Finding cheap accommodation in your dream location goes a long way to making your trip the best ever. Wherever you are travelling to, saving money on where you stay means more money to spend exploring the destination.
If you are prepared to take the time to seek out good value accommodation, there is plenty out there to be found. You can easily find cheap flights if you put the work in, but scoring somewhere to stay that beats your budget is a win/win all round. So, get comfortable and prepare to start seeking out some of the cheapest, most unique and unusual accommodation the world has to offer.
Other guides you may find useful:
- Do Your Homework
- Cheap Accommodation Doesn’t Mean Budget
- Get Yourself Organised
- Know the Type of Accommodation You Are Looking For
- Know Your Board Basis
- Have a Price in Mind
- Extend Your Search Area
- Be Flexible With Your Booking Dates
- Try a Different Day of the Week
- Check Your Check In’s
- Find Out What’s on and When
- Keep Your Accommodation Searches Secret
- Think Outside the Box
- Home Stays
- Beach Huts and Basic Shelter
- Ask the Locals
- Harness the Power of the Internet Search Engine
- Sign Up for Hotel Savings
- Check Out Deals on Unnamed Hotels
- Take Advantage of Free Cancellations
- Beware the Single Room Price Hike
- Finally, Live Your Best Life, Wherever You Stay
Do Your Homework
Like any kind of bargain hunting, there is no tried and tested formula that will give you instant access to a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. But, by using a mixture of different applications, hints and tips, you should be able to bag a bed for a night or two for well below your budget.
Cheap Accommodation Doesn’t Mean Budget
Before we go on, let’s just clarify that “cheap” accommodation doesn’t necessarily mean a fold out bed in a hostel in the middle of nowhere. Internet comparison sites paired with short availability and hotels that are not booked to capacity, has meant that you can still get a really good hotel room or other accommodation for much less than you would pay at peak periods.
Get Yourself Organised
While airlines are busy releasing tickets months before their respective flight times, hotels on the other hand like to push up prices within weeks of potential travel dates. This means that rooms will usually hit peak prices between 10 and 14 days before travel to maximise revenue on last minute bookings. If you can book in advance or hold your nerve until the last minute you may be able to book a bargain.
Comparison sites or travel search engines should help you to find great deals on your accommodation. Sites like Kayak have access to millions of hotel rooms, B&Bs and self catering accommodation all over the world, and will allow you to instantly compare the best prices at a glance.
By simply inputting your preferred location and date range, you will be able to see the best deals available for your chosen destination. Start looking as early as you can and be prepared to play the waiting game to get the best deal possible.
Know the Type of Accommodation You Are Looking For
Wherever you are travelling to, you probably already know the kind of accommodation you are looking for. Whether you want a luxury romantic retreat, or are just looking for basic bed and breakfast, focusing on the type of accommodation you need makes it easier to find it at a reasonable rate.
Most comparison sites have extra filters and options on them, allowing you to choose the kind of accommodation you have in mind. From international hotels to independent B&B’s, or even youth hostels or camp sites, knowing what you are looking for helps you to narrow down your choices and get a feel for how much you are likely to be looking at.
Know Your Board Basis
If you really do just need a bed for the night, then you could be paying through the nose for unnecessary extras like meals in your hotel. Full board, half board and even a bit of breakfast will all increase the cost of a room for the night, so make sure that your search options are for “room only” to help keep prices as low as possible.
Have a Price in Mind
A bargain is only a bargain if you can afford it. Whether you are simply looking to book a couple of nights in a single destination, or putting together a package of accommodation that stretches across numerous dates and a variety of destinations, you will need to know just how much you can actually afford.
A five star hotel at half price is no good if it is still much more than you want to spend. So do your research. Find out the average price of reasonable accommodation in the location you are considering and work out how much YOU are willing to pay to stay there.
Those wonderful price comparison sites will be able to give you a good idea of how much rooms go for.
Extend Your Search Area
Certain towns and cities have a premium attached to them when it comes to accommodation costs. If you can find a way of staying outside of the city centre or main town, you will automatically be able to reduce your prices.
Search engine booking.com shows you surrounding areas and what percentage cheaper they are for similar accommodation. Most large towns and cities have excellent transport links so it might be cheaper to invest in a travel card or transport pass and stay a few miles further out.
