Selecting accommodations can be challenging as I try to find a place that’s clean, safe and comfortable while still staying within budget. Of course, hotel websites make many claims about their quality but the claims may or may not be accurate. 🙂 .
My signature worst experience (and my incentive to NEVER let that happen again) was when we attended a funeral in a small town. There were very few options available and money was particularly tight for us at the time. I based our decision SOLELY on price and it was NOT a good experience. After that, I vowed that would never happen to us again.
Please Note: There is a BIG difference between “frugal” and “cheap”. “Frugal” is using the blessings you’ve been given with wisdom….getting the most value for your money. “Cheap” means lowest cost no matter what –with decisions/choices based ONLY on price. After our experience that night, I concluded that I don’t much care for “cheap”….I prefer “frugal”.
Finding Frugal Accommodations:
- Make a Chart: To simplify and clarify the process of ‘hotel shopping’ I’ve created a basic gridform in Excel (easy to create grid lines). It took about 2 minutes to create. 🙂 Because I’m ‘visual’, once I can see all the info about the hotels/amenities on the chart, I have clarity in the decision making process. I begin by deciding what’s important for that night – pool? laundry facility? ease of access? microwave? Breakfast? Those things become the column headings and I’m ready to begin gathering information. Of course, this could be written on a blank sheet of paper…or opened on 12 windows on the computer, but that isn’t ‘organized’ or easy to assimilate. A grid form is. The generic form is saved on the computer so I can change headings as necessary and use over and over.
- Call the Hotel Directly: When checking rates, always call the hotel directly. The employees at the 1-800 call center are not authorized to reduce rates. The only person who can do that is management AT the hotel. Before making that call, find the best rate on a consolidator website (Kayak, Trivago, etc…) Ask the person at the hotel to beat that rate. They are actually VERY interested in reclaiming the business they’ve lost of late to these consolidators. They (Kayak, Expedia, etc…) have become the ‘necessary evil’. Hotels HAVE to use them to get the business, and yet, they lose money every time someone books through them….necessary evil. Give them the chance to ‘win you back’.
- Hotel Breakfasts are a bargain: These have become almost standard in mid-range hotel chains though you won’t find them in the upscale downtown hotels. These save alot of money over the course of a vacation…especially if you have hungry boys in the family. 🙂
More and more you can find hotels offering a HOT breakfast. Even though the cost MAY be higher for that hotel, the savings can be significant if you have hungry boys to feed. One more note while we’re on the subject of breakfast: In an effort to reclaim business from the consolidators, some hotels are ONLY offering the breakfast to those who book through them. Read the fine print
- Check out Budget Traveling 101 for more tips and a list of questions to ask when calling the hotel directly.
What about Bidding Sites such as Priceline or Hotwire: These sites seem to have lost popularity in recent years, though they ARE still around. The thing I found was that the rates weren’t that much better than you could get with a reservation and avoid the gamble of a ‘blind’ and non-refundable bid. I’ve actually only used Priceline twice in all my travels. On one of those experiences, I ended up standing in line behind a couple checking in who got the same room that we did –for $4 less. I had risked ‘blind’ bidding on a random hotel…and they got the exact same room for less money!! While we were happy with our night, I realized it wasn’t worth the gamble. I preferred to be able to shop for and purchase a hotel with the amenities I wanted.
So, that’s my ‘take’ on Hotel and Travel Bidding sites…just not enough savings to justify the ‘gamble’.
Accommodations are a huge part of any vacation budget, but with research and a little work, it is also where you can find some of the greatest savings.
- Finding Frugal Accommodations Part 2.
- Vacation By Groupon
- Things to Do When Checking into a Hotel Room
- Travel Tips
- Vacation Destinations –With Children