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Where you sleep at night is one of your major fixed travel expenses, so learning how to find cheap accommodation will help you to keep more money in your pocket for spending on all the fun parts of travel!
Fortunately, there are many ways to save on accommodation costs when you travel. For us, traveling with our kids is not always about finding the cheapest deals, but getting the BEST VALUE for our money!
We don’t like to rough it as much as we used too pre-kids, but equally, money doesn’t grow on trees, and we don’t want to be spending a fortune either.
How you travel and spend your dollars is totally up to you, but we all need a place to sleep at night and we may as well get the best accommodation deal as possible.
Which is why we prepared this guide on the best tips and tricks to save money on accommodation, where we’ll be showing our favorite websites and resources to help you find safe, practical and good value for money accommodation.
- What is the cheapest form of accommodation?
- Tips On How to Find Cheap Accommodation
- 1. Think location
- 2. Stay more than 1 night in your accommodation
- 3. Stay over Sunday
- 4. Stay mid-week
- 5. Travel in the shoulder-season
- 6. Stay in Apartments or Suites and Share the Costs
- 7. Consider a Hostel
- 8. Stay in a nearby town
- 9. Book rooms that offer free cancellation
- 10. Check the dining options
- 11. Book accommodation with all the facilities you need
- 12. Contact hotels directly
- 13. Check for family deals on your accommodation
- 14. Use accommodation reward programs
- 15. Use Credit Card Reward Points
- 16. Follow on social media
- 17. Sign up for e-newsletter deals
- 18. Delete your cookies/history
- 19. Try Housesitting
- 20. Couchsurfing
- 21. Volunteer
- 22. Go camping or RV travel
- Where To Search For Accommodation Deals: Best Booking Sites
- Final Thoughts
- More Money Saving Travel Tips
- Pin To Save On Pinterest
What is the cheapest form of accommodation?
When it comes to finding the cheapest accommodation deals, you must first decide what type of accommodation is right for you.
Typically, the cheapest form of accommodation is a hostel, which are mostly catering towards solo travelers and budget travelers looking for a cheap bed for the night.
However, hostels are not for everyone. Your choice of accommodation will depend on your:
- travel budget
- travel destination
- travel style and comfort levels
- number of companions
The style in which we personally travel has evolved from solo travel, to traveling as a couple, to now being a family of four. So our accommodation preferences have changed as well.
Depending on the length of the trip and the destination, we’ll chop and change between accommodation styles.
While a hostel dorm room will most likely be the cheapest type of accommodation no matter where you go, they are not the most suitable for families or couples.
After hostels, you can find cheap hotels, motels and bed and breakfast deals in most destinations.
As a family, if it’s longer than a weekend getaway, we prefer to stay in apartments. They offer several benefits:
- Access to a full kitchen saves you money by not eating out every night.
- Separate bedrooms from the living room make it easier to put the kids to bed.
- You have your own laundry.
- You can book a 3 or 4-bed apartment and split the costs with another family or friends.
These extra facilities on a long stay can make your trip so much more enjoyable.
But if it’s a short city stay, or we’re just traveling as a couple, we’re happy to stay in a hotel and sometimes we’ll cut costs and find a family friendly hostel, but these are not always easy to find.
Tips On How to Find Cheap Accommodation
Getting 15 percent off a room you don’t want isn’t always better than regular price at a room you do want!
So our goal with the following tips is to help you save money on accommodation you do want and get the best price for it.
1. Think location
The cheapest accommodation is almost always outside the city center in a suburban area, but that’s not always going to save you money in the long run.
There is no point finding cheap hotel accommodation if it is miles out of town and you have to pay extra in transportation costs. You will have to do some research into transport options and how much it will cost you, before booking accommodation outside the city center.
For example, if you are visiting London and decide to stay in areas such as Greenwich which are zone 3-6, then you will save on accommodation costs, but you will be paying the difference in transport into the city center, plus it will take you over an hour to reach major attractions.
It’s better to stay in a central area close to public transport, airports, local attractions, food outlets, the beach, the park, and then you have the ability to get out and walk to most things.
This will help you save money and save on time!
Top tip: If you are on an extended trip around the world, consider spending more of your time in countries and regions where your money travels further such as Southeast Asia, and when visiting the expensive countries, lower your accommodation standards.
2. Stay more than 1 night in your accommodation
Many accommodation providers offer their best deals when you stay more than one night. This is especially the case for apartment rentals who have deals for 7 days or more.
Staying longer also allows you to save on things like cleaning fees for vacation rentals.
But it’s not just apartments that have deals for longer stays. Many hotels, especially chain hotels, often have deals like stay 4 nights, pay for 3.
These deals are usually easier to find when you travel in the off-season of your chosen destination.
