For my most recent trip, a luxury winter break in Paris, I saved nearly €50 on my hotel booking through nothing more than a bit of perseverance.
When first booking the room back in July, the rate was €525 per night but the rate I paid on checkout was €480. You see, hotel rates are constantly moving. If the hotel is nearly full, their rooms will sell for a premium and the rate will be high but if the hotel has lots of rooms to sell, the rate will be lower. The number of rooms available will fluctuate constantly and the hotel’s revenue management team will keep a close eye on the number of rooms available and adjust the rate to maximise the price they sell for. So how do you make sure that you’re getting the best rate for every hotel booking?
I book most of my hotel stays through hotels.com. You can earn cash back through cash back sites (I use Topcashback) or earn airline frequent flyer points if you book through the airline’s e-shop (BA and Virgin Atlantic have online shopping portals).
Hotels.com also has their own Welcome Rewards loyalty program which gives you 10% of your spend back as a voucher towards a future stay after staying 10 nights. I used this voucher when I went to Venice and saved £50 on my hotel booking. I’ve already got another £150 voucher, which will soon be £200, waiting to be used. Aside from these benefits, I often find hotels.com as cheap as any other website so I’m confident that I’m getting the best deal I can.
Having said that, I still use a comparison site when searching for a hotel. Skyscanner, best known for its flight search, has an excellent hotel search tool. Trivago and Travel Supermarket also have powerful search tools whereas member sites such as Secret Escapes and Travelzoo often has deals at high end hotels, especially last minute. You should sign up to Travelzoo’s weekly email with their Top 20 best travel deals.
A lot of the big booking sites have rate parity contracts which block hotels from selling rooms cheaper either through competitor sites or even through their own website. Some hotels will instead offer value added bonuses for booking directly with them such as free breakfast or discounts off meals so always check the hotel direct too.
Finally, if you’re a member of the hotel’s loyalty scheme, you won’t earn points if you book through a third party site, so book direct if earning hotel points is important to you. Most chain hotels will offer discounts to members of their loyalty scheme so it can be worth joining their club to make a saving.
Ignore non-refundable rates
I very rarely book non-refundable rates. I don’t like being tied in to one hotel and not be able to jump on a deal if I find one. Hotel non-refundable rates are usually rubbish value. I’d want a big saving if I was to book a non-refundable rate, a saving of £10-£15 a night just isn’t enough for me, not on a one or two night stay at least.
Book the right dates
As mentioned before, when hotels are busy, their rooms are expensive so it’s best not to book London theatre tickets during Wimbledon or try to book a weekend shopping trip to Birmingham during Crufts. Big events make prices rocket so check the “what’s on” page on the websites for event spaces such as London Olympia or Birmingham NEC to see what dates events are being held – then avoid those dates!
Thursday and Sunday are usually the quietest nights in hotels; business travellers want to be home for the weekend and weekend trippers either haven’t arrived or have already left which means hotels have rooms to sell and will sell them cheaply. Business hotels or hotels in the business district of major cities will often be cheaper at weekends than hotels aimed at tourists.
Book at the right time
If you’re attending a big event such as Wimbledon, Crufts or any big sports or music event, the best advice is to book as far ahead as you can. Most hotels sell rooms 11 months in advance, and some even further, so if you know hotels will be busy, book ahead on a rate you can cancel and lock in the lowest price available at that time.
By booking a flexible rate, you can keep checking prices at your preferred hotel to see if a cheaper rate becomes available. If it does, book again and cancel the original. If it doesn’t, you’ll know you got the best deal by booking before everyone else.
I religiously check hotel prices, generally a few times a week, right up to the end of the free cancellation period but there’s a few key times when it’s worth checking prices;
- 11 months before arrival when most hotels are releasing their rooms.
- 28 days before arrival when rooms booked by groups either need to be confirmed or given back to the hotel for general sale.
- Within 7 days of arrival, the hotel will be fairly confident about how many rooms they’ll have to sell and will either hike, slash or maintain their prices.
I’d be checking prices at least at these times to make sure I’ve got the best price. For my trip to Paris, the rate dropped within the last week by nearly €50. That’s not a bad saving for a bit of perseverance!