Today I want to share with you my tips for getting the best price on accommodation no matter where you are travelling to, and remember, the cheapest accommodation doesn’t have to be the worst. We’ve picked up deals on 5-star hotels well below half-price by doing our research. Combine that with rewards and even options that are a bit more expensive to start with become far more affordable.
I use all the resources below when I travel. Many of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission if you click it and make a booking. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to book a place to stay! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you 🙂 I would never recommend anything I don’t personally use and think is valuable!
My very first step to booking accommodation is to research prices for the area. I always use HotelsCombined for this because I find they have the most comprehensive database of all the hotel comparison sites, including all the major booking sites like Agoda, Booking.Com, Expedia, plus lots of country-oriented sites like Rakuten Travel (Japan) and Ctrip (China). They also compare the direct pricing of many of the major hotel chains.
The huge variety of source prices in the HotelsCombined database means that not only can you be pretty confident of finding the best prices with minimal research, but you can also pick the best price that gets you reward points, be it Expedia+ points, frequent flyer points, or hotel rewards. HotelsCombined doesn’t list what points you can earn, but by listing so many options, you can easily see if one of your preferred booking options is the cheapest.
The other reason this variety is so helpful is that normally if you book through a booking site, you don’t get the hotels own rewards. For example, let’s say you book to stay at a Hilton hotel through Agoda. They will recognise your Hilton Honors status, but you won’t earn Honors points on the stay. Through HotelsCombined, you can quickly see if booking direct is the same price as a booking site, and click through to book direct, thus earning Honors points and quickly see if they have any extra deals. We did this with the Mercure recently and were able to add breakfast for $1 (for two people) on Mercure’s website where we would have had to pay $25 each for breakfast if we booked through Agoda for the same price. We also earned hotel points on our stay since we booked directly.
I also really like the fact that HotelsCombined is an Australian company, so using their platform is supporting Australians that are helping the rest of us get the best deal. Plus they have a great map view and pull in reviews from stacks of other sites!
My usual process when doing research is this:
- Search for hotels in the city I’ll be visiting
- Filter out all hotels that have a rating lower than a 7
- Sort the results by price (from lowest to highest so I can see the cheapest accommodation options first) and pick my favourites.
- View the results by map and see which ones are the most convenient.
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Once I know what prices and availability are like in the hotel market, we take to Airbnb. Airbnb is one of my favourite sites for accommodation, especially in areas where there are not many hotels and motels! Airbnb works similarly to Uber, allowing you to rent short-term accommodation from other people. We’ve seen all sorts of different kinds of accommodation here from houses to apartments, to individual rooms, to caravans and mobile tiny houses. Sometimes the owner might live in the house as well, and sometimes it is completely private. Some are just the basics, and others offer food and experiences as well. Every listing tells you exactly what is included and whether it is private or shared, so you can pick something that suits you.
We’ve used Airbnb extensively in Australia as well as the USA and Japan. We’ve always had brilliant experiences and particularly like it in Australia for finding pet-friendly accommodation. We also quite like the idea that we are renting from an actual person as opposed to a big company. Plus, you will often have the opportunity to talk to the owner who can give you some great tips on food and things to do (or not do) nearby!
Here my process is similar to researching hotels.
- Search for accommodation in the city I’ll be visiting
- Sort the results by price (from lowest to highest) and pick my favourites.
- View the results by map and see which ones are the most convenient.
- Decide whether to go with a hotel or Airbnb based on location, price, and amenities included. Free wifi is usually the big one here, but depending on our plans, breakfast or dinner included can also be a contributing factor.
If you’ve never signed up for Airbnb before, you can sign up using my link below and you’ll get AUD $50 off your first rental of AUD $100 or more, and I’ll get AUD $25 off my next one. It’s a win for everyone!
Agoda is my favourite hotel booking site. They generally have some of the best prices, and rather than running their own loyalty program, they have what is called PointsMAX that lets you earn frequent flyer points or miles towards your preferred airline loyalty program including Virgin Velocity and Etihad Guest. I also really like their regular deals that give you an extra discount off their list price. These come via email, via their website, and via their app, all in different values and for different locations. So it’s worth checking them out regularly when planning a trip to see if there are any coupons available for your destination. It’s also worth creating an account because they usually offer discounts for registered users and email discounts based on your search history.
On a side note, I find Agoda often has more options and the best pricing in Asian countries.