3. Stay over Sunday
Many hotels receive Friday and Saturday night accommodation bookings from leisure travelers, and Monday to Friday bookings from their business travelers.
That means there is less demand to stay over a Sunday night, which means you can often find a good deal if you are staying over a Sunday.
4. Stay mid-week
In certain locations like Las Vegas, avoiding the peak Friday and Saturday night periods is a strategic way to find cheap hotel accommodation. If you stay from Tuesday – Thursday, you can find cheaper rates than staying Friday – Monday.
Avoid the big cities over a weekend, if possible, which will almost always see hotels putting their prices up for weekend travelers.
We’re stunned by how much the prices for accommodation can rise on the weekend – some places it can triple in price.
If you’re travel dates are not set in stone, then staying mid-week can be a huge saving.
5. Travel in the shoulder-season
Are hotels cheaper in different seasons? Of course!
One of the obvious tips on how to find cheap accommodation is by traveling in the shoulder season, which is a term used to describe that time period between the peak and off-peak season.
Not only will accommodation costs will be lower in the shoulder season, but the weather will still be favorable, and in popular destinations you’ll avoid the large crowds which make sightseeing easier. This is also the best way to save money on flights and car rental. Win-win!
For example, when visiting Europe consider going in May or September and avoid the July/August summer peak season.
6. Stay in Apartments or Suites and Share the Costs
This is one of our best travel tips on how to save money if you’re traveling with others, especially for families or small groups.
Apartments and rental homes like VRBO are usually cheaper and more practical than a hotel for large groups. If you’re traveling with other family members, a group of friends, or another couple, why not get an apartment big enough and share the cost?
When we traveled around Australia, my parents often visited us, and we stayed in apartments with three bedrooms. This reduced our per-night rates and was much cheaper than two separate hotel rooms, especially considering we had a full kitchen to self-cater on meals.
7. Consider a Hostel
Staying in hostels may not be a great option for every destination, especially the USA, due to the lack of quantity and quality.
Don’t think of hostels as just dorm rooms for backpackers, either. The demand for cheap accommodation is more prevelant than ever, and so more hostel chains with luxury offerings, such as Selina Hostels in South America, are opening up.
Nowadays, hostels offer private and family rooms as well as dorm rooms, so they can tailor to more travelers and be one of the best cheap alternatives to hotels no matter what kind of traveler you are.
Hostels in major cities are usually located close to public transport and tourist sites. A private or family room is typically cheaper than a hotel room and they generally have cheap and free services such as wi-fi, a laundry, luggage storage, fully equipped kitchen facilities, and local tours.
Not to mention they often come with kitchens so you can cook your own meals and save money on eating out.
Hostels can also be a fantastic way for meeting fellow travelers as well as one of the best ways to save money, which is why they are the best accommodation choice for solo travelers.
8. Stay in a nearby town
If you can’t find cheap hotels in the city center, staying slightly outside of the city will almost always save you money on the cost of hotels and apartments. If you don’t mind the short commute you might save a bundle.
For example, if you want to visit New York City, a cheaper place to stay is Jersey City, which is only a 20 minute train ride from Manhattan.
However, as mentioned in point #1, be careful that if you find accommodation far away from the attractions you plan to visit that it doesn’t result in high transportation or parking costs, or precious time.
You will need to research the area’s public transportation system before booking accommodation in another town.
9. Book rooms that offer free cancellation
Book accommodation in advance at the best rate you can find online, then keep an eye on prices to see if you can get a better deal at another property, or even at the same hotel.
For example, Booking.com offer free cancellation on most rooms up to 48 hours, sometimes even 24 hours, before your stay.
And their book now, pay later at check-in system allows you to lock in that rate with some flexibility.
It’s then also possible to find “last-minute deals” which come up 2 days before your check-in date.
Just make sure to check the booking conditions per room type before you try this method, so you’ll have peace of mind when booking through them.
10. Check the dining options
Again, location is key when choosing where to stay, so make sure you have access to local cafes and restaurants that are tailored to your budget.
When staying in a major city it will almost always be cheaper to walk to a nearby cafe or restaurant than dining in the hotel, unless you get free breakfast as part of your booking.
Some guest houses and hostels have a kitchen, which means you can cook your own meals and save money, so it’s always worth checking to see if accommodation comes with a kitchen before booking.
If you’re staying somewhere with few dining options, check if the hotel has a restaurant with reasonable prices.
11. Book accommodation with all the facilities you need
Make sure the accommodation you choose comes with free WiFi, a free airport shuttle, free breakfast, free cable TV, laundry facilities, and if you’re feeling really extravagant, a pool, fitness center, BBQ areas, tour booking desk etc.