Be Flexible With Your Booking Dates
As with all types of travel arrangements, some times of the year are more expensive than others. If you can be flexible with your dates you may be able to lower your accommodation bill without having to compromise on your hotel of choice.
Busy periods like school holidays, Christmas and peak tourist seasons will all command higher prices. But, if you can plan your escape for somewhere outside of these times, you may see prices are considerable lower.
Some comparison sites will even give you access to deals without specifying your dates at all. HotelsCombined gives you the option to choose your location, without committing to a date. Simply tick the box and trawl through the deals.
Try a Different Day of the Week
Hoteliers aren’t daft, they know that weekends are more popular than weekdays for guests looking to get away from it all. The same can also apply to days of the week that service airport arrivals from popular destinations. So, if for example you are travelling to a destination that has one or two flights a week, local hotels will probably increase the cost of a room on those days.
Midweek stays are usually cheapest, and you may be able to get a higher grade of room for the price of a basic room if you can be flexible with the day of your visit.
Check Your Check In’s
If you want to bag a few hours extra in your hotel or self catering accommodation, see if anywhere is offering early check in or late check out for free. Having to wait until a certain time to check in and then be booted out again early in the morning, feels a little unfair when you are paying to stay there.
You will need to search hard for these, but they are out there. Only look for deals that offer this though, don’t add it to your search criteria as many places do offer this service, but for an additional cost, and that defeats the object entirely.
Some hotel chains like Novotel and Westin offer late check outs as standard on a Monday as part of their “Make Monday Better” promotion. If all else fails, you can simply ask when you arrive if you can get into your room earlier or stay later. You will have no chance if the hotel is fully booked, but if it is empty a kind receptionist may take pity on you.
Find Out What’s on and When
If you are visiting a destination at the same time as a major sporting event, music festival or other grand occasion, room prices will automatically soar. Choose the dates you travel based on what’s not going on when you get there.
Again, a little bit of research goes a long way as knowing that you are visiting on an average Wednesday versus an event filled weekend means you are more likely to find cost effective accommodation.
Keep Your Accommodation Searches Secret
This rule applies to using comparison sites and search engines, and there is enough truth in the theory to make it worthwhile. Prices per night may appear to change as you flick back and forth from different sites. You are not going mad, they actually do vary as algorithms pick up on your search criteria and try to “panic” you into booking before rooms sell out. Browsing incognito will open a new browser window where information is not tracked, and cookies are re-set, effectively giving you a clean slate for every search.
To avoid this happening, always search in secret. You can do this by activating private browsing mode. If you use Google Chrome or Safari, incognito is enabled by hitting Command (or “Control” if using PC), Shift, “N”. For Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer, hit Command (or “Control” if using a PC), Shift, “P”.
Think Outside the Box
So far we have mostly discussed how to find hotel or self catering accommodation at bargain prices. But, there is a whole world of places to stay out there that may not yet have crossed your mind. Here’s our guide to unusual and cost effective alternatives to traditional hotel rooms:
AirBnB is changing the way we find accommodation all around the world. By using what is basically an online marketplace for a wide range of accommodation, you can locate holiday cottages, apartments, home stays, hostel beds, hotel rooms and even spare rooms being let directly by the owner on a short term basis. The site offers a good level of security as all hosts are verified users and there are plenty of reviews about each property next to the property details.
What is also very useful is the fact that you can enter your ideal budget into the search criteria to help find accommodation that you can actually afford. Choose your dates, choose your location and choose how much you want to spend! Easy!
The modern day hostel is a far cry from smelly student accommodation of old. Many of them are well designed, friendly and offer great value, comfortable accommodation all around the world. Not only will you get a good nights sleep, if you are travelling on your own staying is a hostel is great way to make new friends, and find out lots of useful information about the place you are visiting. For your own safety and comfort we would always recommend choosing a hostel that has access to lockers and take your own ear plugs and eye mask if you are worried about noise or light.
Hostel World is a great website for finding hostel accommodation all over the world, and can even let you choose hostels that offer single, double or private rooms and not just bunk beds in group dorms.
What constitutes as a guest house can change depending on where you are, but generally it will be a private home renting out rooms on a nightly basis, with the owners living on site. Usually offering basic, but clean accommodation, staying in a guesthouse is a friendly experience that lets you get a real feel for your destination.
Some rooms will offer en-suite facilities, but cheaper rooms will usually share bathrooms, and breakfast is usually included in the room rate.