I really like Hotels.com, they have a great loyalty program that is so simple. It’s quite literally stay 10 nights and get one night free. In practice, the free night is worth the average value of the last 10 nights and can be redeemed towards the cost of a new booking. It is really easy to get to a free night, and redeeming it is easy. The only caveat’s though are that over the last two years, I’ve found their prices to typically be slightly higher than most other booking sites and their accommodation variety is a bit more limited. That said, they have a price match guarantee. All you have to do is send the address and a screenshot of a better price after placing a booking with them and they will honour it. It’s a little more effort to complete the form, but so far I’ve never had a price match request turned down.
We used to only really use Expedia to book packages. You could often get flight and accommodation packages for a really great price through them. However, since they introduced the Expedia+ loyalty program we’ve been finding them more attractive for standalone hotel bookings. The Expedia+ program claims to give you an extra discount off the advertised prices, and each completed reservation earns you 2 Expedia points per dollar spent towards your future bookings. You can use these points as a dollar amount towards accommodation and packages to part pay or entirely pay for the booking. If you reach the silver or gold tiers in a year then you get bonus points and access to extra special treatment at VIP hotels. You can sometimes earn frequent flyer miles on bookings as well, but I find this highly variable.
Booking.com is another booking site I use frequently. They don’t offer a loyalty program, but they do tend to have more capacity and hotels than other booking sites, so I often find if the hotel we really want is sold out on another site, it just might still be available through Booking.com. Their pricing is usually quite competitive as well, and while I like the loyalty programs that other sites offer, a better price is still a better price.
If you’d like to use booking.com to book your next hotel and support my blog at the same time, please use this link:
Alternatively, you can also use the search box below to begin your hotel search and support my blog. If you complete a booking, I get a small commission from Booking.com! It doesn’t cost you any extra, and it helps me to produce more great content and travel guides for you.
Entertainment Book is essentially a coupon book that is often included as a promotion or reward item with different services. For example, your first two years with Red Energy gets you access to it. There is also a constantly updated digital version of it. These coupons often include discounts at major hotel chains. However, that’s just one small part of it. Increasingly, companies are offering access to the digital version of Entertainment Book. Here you can find some great hotel discounts, particularly at premium chains. A lot of people don’t realise they have access or have forgotten about it. Make sure to always check it before you book anything. The deals that come up through here can be better than the best prices found anywhere online. You can also pay for your own membership to Entertainment Book if you wish. I get access to it through my Bartercard membership.
Typically we avoid hostels. We aren’t big on shared accommodation, but we have stayed in some private rooms before, particularly in Japan. These can be a cost-effective option if you are in dire straits, but you can often bag a bargain hotel or Airbnb for not much difference if you do your research and can perhaps compromise a little on location.
Like frequent flyer miles, hotel points let you get things for free. The more points you have, the more you can get with a free night usually being the pinnacle of your reward options. This is, of course, one of the best ways to pay since it doesn’t cost you anything. You have to spend the money staying at a hotel chain in the first place to accumulate the points though. This is part of why I like to book directly with major hotel chains wherever practical (and cost-effective). We’ve had some great stays at Rydges with free nights.
The other benefit of points is that you get other rewards at the hotels. Using Rydges as an example, you can get huge discounts at the hotel restaurant (up to 50% off food) and on regular bookings (up to 25% off plus free room upgrades). There is nothing nicer than spending a few nights in luxury after a long trip on a tight budget, except for getting it discounted and with free upgrades, or even better, not paying anything at all!
Look out for other ways to earn hotel points. Some car hire companies and credit cards let you earn points with particular hotel chains. The caveat though is that you typically have to choose between hotel points or airline miles, so pick whichever one you need the most or works out the best at the time. At different times, hotels may also run promo’s for bonus points, like the Connect and Collect campaign with Marriott Rewards at the moment offering up to 1000 points for connecting on social media.
Most of our hotel points come from staying at hotels directly.
Frequent Shopper and Frequent Flyer Points or Miles
Coles FlyBuys points can be redeemed for accommodation bookings, and most airline frequent flyer points and miles can also be redeemed for accommodation. I typically only use these options if absolutely necessary because I find you get better value using your points with your airline directly or converting your FlyBuys into dollars off your shopping. That said, they can definitely save you money on your trip if you have them to use.
I list this at the end because this is primarily business focused. However, if your business trades on Bartercard, you can find accommodation in a lot of places on it and spend your trade dollars instead of cash.
If you need a recommendation or want to chat price hacks for getting the cheapest accommodation, send me a message on Facebook or post in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you and hear your tips for getting the cheapest accommodation prices.