This means you don’t have to pay extra to find these services outside. Some countries, such as USA and Australia, have very expensive data plans for tourists, and if you don’t use the internet so much, having free WiFi at the hotel saves you on that expense.
Likewise, laundrettes are not always cheap, so having a laundry room or washing machine with your accommodation can also save you on this expense.
If you’re choosing an apartment, is there a fridge, microwave, coffee machine? A fridge and microwave can be great for storing and reheating leftovers which saves you money on eating out. This is great for families storing milk, juice, and yogurts and other kids breakfast items to have on hand first thing in the morning.
Sometimes choosing the cheapest accommodation is not about the cost of the room, but the cost of the facilities you need, as looking for these amenities outside your accommodation can add up when you’re trying to save money!
12. Contact hotels directly
It’s easy to choose hotels and apartments on booking sites such as Booking.com and Airbnb, and sometimes it’s easier to book with them when you’re booking last minute deals.
However, sometimes you can get a better deal when you contact the hotel directly. Give them a quick call, and tell them the price you see on booking platforms, and they will usually offer you a better deal if you book directly.
Hotels, apartments and hostels pay a commission to use booking platforms, so they usually always want you to book directly so they keep 100% of your booking fee.
13. Check for family deals on your accommodation
When you are phoning or emailing accommodation directly, always ask about discounted family rates. Sometimes hotels can offer free meals for children, or include an upgrade at check in.
It doesn’t hurt to ask whether there are any special deals for families – they can only say no.
14. Use accommodation reward programs
Another tip on how to get cheap hotels is to use reward programs or loyalty programs (such as Genius by Booking.com).
If you frequently visit the same hotel chains or hotel booking sites, join their rewards or membership program. We can’t say which is the best program, it depends on your travel frequency, how and where you travel, and what your priorities are.
There are also several travel credit cards that come with their own special deals with hotels that are exclusive to their customers, but again, they are all different and depend on your travel requirements and style.
When looking up reward programs, you should ask yourself if you are more concerned about free accommodation or extra perks? Or do you want to experience luxury at good prices?
To maximize your earnings in any rewards program, charging your hotel costs to a credit card tied to the rewards program is essential.
All cards will give you bonus points for spending, and the best cards will also give you instant elite status in the hotel program, which means more bonus hotel points and additional perks. We used points for almost all of our accommodation on our recent summer Europe trip to Italy and France.
Note: it’s also worth considering the annual fee for a credit card. If you’re not planning on traveling much in a year, is it worth it? Some other perks that come with travel credit cards are travel insurance and lounge access, which may sweeten the deal.
15. Use Credit Card Reward Points
One of the best travel perks is being able to earn reward points simply for using your credit card, and then exchange those points for accommodation and flight deals. It’s like free money!
There are many travel credit cards, and they differ depending on what country you’re from, so you’ll want to look up credit cards in your country and check the program and benefits they offer.
You might be able to use your points for accommodation, or it might simply only offer lounge access, free upgrades, or experiences.
16. Follow on social media
Go and “LIKE” your favorite hotels, hostels, and booking platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
It’s getting more and more common for sites to release cheap accommodation deals directly through their social media channels for a limited time only.
This can be good if your travel plans are flexible.
17. Sign up for e-newsletter deals
Subscribe via email to your favorite booking sites such as Booking.com, Expedia or Hotels.com, as they often distribute deals and special coupons only to their email subscribers and members.
18. Delete your cookies/history
When searching for cheap accommodation deals, use a different browser or go incognito before looking up prices a second time on a particular booking site.
Websites store your search data and when you come back they know you are more likely to book as a repeat visitor and will charge you more.
19. Try Housesitting
A great way to save on accommodation is to do home exchanges or house sitting gigs, which is when you look after a homeowner’s house for them while they are away.
Housesitting can be a great way to save money on travel, but it also has a few pros and cons. For example, it does rely on you being flexible.
You can find housesitting gigs on Trustedhousesitters.com, and sometimes you may be asked to look after a pet. We’ve used TrustedHousesitters as homeowners in need of a sitter for our kittens as we traveled to Europe for a month. It was excellent!
You can read more about the pros and cons of housesitting here.
Couchsurfing is when you stay with a local in a destination, for free. The idea is that you also host your home to couch surfers should anyone be passing through your destination.
Couch surfing is popular in Europe, but it’s not common in places like Asia.
If you’re planning an extended trip, then one of the best travel hacking tips we can offer you is to stop somewhere for a whie and volunteer.
You can volunteer in a hostel, exchanging a few hour’s work for free accommodation, or you can find volunteer jobs that have accommodation provided on platforms such as WorkAway.com.
Work exchanges are a popular way to travel for longer for less, especially in Australia.
22. Go camping or RV travel
Of course, the cheapest way to save money on accommodation is to pitch a tent and camp.
