1. Use price comparison websites
We all know Booking.com.
Besides Booking.com there are many other comparison websites such as Trivago or Google Hotel Search. You might be surprised how much cheaper the same room can be on different websites. However, make sure to look up the hotels on their official website to compare the price because occasionally they have a better deal as they do not have to share profits with a third party company.
2. Avoid weekends and school holidays
If you have the chance to be flexible, try to plan your trips during low seasons or at the beginning or end of the high season. Hotel rates are more expensive during high season as well as during the extended bank holiday weekends. Shifting with dates may save you a lot of money. Tropical destinations such as Thailand have a rainy season which attracts less tourism. However, it is still an attractive destination as it only rains in short floods most of the time.
3. Use promo codes and look for hotel deals on forums
Flyertalk forum keeps track on the newest promo codes that are usable on certain hotel chains or hotel comparison websites. Check the up-to-date list of promo codes before you book, you never know if you are eligible for an extra discount! Flyertalk has a great subforum which lists exceptional hotel deals.
4. Use cashback websites
Websites earn a commission through cookies by forwarding you to another website where your purchases are tracked. Cashback websites will give a part of their commission back to you if you use their links to make your booking, creating a win-win situation for both parties. You can use cashback websites for online shopping, flight tickets and for hotel bookings.
My favorite one is TopCashBack. Cashbacks on hotel bookings vary from 0 to 15%.
Belgian citizens can use Shopbuddies.be too for some other interesting cashbacks.
Just to give you an idea how important it is to use cashback websites… after three years I’ve managed to earn back over $500 on hotel bookings on TopCashBack alone!
5. Earn points with hotel chain loyalty programs for free nights and gain status for free room upgrades and late checkout
All the big hotel chains have a loyalty program. Take a look at their loyalty program and take advantage of their points earning scheme.
I mainly use IHG as my go-to hotel chain but by using status matches I have been able to score free breakfast, late checkouts and lounge access in other hotel chains such as Hilton Hotels, Marriott Bonvoy Hotels and many more. Read more about my experiences with hotel status matches here.
All hotel chains tend to offer very generous cashback rates too (see 4.).
6. Participate in ‘Best Rate Guarantee’ programs of hotel chains
Another trick to benefit from hotel chains is participate in their program named Price Match Guarantee (Hilton), Best Price Guarantee (IHG), Low Rate Guarantee (Best Western) or Best Rate Guarantee (Marriott Bonvoy).
The idea is simple: all chains promise they guarantee to sell the lowest rate on their official website. If they fail to do so and you can find a cheaper rate on a third party website and send it to the hotel chain, they will match the price and offer you something extra in return. In the past, this was a lucrative way to score free nights but many chains have changed their policies and rewards became less interesting as they used to be.
Each chain has their own rules so read the rules carefully before trying any Best Rate Guarantee claim. I recommend to book a fully flexible (thus refundable) rate and file your claim. In case your claim is not approved, you can at least cancel your booking if you prefer to do so.
I have listed the rewards for the relevant hotel chains below.
- Hilton Honors: Will match the lower price and will give 25% off on that stay
- IHG: Will match the lower price and will give five times the IHG points you’ll earn on your stay, with a maximum of 40.000 IHG points. To get to know more about IHG and IHG points, read my post about IHG status.
- Marriott Bonvoy: Will match the lower price and will give 25% off the matching rate OR 5.000 Bonvoy Points
- Best Western: Will match the lower price and will give 100 USD Best Western Gift Card
The most rewarding option for me personally is the reward Best Western offers. I have tested this option myself recently. I was looking for a stay at Rotterdam Airport. I found a cheaper rate on a third party website for the same room on the same day so I booked the fully refundable rate on the official website, which was more expensive than the price I found on the third party website.
I sent a claim through this form and within 48 hours my claim got approved. I stayed at a Rotterdam Airport hotel, earned a 20 euro gift card for staying during a temporary promotion by Best Western, earned a 100 USD gift card for my claim. In total I ended up with almost 110 euro in gift cards to spend on my next stay!