Book Hotels Like a Pro: Our Tips

InterContinental Buckhead Room

On Travel-Dealz we often write about how to get the cheapest flight from A to B. But a cheap flight is of no use if the hotels at the destination are expensive and thus make up a multiple of the costs. We have therefore summarized our tips for hotel bookings.

First Check the Hotel Prices, then Book the Flight

Are you flexible with your travel dates? Then, we recommend that you check how much hotels cost in your desired period before you book your flight. If there are events, trade fairs or just holidays, hotels can cost far more than usual! You should also pay attention to the following rule:

  • Hotels used primarily by business travellers are generally more expensive but cheaper on weekends
  • Hotels used primarily by tourists are generally cheaper but more expensive on weekends

The same applies to holidays like Christmas: the prices for romantic wellness hotels are likely to skyrocket, while 4-star business hotels should be available for a bargain price, for example in a banking district.

Hotel Website vs. Booking Portal

Booking via various online travel agencies or booking portals has a number of advantages. Why should you still book directly through the hotel website? There are a few reasons for this:

  • Status advantages: With most chains, there are no advantages for members of the loyalty programs when booking via third-party portals. For example, if you book a Hilton through Expedia, Gold members do not get free breakfast or a room upgrade.
  • Points: If you book through a third party, you will not receive any points for the respective hotel bonus program
  • Special rates: Usually there are special rates for members of the respective hotel bonus programs, which are often below the price at booking portals.
  • Regular offers: 3-for-2 or a 20% discount sale? The big hotel chains regularly have offers that offer a lot of potential savings if you book directly. All our hotel deals can be found under Hotels. Subscribe to the newsletter, so you don’t miss anything.

It is not possible to say in general whether the booking portal or the hotel website is cheaper. The solution here is: Compare! Don’t just look at the price, but also consider what points and any status benefits are worth to you. In general, though, with chain hotels, it is usually more worthwhile to book directly on the hotel’s website.

Don’t just Look at One Portal

It can happen that a hotel is already fully booked on e.g. Expedia, but is still available on Booking.com. At least if you can’t find any hotels at first glance, you should use meta searches such as the Travel-Dealz hotel search to get a cross-platform overview of all availabilities.

This is particularly important when it comes to accommodation in rural areas. In the USA, Booking.com sometimes has significantly more accommodations listed than the competition, but the opposite can also happen.

Another promising idea: Book hotels in popular holiday destinations (e.g. Mallorca) with a tour operator as a flight+hotel deal.

Still haven’t found anything suitable, or everything is too expensive? Airbnb is no longer an insider tip, but there are also many accommodations at reasonable prices there. Incidentally, Booking.com now also brokers many holiday flats in cities. If you want peace and quiet, it is of course best to book an entire accommodation and not just a single room.

Use Coupons

On Travel-Dealz we regularly publish discount voucher codes for hotel booking portals. These usually grant you between a 5% and 15% discount. Usually, there is no discount on hotels of the big hotel chains, but you can save quite a bit at independent hotels. These are the currently valid voucher codes:

Hotels.com Rewards: Bonus Night after 10 Nights

A very interesting booking platform for hotels is Hotels.com and the associated bonus program: You get a bonus night after 10 nights (not stays!). The discount for the bonus night is calculated from the average room price of the 10 nights. However, taxes and fees have to be paid extra. Fortunately, they are not as high as with flight awards.

You can earn nights at over 100,000 participating hotels. This includes all major chains. A hotel’s participation in Hotels.com Rewards is indicated by the small moon next to the hotel name in the search.

Blind Booking at Hotwire & Priceline

Real bargains can also be found via the Hotwire and Priceline booking portals. Both offer blind bookings, where you don’t know which hotel you’re going to before you book. You can see basic data such as district, star classification and amenities of the hotel, but you will only see the hotel name after receiving the booking confirmation! In this way, the hotels can sell the remaining rooms cheaply without having to jeopardize their good name. It can actually save you up to 60%, but mainly for very short-term bookings.

With a little research, you can still often infer the hotel you get. Pay attention to the listed hotel amenities (pools, business centre, pet friendly) and the reviews on TripAdvisor.

Don’t Only Search on the Big Platforms

Not all accommodation options are always listed on the major portals such as Booking.com or Expedia. This rarely happens in Europe, but it is all the more common in e.g. South America. So check e.g. Google Maps for other accommodation options nearby.

Some hotels can then usually be reached by e-mail (or telephone). And since they save the commission on booking portals, the prices are usually quite low. Accommodations in national parks are also happy to save themselves the commission and have their own online booking channels.

