Personal Finance

How To Get A Free Room Anywhere

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 8 minute read

ValuePenguin reports that hotels account for about 21% of the typical traveler’s foreign expenditure and 26% of their typical domestic budget. For those who choose for paid lodgings, this equates to an annual average cost of $2,158.

I was pleasantly delighted to go through ValuePenguin’s research and find out that just 42% of tourists who were questioned reported ever having to pay for housing. About half of all tourists stayed for free, either with acquaintances or someone they had already screened.

You can cut your accommodation costs significantly in any location, even if you don’t have a worldwide network of relatives and friends who are prepared to put you up for the night. Here, we’ll outline the greatest methods and most reliable strategies for locating inexpensive:

  • Hotels, hostels, house swaps, and short-term rentals Campgrounds

How to Find Low-Cost Hotels

  1. Make use of booking websites to get a sense of the terrain.

Go to a few internet booking sites to get a feel for the market after you know when you want to vacation and where. A few of the most popular hotel choices are:

  • Hotels.com
  • Kayak.com
  • Booking.com
  • Hotwire.com
  • Expedia
  • Trivago.com

There are many more, and some specialized ones are shown below. The options presented by dozens or even hundreds of separate booking sites can be overwhelming, which is why aggregator sites like Kayak and Trivago are so useful.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s not necessary to use a booking service like this, and in fact, you definitely shouldn’t on your initial search. You’re still doing research right now.

  1. Set Price Alerts Ahead of Time

The next step is to use every available booking site’s price alert feature to keep tabs on the various date and location combinations you’re interested in. A few warnings per combination every week is typical for legitimate booking and aggregator sites, so the increased email flow shouldn’t be too much to handle.

It’s important to remember to check the promotions tab of your email client on a frequent basis. Instead of utilizing in-app or push alerts, try using a mobile app.

  1. Discover Pricing Trends in Your Destination

In order to familiarize yourself with the weekly and seasonal pricing patterns in your location, you should use booking services and reliable travel publications, such as Lonely Planet and Fodor’s. The sometimes-huge difference in hotel rates between the weekdays and the weekends is a major cause for alarm.

Hotels in New York and Washington, DC, which are frequented by many business visitors, often cost more during the week than those in Orlando and Miami, which are more popular with vacationers.

Factors such as the season should not be disregarded. Off-season hotel rates are typically much lower (by 50 percent or more) in seasonal destinations than they are during the peak travel season. You may save a lot of money on your hotel by visiting around the middle of June, when temperatures in Phoenix are in the high 30s and the rainy season has not yet begun in Costa Rica.

  1. Travel Saturday Through Monday

When visiting a city like Boston, which draws visitors for both business and pleasure, it pays off to skip Friday night. Friday afternoons and evenings see a large influx of vacationers, while other business visitors choose to spend their well-deserved night off in a strange city. Their replacements don’t start trickling in until Monday AM, long after weekend visitors have left.

  1. Take a look around the city center.

Don’t waste money on a posh hotel if you’re cheap. Hotels in the heart of the city often cost more than those on the outskirts of town.

The contrast is often striking in big urban centers. Some friends and I visited Barcelona many years ago, and by staying in a simple budget hotel approximately ten or twelve metro stations off of the major tourist district, we were able to save about $50 per night. My guess is that we might get an even better price now, in this era of advanced travel booking platforms.

  1. However, remember to account for transportation costs and lost travel time.

However, there are situations in which continuing to reside in such outlying areas is the most cost-effective choice. Traveling to and from centrally situated sights can be expensive and time consuming, so be sure to plan accordingly, especially if your home base isn’t well-served by affordable public transit.

The cost of getting to and from the city center, especially using private transportation like taxis or rideshares, is higher for those staying in outlying areas.

  1. Use a Cash-Back Website or a Plug-In

Visit your preferred cash-back website or install a cash-back plug-in before making a booking through a booking website or aggregator. You may earn affiliate income from booking websites ranging from four percent to fifteen percent, which can have a significant impact on the total cost of your trip.

You may usually get your cash back in the form of a simple cash refund from cash-back plugins and websites. Amazon gift cards and other monetary alternatives are offered by some. Rakuten and Giving Assistant are two of the most widely used extensions.

If your credit is good, you may want to supplement your cash-back add-on with a credit card that offers cash back on purchases at a rate of one to two percent. We have compiled a list of the top cash-back credit cards available if you need some inspiration.