Wild camping is sometimes illegal though (it is in the UK) so you need to look up the legality of this in the destination you want to visit.
But even if you don’t wild camp, campsites offer a space for you to pitch a tent at a very low cost, and some even include facilities such as showers and toilets.
Or you can also rent or buy your own RV – caravan or camper trailer and have a home on wheels. We did this for 18 months in Australia and almost a year in the USA. It’s more suited to long term and slow travel. There are a lot of pros and cons and can end up being expensive. IF you are self-sufficient, (i.e. water and solar power) you can drastically reduce costs by free camping or boondocking.
Where To Search For Accommodation Deals: Best Booking Sites
We’ve been traveling consistently for 17+ years now, and have come to rely on a few trusted websites that help us to save money and time searching! Down below are the travel accommodation sites we personally use.
To book hotels online, our favorite website is Booking.com who have over 1.3 million properties worldwide in 200 countries, and they’re still growing daily.
We believe it’s the best website to book hotels because they have all the major brands, plus you can find a variety of low-cost independently owned hotels that can be difficult to find elsewhere.
We find their website and interface user-friendly when doing a hotel search. Features we like include:
- Book now, pay later at check in
- Free cancellation on most rooms
- 24/7 customer service
- Best price guarantee
Using their search box is simple. You can search hotels via destination or hotel name and choose the number of rooms and adults / children.
Once you’ve chosen your destination and dates you can then filter your search by:
- Review score
- Property type
- Distance from city center
Another reason we believe it’s the best site for hotels is because they have millions of verified reviews – only people who have booked through Booking.com and stayed at the property can write a review as they receive an email once they have checked out.
That means their reviews come from real guests, like you!
You can even filter your search results based on reviews broken down into categories like:
- All reviews
- Solo travelers
- Groups of friends
- Business travelers
To read reviews on a property and see the score breakdown simply click on the review score.
On the topic of reviews, pay attention to what is important to you as a traveler. Look at the good reviews, look at the bad reviews, and try to find threads of consistency.
If many people are complaining about one thing in particular, then that’s probably a good indicator that the hotel has a problem with that!
Another great feature of the booking site is that you can search hotels and apartments and resorts broken down into themes such as:
- Family hotels
- Budget/Backpacker hotels
- Business hotels
- Beach hotels
- Spa hotels
- Romantic hotels
- Golf & sports hotels
- Luxury Hotels
It doesn’t end there with Booking.com. You can also search for hotels near Airports and the most popular Landmarks around the world – another handy feature that makes it the best hotel booking site!
Hotwire can be great for last minute deals. If you care less about a specific hotel brand and more about wanting to save money, consider shopping the anonymous hotel inventory on Hotwire.
You won’t know which hotel you’re staying at until it’s booked, but you can request the general location and quality (three-star, four-star, neighborhood etc).
One of the great deals we’ve got on Hotwire was a 4-star hotel right in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans for $50 a night.
And recently when we were already in Knoxville, Tennessee and I found myself asking the question; “where can I find cheap accommodation near me”, I jumped on Hotwire and got a good deal downtown!
VRBO & Airbnb Apartment Rentals
As mentioned, apartments are a great way to save money on accommodation and often work out cheaper than a hotel room, particularly when you factor in the savings of cooking your own meals and sharing with other couples or friends.
Airbnb is a site we used often on our trip around Australia as a way to get low-cost apartments, or even rent out people’s entire homes. For couples and solo travelers, you can also rent out rooms in a shared apartment or house which can work out cheaper than a hotel.
We now use VRBO more as we like it better for finding apartment and home rentals.
Before we had kids, we stayed in hostels often to save money on accommodation. You can find most hostels on Booking.com and Agoda, but the primary booking platform for hostels is HostelWorld.com.
What makes Hostelworld a great booking site is that you can see how many people are staying in a hostel before booking, so as a solo traveler, you know you’re not going to be alone.
You can choose either a dormitory room in which you’ll share with other guests, or you can pay for private rooms with shared or private bathrooms. It depends on your budget, comfort level, and whether you are solo, a couple or a family.
Whether you’re traveling alone, as a family, or as a couple, there are many ways to save money on accommodation. It doesn’t matter what style of traveler you are, or if you’re going away for a few days or a year, everyone wants a good deal on a place to stay.
Hopefully, the above strategies and resources will help you to find affordable hotels, apartments, hostels, or resorts for your next trip and get you the best value your money can buy.
More Money Saving Travel Tips
Need more ways to save money on travel? Here are some other helpful guides…
- 21 ways to find cheap flights
- 19 tips for finding cheap rental cars
- How to save on accommodation in Australia
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I hope this article gave you some great ideas on how to save money on accommodation when you travel. Do you have any money saving travel tips? Let us know in the comments.