a great deal no matter your budget. However, be aware some users have complained of issues with their cancellation policies.
Overall, StudentUniverse might be an appealing option for students looking for affordable hotels, just as long as you won’t be changing your travel plans.
- Exclusive discounts for members
- Offers promo codes and additional deals
- Poor reviews of their cancellation policy