Accommodation forms a significant part of the total budget for any trip and if that can be entirely slashed off or at least minimized, it could save you a fortune. There are so many options available in accommodation today and rather more options to book them, the key to finding the best deal is this post.
Also Read: How to Find Cheap Flights
Here are some of the ultimate hotel hacks and ways to find free or the cheapest accommodation:
There isn’t a better place to stay for free than someone’s home. Getting hosted by a local in the place you are travelling has a lot of advantages; you’re not only getting a place to stay for free but also a free local guide, a free and ‘local’ cultural experience and possibly a friendship for life. On the contrary there are associated risks as well; you are going to stay with a stranger in his house and in his city. God forbid he turns out to be lunatic or criminal, let alone other smaller issues that you may face. This is why it is really important to find a host via trusted mediators or service providers who have a well established original review and rating system in place.
Couchsurfing is one such service with a big community where you can find free accommodation. It offers various levels of verification and allow users to rate and leave comments on people’s profile. Couchsurfing has a feature in which one can get a ‘verified’ tag for lifetime by verifying their ID, phone number and address along with one time fee of $60 USD.
What you should look while finding a host on couchsurfing:
- Ensure that the host’s profile is complete along with a picture. It’s a sign of how active and interested the host is.
- Ensure that the person has a few reviews. The fact that he has hosted people before, addresses the security concerns and reviews tell you more about the person.
- Verified tag does not ensure a good experience. Do not give it too much importance to it but yes it is a plus one.
- Talk to the host via mail, message or phone before visiting. If you feel something’s fishy, find another host.
2. Stay in a Monastery
Another place where you can stay for free is a monastery. It is going to be a unique experience and a peaceful one. However, it is not going to be very comfortable stay because rooms in most monasteries contain only a bed and a desk and you’ll only get simple meals prepared by the monks and nuns. Also, most of the monasteries have curfews as well.
All monasteries are not free; some will charge you while others will simply ask for donations. Additionally, you’ll find them only at a limited number of locations. You can use Monasterystays.com to find and book monasteries.
3. Stay in Hostels
Hostels are a great option for budget travelers. In Hostels you’ll find dormitory-style rooms having anywhere between 4 to 18 beds. However, they do also have a few private rooms. Hotels have all the basic facilities including shared bathrooms, kitchens (if available), Wi-Fi, lockers, bar, tour desks, common areas, etc.
Hostels are a great way to socialize with travelers and make new friends from around the world. Also, if you’re a solo-traveler you can always find company here.
Various Hostels are designed to cater to people with a particular age group or need or interest. Like many hostels focus on young people while others on older people, some cater to people looking for parties, others to people looking for a peaceful stay. Many hostels also provide co-working spaces for business travelers.
A new genre of ‘Party Hostels’ is emerging where fun events, games, parties, contests, etc are going on all the time. You can have fun pretty much 24X7 at these places. Hostels are safe, secure and cheap.
The best websites to find hostels are Hostelworld.com and Hostelbookers.com
4. Volunteer and Earn a Free Stay
Working/ Volunteering especially if you are staying in one place for long is a great way to earn yourself a free accommodation. There are two different places where you can volunteer very much different from one-another each offering a very unique experience.
- Stay on a Farm: Become a WWOOFer. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is a loose network of national organizations that facilitate home-stays on organic farms. This will give you an offbeat experience you’ll remember for life much more than just providing you free accommodation.
- Volunteer at a Hostel: Hostels throughout the world offers volunteering opportunities in exchange for a few hours of work. In fact, at some party hostels you one of the parameters of selection is the amount of booze you can take. It is like icing on the cake; free accommodation and free alcohol.
5. Stay in an AirBnB
Furnished apartments are actually much cheaper than hotels and provide many more amenities. You’ll get the comfort of a home while travelling. Another great thing is that you can cook rather than eat out and save a good amount of money.
AirBnB: Sign up using this link to get Rs.3,000 off on first trip – click here.
An Airbnb is a perfect middle ground between hostels and hotels. You get a peaceful, comfortable and a cheap accommodation away from rush and chaos.
6. Sign in before Booking and Use Apps
Many online booking websites have programs for rewarding and offering bigger discounts to members. So, a one-minute sign up can save you a few bucks for the same hotel. Similarly, few companies offer app-only discounts which are not available on their websites.
If your inbox is already flooded with e-mails and you don’t want any more of them, you should still sign-up and unsubscribe from newsletters after your booking is complete. Same goes for apps, you can uninstall them once you’re done with the booking.
A few companies that take advantage of members-only rewards programs include: Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com and Agoda.
7. Go Incognito
Websites save cookies in your browser and tend to earn more by reading the user behavior. For eg: if you’re looking for a property again and again they may show inflated rates to trick the user and create urgency. The solution to this is to use incognito mode (in Google Chrome) or identical private modes on other browsers.
8. Use the Cheapest Hotel Comparison Site:
There is no one hotel search engine that will give you the cheapest price always. While searching for accommodation online, compare prices on all major travel websites. Often you may find a significant different in prices for the same room in the same hotel.
In my experience, 70 percent of the time MakeMyTrip offers the best price for hotels in India and in South-East Asia. In S-E Asia, Agoda also offers very competitive prices and sometimes beats MMT. However, Booking.com is the best website for the western countries and has a worldwide presence. Hostelworld is my go to platform to book Hostels.
9. Book, Cancel and Book Again
Many websites offer multiple booking options for same property; they charge less for a non-refundable booking than a booking with free cancellation (100% refunds on cancellation). On top of it, the prices vary with time, generally they increase as the booking date approaches but this is not necessary. Surprisingly, sometimes prices fall as well.
It is always better to book with a free cancellation ahead of time because you never know; you might have to change plans. Here, mind the “free Cancellation policy” as they vary a lot from property to property (e.g. sometimes it’s only free cancellation until 48 hours before the booking date) and note the last day for free cancellation.
Keep on checking the price, if it decreases cancel your current booking and book again. And then on the last day of free cancellation if you are getting a better price for a non-refundable booking cancel your current booking and book again.
10. Use Coupon Codes
Find a coupon code or a card offer to be applied in checkout while booking to further slash a part of the price. These days few good websites apply the best coupons automatically at checkout but this isn’t the case with all websites. A lot of them still do not show their coupon codes that openly or display offers at less convenient places.
Most people do not want to get into this hassle of finding coupons, since more than eighty percent of the coupon codes we find on popular coupon sites like Coupons.com and Groupon do not actually work.
I have a solution that will automatically find coupons and apply them at the click of a mouse. I recommend you to add this Google Chrome Extension from Shopper.com and it will do the job of finding best coupons for you. The extension icon will appear on the top right corner next to the web address field on your google chrome browser. All you have to do is to click on this icon when you are on the checkout page of any online e-commerce site. This solution will not save you money every time you make an online purchase but at times it will. It has saved me some decent money on travel and shopping websites. Click here to add the extension.
11. Hotel Reward Points
Almost every major hotel chain has a rewards program, use such programs to earn reward points that you can redeem for free hotel stays. And the best part is you don’t have to spend money to earn those points, sign up for a hotel credit card and get lots of bonus points, you may have to make a purchase or two and viola! Redeem them to get free stay.
Booking sites have their reward loyalty programs too. The advantage with earning points on a booking site is that you have a lot of options to choose from, you can stay at any hotel of your choice, you’re not just limited to one hotel chain.
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Happy Travelling !!