When you’re seeking a good price on a hotel room or traveling on a budget, it can be easy to zero in on the lowest price and disregard important aspects such as amenities, location, safety and quality.
Before you go snatching up the lowest deal offered, however, take a minute and assess if the money you’re saving is worth staying in a roach motel, or if it’s even that cost effective. You may book a room at a hotel on the outskirts of town to save a few bucks and end up paying the difference in public transportation and taxi fares.
Follow these guidelines and you’ll find that “cheap” and “good” aren’t mutually exclusive.
Set Your Standards
You want to make your travel savings go as far as possible, so it makes sense to seek affordable hotel rooms. But cheap means something different to different types of travelers, so before you go bargain hunting, decide what you’re willing to settle for. Is a tiny room with no air conditioning and no bathtub alright with you, or are those comforts non-negotiable? Decide what’s up for debate and what’s a must before you start looking for rooms. This will save you time and frustration because you can narrow down your search and eliminate non-contenders early in the game. Most riverside bungalows won’t suit if you’re the type who needs plenty of outlets, solid Wi-Fi and AC, at the minimum.
How you travel and what defines an acceptable cheap room depends entirely on your personality and preferences. No travel style is right or wrong, but yours should inform the choices you make, even on a budget.
This is especially true if you’re traveling in countries that are largely still developing. For example, if you head somewhere like the Thai islands, you can find a number of nice, independent beach resorts where you can likely negotiate a discount depending on your length of stay.
Consider planning your trip during the off-peak season wherever you’re headed. Unless the weather is too extreme or dangerous during those months, going in the off-season means less tourists and typically better prices on accommodations. Hotels and guest houses will often lower their rates in general, and you have a greater chance of getting an additional discount if they aren’t booked full already.
Wannabe Hippies & Backpackers
If you’re more concerned with stretching your savings to last into another country or adventure tour than with staying in a plush hotel, you’ll have far more options when it comes to finding cheap accommodations. Hostels tend to be an economic option, but beware. Some can be dirty, roach-infested and unsafe, so ask to see the room before shelling out the cash.
However, there are plenty of hostels that offer both dorm and private accommodations and maintain a clean, if simple, operation. Hostels and guest houses often have lower and more negotiable rates than bigger hotels, so keep this in mind when looking for a place to stay.
For those who are okay with a little uncertainty, hold off on booking a room until you’ve arrived at your destination. You may find a hostel or guest house that wasn’t listed on a travel site or doesn’t have an online presence, but offers great prices and accommodations. These sometimes turn out to be the best deals because the service is more personalized with fewer guests, and you avoid the college dorm feeling of being squished into a small space with other backpackers.
If possible, share a room with a friend or fellow traveler to split the cost of a nicer room. Sometimes it’s worth sacrificing a little personal space for a private bathroom and hot shower.
There are a number of sites where you can search for inexpensive hotels, such as TripAdvisor and Agoda. You can make your search a bit easier by checking out price comparison sites such as Trivago and Travelocity. Some hotels offer discounts if you book through one of these sites and pay a deposit using a credit card. Ultimately, it’s a good idea to call or email a few of your top picks if you’re really looking for a deal, as you may be able to swing a discount by working with them directly.
For budget travelers, sites such as Hostelworld.com and HostelBookers.com are useful for comparing low-cost hostels and guest houses in an area. Apps such as Hotel Tonight and Priceline are handy when you’re on the go, and you can often get good discounts offered to those who book directly through the app. And online coupon sites such as RetailMeNot offers great coupons for individual hotels, so be sure to check them before finalizing your payment.
Finding great travel deals is easier than ever, with so many review and booking sites, apps and readily available information that will help you find a suitable hotel that won’t unravel your budget. Some sites offer good last-minute booking deals, but if you’re really serious about finding a good fit at a good price, give yourself time to compare a variety of places and make a decision based not only on your bank account, but your comfort as well.