Holidays don’t need to break the bank. Here’s how to find the best cheap hotel deals.
Going on holiday can be a real treat, but if you’re still in the planning stages of your next trip, things can get a little stressful. Especially when you’re on a student budget!
While getting cheap flights is the first step, finding cheap hotels is another challenge. But fear not, it’s definitely possible to find great accommodation on a budget – you just need to know where to look.
Luckily, we’ve got all the tips to help you score the best hotel deals, no matter your destination.
Find last-minute hotel deals
No hotel wants to be left with empty rooms. That’s why sites like lastminte.com, Secret Escapes and Travel Zoo offer special last-minute deals for hotels that aren’t fully booked up. That way, the hotel doesn’t lose out on money by leaving rooms empty and travellers can scoop up great deals. Win-win!
However, it’s important to remember that last-minute deals aren’t always cheaper than booking hotels in advance. And since good hotels can be booked up long before you’re looking for any last-minute deals, you may miss out.
It’s always worth comparing the price of these last-minute deals to the price on the hotel’s official website or on hotel comparison websites. This brings us to the next tip…
Use hotel comparison websites
We always recommend you take some time to research whatever it is you’re buying or booking, including hotels. Doing so can help you scout out the best hotels for the best price.
This is where hotel comparison websites come in. On these sites, you can search for hotels that match your preferred price range and location. You can usually also read reviews here to see how other travellers experienced their stay.
It helps to use a couple of hotel comparison sites to find the best deals. Not all hotels are included in every hotel marketplace, and prices may differ. You can start by using a couple of the ones mentioned below:
Best hotel comparison websites
Try booking hotels directly
While using hotel comparison websites is a great way to browse through your options, it’s not always the cheapest way to book accommodation.
Comparison websites often charge a commission to the hotels for every booking made through them. So, it can sometimes work out cheaper to find the hotel’s own website to see if they charge less for the same room. It doesn’t always work, but it’s definitely worth checking.
And if the hotel’s own website charges the same (or more), you can always reach out to them and ask for a small discount if you book directly through them. If you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Be flexible to get cheaper hotel deals
Hotel prices are based on supply and demand. The more people want to stay in a specific area, the higher the price will be. That’s why it’s super important to be flexible when it comes to booking your holiday.
It’s not always possible to be flexible with dates, such as if you’re going to a specific event like a music festival, or you’ve already booked your flights for specific dates. However, if you can shop around for different days, you might be able to save money on a hotel.
It’s best to avoid weekends and school holidays, as those are the busiest times.
Use hotel loyalty programs
At Save the Student, we love a good loyalty program. And luckily, there are quite a few good ones out there for free or cheap hotels:
- Booking.com – With the Booking.com Genius program, you can get between 10% – 20% discount on certain stays (depending on your loyalty level), along with free breakfast, free room upgrades and more.
- Hotels.com – For every 10 nights you stay, you get one for free. There are also special savings for members of the loyalty program.
- Expedia – Unlock special member savings (10% or more) on certain hotels. Plus, you can collect points which are redeemable for extra savings on eligible trips.
Or, if you stay with the same hotel chain often, check if they offer a rewards program. For example, with Best Western Rewards, you can earn points for spending money with them. And Marriott Rewards gives you a special members rate after a certain number of stays, along with extra freebies.
And if you have a Tesco Clubcard, keep in mind that you can exchange them for Hotels.com vouchers too!
Check what’s included in the hotel price
When you find a hotel, make sure you check what’s actually included in the price before you book it. You don’t want to get there, only to find you need to fork out for additional services like breakfast, airport transfer, laundry or other amenities.
You may not need all of these, so see if you can book the room for less without access to unnecessary extras. For example, hotel breakfast is usually quite overpriced. You can often get a much nicer (and cheaper!) breakfast in a nearby cafe.
Also, check whether the room comes with a cancellation policy. On sites like Booking.com, you’re often able to get a discount if you book a non-refundable room. However, it’s pretty risky to do so as you’ll lose all the money if you end up not being able to go.
Rebook the room if the price drops
Have you booked a hotel, but since seen it has dropped in price on the same site? If you have a free cancellation policy, you can cancel and rebook it for the cheaper price.
However, always read the terms and conditions before you cancel your existing booking. Make sure your cancellation is actually free to avoid any charges. Also, bear in mind that you may have to wait a few days (or weeks) to get a refund if you’ve already paid for the hotel.
If you’re booking a hotel in a different currency, make sure to keep an eye on the exchange rate. If it’s changed dramatically since you last booked your room, it can end up being more expensive in pounds.
Check the hotel price guarantee
If you find the same room advertised for cheaper on a different site after booking, it’s still possible to get some money back – even if your room is non-refundable.
Some platforms offer a hotel price guarantee:
- Booking.com – If you find the same room cheaper elsewhere up to 24 hours before check-in, they will refund you the difference.
- Hotels.com – You can rebook the hotel if your booking is refundable. If your booking isn’t refundable, they will give you a voucher that covers the difference which you can use for future Hotels.com bookings.
- Ebookers – They will refund you the difference if you find a cheaper price up to 48 hours before check-in.
- HotelsCombined – If you find a better price elsewhere, they will refund you the difference. But you only have 24 hours after making your booking to do so.