Use “Secret” Hotel Offers on Booking Portals

For members with a customer account, there are regular special offers on the various booking portals. The background: These portals are often not allowed to offer hotels cheaper than directly on the hotel website. Exception: These are non-public rates, e.g. those that can only be booked by members. Examples:

  • Secret Escapes: At Secret Escapes, there are regularly very good offers for registered users. The hotel price is usually a little lower than usual and there are also free extras such as breakfast, a welcome drink or lounge access
  • Expedia Member Pricing: Special offers for members with (supposedly) 50% discount and more. However, you should question and compare the prices. Similar special prices are usually available on other Expedia sites such as eBookers or Hotels.com.
  • Booking.com Genius-Programm: If you stay 5 or more nights a year, you will receive Genius status on Booking.com. This also includes special prices, which quite often can be up to 15% below those of the competition.
  • HotelTonight: HotelTonight is worth a look, especially for short-term bookings. In some cases, there are much better conditions there than with Expedia and others. However, it is not possible to freely choose the room type or bed preference.

Preferred Hotel Fully Booked? Monitor Availability

Although you have planned the trip several months in advance, the hotel of your choice is already fully booked? Annoying, but this can often happen, especially in sparsely populated places.

Thanks to refundable rates, however, it often happens that a few rooms at the hotel become available again. So that you don’t have to check this manually every few days, there are portals such as OpenHotelAlert or HotelAlerts. Simply enter the name of the accommodation, the desired travel dates and, if necessary, the desired room. If a room becomes available, you will be informed by email, and you can book via the channel of your choice.

However, it is advisable to have previously made a refundable booking as a backup. Because if the second-best accommodation also becomes fully booked in the meantime, you may have a problem.

It is of course also possible to monitor the room prices. So if you have a refundable rate, feel free to set a price alert on Kayak. If the price then falls, simply cancel the old rate and book the same accommodation again.

No Cheap Prices? Use Bonus Points!

Your dream hotel is too expensive? Then it helps to reach into the bag of tricks of the hotel bonus programs. If you have earned enough points, you can use them to book free nights. However, there is a difference between dynamic pricing hotel rewards programs and fixed points programs. With dynamic pricing, the number of points depends on the occupancy of the hotel and the actual price. E.g. the Hampton New York Times Square Center booked through Hilton Honors:

  • Price over Christmas: $259 or 70,000 points
  • Price on another date: $139 or 33,000 points

Programs with fixed categories and point tables (World of Hyatt, Marriott Bonvoy) are more attractive. However, there may be fluctuations regarding peak/offpeak-season.

By the way, you don’t necessarily have to earn points, you can also buy points from many programs. There are regular promotions (e.g. at IHG, Hyatt) where you get a 100% bonus or 50% discount. This is usually only worthwhile for very cheap hotels. For instance, the Hampton by Hilton Kraków is available for 10,000 points. If you buy these points with a bonus of 100%, you effectively only pay US$50 (~€51) for the night.

Take Advantage of Your Status

While we’re on the topic of bonus programs: these offer attractive benefits for frequent sleepers such as room upgrades, lounge access, free water bottles and so on at the big hotel chains. So it can be worthwhile to focus on one chain and earn the points there. I find Hilton’s Honors program particularly interesting. Breakfast is complimentary for customers with Gold status or higher.

Use Best Price Guarantees

Many hotel chains advertise that they offer the cheapest price on their own website. If you find a cheaper price on another portal, the hotel will match it and give you a bonus on top. The advantages of a “claim” differ from chain to chain:

However, this only applies to publicly bookable rates, so if a login, membership or similar is required, the best price guarantee cannot be used.

Be Aware of Taxes, Surcharges and Resort Fees

The price per night that is displayed to you on the booking platforms does not have to correspond to the actual hotel price! Often there are additional fees that you have to pay at check-in. Especially blatant in the USA: There, as a rule, the complete taxes are added on top as well as resort fees in larger complexes, i.e. fees for the use of swimming pools, fitness studios, etc. It is not uncommon for the total price to double at check-in! Therefore: keep your eyes open when booking and pay attention to the small print or go through all the steps until the booking is completed.

In many other countries, even in Europe, taxes and resort charges are usually included. However, there are often tourist taxes or the like, which usually only amount to a few euros.

Find the Cheapest Night for a Hotel

For a single hotel (unfortunately not for a city or a selection of hotels) you can display the cheapest price for a night flexibly over months. This is possible on Google Hotels, but some hotel chains also offer this – the most prominent of which are Marriott and Hilton.

Your Tips?

Do you have any other tips for cheap hotels? Then please leave a comment!

Cover Picture: Ditmar Lange

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