This type of accommodation does exactly what it says on the tin. Staying in the spare room of someones home is a unique and extremely welcoming way to see the world. You will get the opportunity to mix with the owners and their families and find out all about the way of life in other countries. Accommodation costs will be low and this type of stay is a great way to practise your new language skills too.
Many countries offer websites specially for homestay accommodation so be sure to look before your travel, or check out www.homestay.com as a starting point.
Tents, caravans and even yurts all offer a fun and exciting way to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle when you travel. Cheap and cheerful, and usually a great way to meet people, modern day campsites may have more to offer than you are expecting. Usually they will have clean and comfortable bathroom facilities, shared outdoor cooking facilities and some may even have communal areas with campfires. Get back to nature with bargain bucket camping accommodation that is always memorable.
You could even check out www.campinmygarden.com that offers private camping spaces in residential gardens the world over.
Beach Huts and Basic Shelter
If you are backpacking somewhere exotic you can find simple shelter in many different guises for just a couple of £’s a night. What you can’t do however, is book them online. Bargains like these can usually only be bagged by asking around when you get there.
That idyllic simple beat hut on a white sandy beach may well be out there, but you will need to find it for yourself.
Ask the Locals
If you can book your first few nights somewhere reasonable, take the time to ask around when you get there to see if there are any local hostels, hotels, guesthouses or even apartments that are available.
You may be able to pick up somewhere nice and cheap if you take the initiative to ask. Not all accommodation is offered online, and the more remote your destination the more likely it is that the best form of advertising is word of mouth.
Keep cash handy for such occasions, as flashing the cash may help you get an even better deal.
Harness the Power of the Internet Search Engine
Most of us probably use search engines on a daily basis. Whatever information you need is available at your finger tips, 24 hours a day. We often use search engines to research where we are going and to find the best value flights and travel, so keep going with your accommodation searches and something will come up.
Some of the best websites for sourcing great deals on accommodation include:
Some of them will also let you “stack” your plans and offer discounts or at least good deals for booking your flights, hotels and even car hire through them all in one go.
Sign Up for Hotel Savings
Handing over your email details can score you extra discounts. Nearly all of the major hotel comparison sites will send you discounts, price alerts and little added extras if you sign up with them.
They will also offer you updates on prices for your chosen destination on a regular basis, so if you don’t want you inbox full of these, click to unsubscribe once you have booked.
Some sites offer what they call “secret or private” prices that basically mean you get a further percentage off when you subscribe to a mailing list.
Check Out Deals on Unnamed Hotels
If you are not too worried about where you stay, there are websites that specifically fill empty rooms on a late booking basis. Input your destination of choice and preferred dates and it will provide you with a selection of available rooms based on their star rating.
It won’t name the hotel until you have booked and paid for it, but these sites are great if you are looking for a last minute getaway.
Hotwire.com is a particularly good one for finding last minute bargains.
Take Advantage of Free Cancellations
If you are savvy, you can find accommodation that you don’t have to pay for until you get there, that offers free cancellation right up until the last minute. You can use these types of deals to book, then rearrange your dates if the price drops further.
You are never out of pocket this way, and although you often need to pop in your credit or debit card details to secure the booking, you can even pay with cash when you get there.
These types of deals can be found routinely on most comparison sites and search engines, but booking.com is particularly good at sourcing pay on arrival deals across a wide range of accommodation.
Simply choose the “no prepayment” option in the search filter menu and get booking.
Beware the Single Room Price Hike
A word of warning for single travellers. Most hotels like to stick a premium on single rooms. If you are travelling alone, check the cost of double or twin rooms before you book, as sometimes you may find that you can get a better deal on a bigger bed.
Finally, Live Your Best Life, Wherever You Stay
Remember that your accommodation is only a single part of your overall adventure. If you are visiting the destination of your dreams, or want to see as much as you can with limited funds, think of it as literally just a place to lay your head.
As long as it is safe, clean and within a reasonable distance of wherever you need it to be, you are quids in already. Always read reviews if you are worried about the area you are visiting, and if its still looks like a good deal, get out there and get exploring!
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links which mean that some of the companies will pay a small commission for sending you their way. This will not cost you any extra and it supports the running of this website.
Amar was born and raised in England and embarked on an 11-country round-the-world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second, which ended up being a 23-country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then, Amar has spent the last 14 years traveling the 7 continents.