Book cheap hotels through cashback sites
Another classic way to save money on pretty anything: cashback sites. If you go through one of these sites before booking your cheap hotels, you can get a percentage of your booking back.
At the time of writing, Quidco gives you up to 10% on Hotels.com and Expedia. And TopCashback offers up to 3% on Booking.com and up to 8.4% on Agoda. Just a few extra clicks and you can essentially get a discounted hotel room!
Check our in-depth guide to using cashback sites for more information.
Browse incognito when booking hotels
Since hotel prices change depending on demand, marketplaces may show a higher price when they know you’ve been searching for other hotels in the same area.
Similar to when booking cheap flights, it’s a good idea to clear your browsing history before making your booking. You can also use an incognito browser for the same effect.
When doing this, you essentially delete any additional information the booking site has on you. That way, the prices won’t be affected by your search history.
Check mobile-only prices for cheaper hotel deals
As well as changing depending on your browsing history, hotel prices can even be different on another device. If you’re planning to book a hotel through Booking.com, make sure you also check the price on their mobile app – some places offer 10% or higher discounts for booking on your phone.
Booking.com says that because over half of their bookings are made on a mobile device, offering a mobile rate can help property owners to make more bookings. And we’re not complaining, especially if we can get that extra discount!
Compare hotel prices with package trips
You may think that putting a DIY holiday package together is the best way to save money on your vacation. But this isn’t always true.
As holiday providers get huge discounts on flights and hotels, it’s possible that it works out cheaper to buy a package trip. Obviously, this very much depends on your own preferences, the destination you’d like to visit and what’s on offer. But it’s worth comparing the prices before you go ahead and book flights and hotels separately.
Use your student discount on hotel rooms
One of the biggest perks of student life is being able to use your student discount pretty much anywhere – even when it comes to finding hotel deals!
On Hotels.com and Expedia, students can get a 10% discount on hotel stays. Then there are individual chains, like IHG Hotels & Resorts (15% discount), that also offer students a price cut. Wherever you’re planning to stay, asking them if they offer student discount is never a bad idea – you may be surprised.
Check for hotel discounts and deals
Like any product or service, hotels often have flash sales and other special deals. The best way to keep up with it is by following chains or marketplaces on social media or signing up for their newsletter. There are also countless travel bloggers and influencers who focus on finding the very best hotel deals for their audiences, so make sure you follow some that you like.
And don’t forget to check out our travel deal page and sign up for our weekly newsletter. Whenever we come across a great deal, we’ll be sure to add it.
Alternatively, keep an eye on daily deal sites like Groupon or GoGroopie – you’d be surprised at how many hotel deals you’ll be able to find.
Look for special opening rates
When a hotel has only just opened, it may offer a special opening rate. It’s a way for them to still get guests without having built up a reputation or received reviews yet. The discounts can be as much as 50% off the regular room rate, so look out for these.
Websites such as Hotel News Resource and Hotel Designs often report on new hotels. See if they have news on hotels in your holiday destination and if there are any special rates going. If none are advertised, it’s worth contacting the hotel to see if they will offer you a special opening rate anyway.
Pay for hotels on a credit card
If you have a credit card, you may want to consider paying for your hotels with it.
Credit cards can offer extra protection on purchases over £100. If your accommodation costs more than that, your credit card will protect you if the hotel goes bust, for example.
We’ve got more information about this in our guide to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Don’t just take out a credit card for this reason though. Before deciding if it’s the right choice for you, check out our guide to the best credit cards for students. We go over all the risks you need to be aware of.
Book a larger accommodation for a group
The price of multiple hotel rooms can quickly add up if you’re travelling with a larger group of friends.
Instead, check Airbnb for a larger accommodation and split the cost – it can save you a lot of money. If you do find a good place to stay on there, you can even try to haggle with the owner to get the price down further.
Another option is to look at hotel comparison sites to see if they offer any larger apartments or houses.
Consider staying in a hostel
While they’re not as flashy as hotels, hostels are usually much, much cheaper. Plus, they’re a great way to make new friends while travelling. Despite the horror stories you may have heard, hostels are generally safe and clean.
You can start by checking comparison sites like HostelWorld and YHA. And as we’d suggested earlier with hotels, once you’ve found a hostel you like the look of, check its own site to compare the prices. It’s possible you can find even better deals when booking direct.
If sharing a room with a handful of strangers isn’t your thing, hostels can still offer a cheap accommodation option. Some hostels have private rooms (sometimes, you will still have to share a bathroom, but not always!) and they’re usually a lot cheaper than hotel rooms in the same area.
Try couch surfing or housesitting
The best way to save money on hotels is to not pay anything, right? That’s the ultimate money-saving hack. And there are a few ways to do this, including:
- Couch surfing – On this site, people advertise their homes for people to stay in. It’s a great way to make new friends all across the world and save on hotel costs.
- Trusted Housesitters – Here, you can find homeowners who need someone to watch their house (or their pet) in exchange for free accommodation. While there is a listing fee of £99/year, you can easily make that back in free accommodation in a couple of nights.
- Volunteering – It’s also possible to get free accommodation when signing up for a volunteering programme abroad. Organisations like Worldpackers and HelpX specialise in helping travellers find exciting opportunities. When planning to volunteer abroad, be aware of the dangers of voluntourism. Before signing up, make sure you have the required skills to make a long-term and beneficial impact – we have more info in our volunteering guide.