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I have been thinking a lot about how the usual process of searching, finding and booking cheap and reliable hotels is a constant pain in the *insert your own word*. Through a series of travel related posts, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite booking channels and strategies that have made my long-term travel not only affordable but also extremely comfortable. In this post, I will share with you how I book cheap hotels and travel on a budget without having to quit my job or my regular life. I’ve also added some special tips which have helped me book cheap hotels and maximize my budget.
***TRAVEL WITHIN PLANET EARTH***
My absolute favourite accommodation provider. I’ve personally had the pleasure of both staying as a guest and hosting guests and can safely say, this is the best way to experience and really immerse yourself in the local landscape. From cute farmhouses, to private rooms in larger apartments to luxurious guest-houses or hotels, one can find pretty much everything they need.
For Airbnb owners and hosts alike, reviews are gold so make sure you send across good reviews as often as you’d like to receive them. If you’re a solo traveler, and plan to visit Nuremberg or the neighbouring region, feel free to book a room in my apartment.
Special Tip: Instead of the “Request to Book” option click on “Contact Host” where you can send the host a message asking for a personal request or a special discount if you plan to stay long. This especially works when your date of expected booking is right around the corner. The host can then send you a special offer. I’ve done this for many a guests, so I am sure many other hosts would do too. No host wants their property to go vacant.
If you are traveling with a partner and/or your family and would like to explore regular hotels with their corresponding reviews, look no further than booking.com. I have stayed in amazing luxury and budget properties and given that they are pretty much the largest travel accommodation provider in the world, you do not need to have the FOMO. Many hotels and guest houses will allow you to book without a credit card, and for many poor students who travel the world on a tight budget this is a massive advantage compared to Airbnb where your credit card is pretty much locked with the booking amount as soon as you send the request. If you prefer to pay by cash, on the go, booking is the best site for look for hotels worldwide.
Special Tip: When booking a place in a new country that requires a visa, make sure you book a place without a credit card reservation or with ‘Free Cancellation’ option. You want to leave enough leverage for thing such as visa rejection, flight delays and/or last minute trip changes. If possible, always book a room with ‘Free Cancellation’.
Booking.com’s counterpart and a tough competitor is Expedia. The variety of listings is pretty much the same on both these channels. I personally usually do a quick comparison between both these channels to find the same hotel on a discount or a special deal and then book whatever is the cheapest. Headquartered in US, Expedia’s advantage definitely lies in providing a greater selection of properties in the North America region, whereas Booking being headquartered in Amsterdam has a distinct advantage in Europe.
***TRAVEL WITHIN INDIA***
Whilst I strongly recommend the above three for booking cheap hotels for global travel, when I am bouncing around India, I have a clear and separate list. I usually check across the biggest and most comprehensive portals such as Cleartrip, Hotels.com and Yatra.com.
If you’re looking for small personal home-stays especially in remote corners of India, I found GuestHouser to be amazing for finding properties that were not listed on any other platform.
Special Tip: Within India, depending on your bank account and related debit/credit card, you may be able to avail special deals. I always ignored my credit card newsletter until I accidentally saw it one day and found out all of their partner programs. Ranging from cash-backs, to flat discounts on a number of travel related options, make sure to keep this in mind when you finally book a place.
Recap: How to Book Cheap Hotels
Check at least 2 or 3 search platforms to book hotels such as Booking, Expedia, Hotels etc. and find out the best reviewed hotels on each platform based on your search filters and preferences. Look for accompanying credit card or debit card offers.
Hotel room prices in popular travel destinations do not fluctuate in general as much as flight prices, so I wouldn’t spend more than one hour on this activity altogether. If you plan to stay at a high-end, boutique or luxury hotel for an extended period of time, call them up and ask for a price quote directly. Budget or mid-range hotels will already be discounted(owing to steep competition), and calling them would not change much.
Check for special combination deals on holiday booking websites such as SOTC Holidays or Thomas Cook. Many a times, you’ll find great deals on excellent hotels along with guided tours that would cost a bomb to cover individually. Plus the added pain, of planning your own itinerary which definitely is the more complicated element of planning a trip.
Once you have searched for cheap hotels on the internet with the best accommodation providers, convinced with your choice, go ahead and book your stay at least a few months before your expected travel date.
General Travel Tips
- A time-frame of about 2 months before you actually plan to travel is the best time to get great deals on hotels. If you plan to travel during a carnival, festival or to a unique heritage site that will be more crowded than an average place, I’d say 4-6 months in advance would be a good time-frame to start planning and/or booking. You can book special Cultural Tours and Trips here.
- Book guided tours when you feel like there is way too much to see and way too little time. When visiting a country or a continent for the first time, it is always a good idea to ease your way into it. For this, I recommend TourRadar.
- Check out offers for hotels, flights or all inclusive on industry leading flash deal websites such as Lastminute.com.
- Look for free airport lounge offers or deals on your credit card as well. There is nothing better than having a 6 hour layover in the middle of nowhere, and having a comfortable couch, shower, TV, Wifi, fresh food and drinks to kill your time with, especially when it’s free. I’m a member of Priority Pass Airpot Lounges.
- Finally, don’t forget to Get Travel Insurance, especially when you travel to a new country. Anything can happen at any moment and you’re better off being secure in the knowledge that you will be reimbursed for your accidental losses. Save money where you can, but not when it goes into saving your life in case of an emergency or accident.
With that said, I hope this post will help you search and book cheap hotels for your next trip.
If you’re not a hotel person and prefer to book hostels instead, read here my strategy for booking the best backpacking hostels!