  1. Directly Negotiate With the Hotel

Be wary of putting all your trust on a single aggregator. You shouldn’t make any online reservations until you’ve tried this.

When you’ve narrowed down your hotel choices based on user ratings on prominent booking sites, it’s time to phone each one individually to see if you can negotiate a lower rate than what’s listed on the hotel’s website. This kind is common since it eliminates the need for a third party (the aggregator) and guarantees that the hotel will not incur any additional costs as a result of participating in the relevant marketplaces.

As opposed to showrooming, in which shoppers window shop at physical stores in search of a good deal before making purchases online from a discount retailer, showrooming involves the opposite strategy.

  1. Look for coupon codes and limited-time offers.

Discounts and time-sensitive offers abound in the tourism industry. Most hotels offer discounts of 10% or more off the published rate if you are flexible with your trip dates and locations and aren’t finicky about the hotel chain or area.

You may also subscribe to newsletters, social media feeds, and travel deal-specific websites. Hotelcoupons.com and Smarter Travel are two of my favorite aggregators of “hand-picked” discounts.

Remember that this strategy works best with smaller hotel chains and individual establishments, and not with the likes of Marriott and Hilton. Some of these conditions may include a minimum stay duration or savings accumulation limits.

  1. Take Advantage of Membership Discounts

Discounts are available to members of national organizations like AAA and AARP at hundreds of upscale hotels across the United States and Canada.

Savings like this can be anywhere from five to fifteen percent, depending on the hotel, its name brand, and the organization with which it is affiliated. They are useful since coupons offered by aggregators seldom apply to well-known hotel chains.

It’s important to keep this in mind if you’re just interested in staying at recognizable hotel chains. Also, there are many other advantages of joining an organization. As an example, if you enjoy road trips, the free roadside assistance offered by AAA is bound to come in helpful at some time. The yearly AAA membership price ranges from around $60 to approximately $130, depending on tier and chapter, but with only one free tow and a couple of reduced hotel stays, you can easily break even.

How to Find Low-Cost Hostels

  1. Stick to the Fundamentals

A hostel is not the place to stay if you expect to be treated like a queen. If you’re traveling to a new place and on a tight budget, a hostel is a great option. Beds at basic hostels seldom cost more than $30 or $40 per night, even in prime areas of costly cities like London and Paris, which may cost upwards of $300 per night for a two-star hotel room.

Don’t stay at a hostel just because it has a lot of extras. Having a swimming pool or sauna on site is nice, but not necessary.

You should know the specifics of the situation before jumping in. The sole amenity offered by some of the cheapest hostels is a place to sleep. The hosts will just supply the basics and expect guests to bring or pay for the rest. If you have questions that aren’t answered on the reservation page, feel free to contact and ask. (Make calls abroad with a VOIP service like WhatsApp or Skype.)

  1. Accept a Shared Room

One more time: hostels aren’t supposed to be five-star hotels. I recommend staying in a hostel dorm if you’re looking to save money and don’t mind sharing a room with others. You may save as much as 80% compared to the price of a private room, which may or may not come with its own bathroom.

Safety is a concern, yes. Secure lockers are worth the monthly rental price if your hostel has them; the cost of a private, locked room would be far more. You may reduce your risk of sexual assault by traveling with a buddy and learning about local public safety resources before you go.

Oh, and remember to get yourself set up for a situation in which you won’t have total say. To block out late-night light and noise, bring an eye mask and earplugs.

  1. Consider Thinking Outside the Box

Some places call themselves “hostels,” yet they aren’t much more than a moniker. Staying with a religious order is an alternative to the typical urban hostel or a great option if you’re going to visit rural locations with a dearth of regular hostels.

Staying here won’t need any sort of religious belief on your part. Although attendance at religious services may be required in some monasteries and convents, this is usually not the case.

You may find convents and monasteries anywhere, from quaint European towns to leafy American suburbia. U.S. monasteries and convents that welcome visitors are included in an informative article by the Hartford Courant. A beginner’s guide to Europe is available in today’s issue of USA Today. There are a lot of monasteries throughout Italy, and you may find some of them listed on the website Monastery Stays.

Put away any preconceived notions you may have had about religious institutions. It goes without saying that monasteries and convents are places where caution and humility are the order of the day. Although some monks do make their own beer, you shouldn’t expect crazy celebrations every night.

And be available to help out with things like cleaning, gardening, and schlepping if asked. Your hosts may be willing to put up with you for far less than the cost of a comparable hotel room, but they may also require you to pitch in with certain chores.

Bottom Line

With good application, you may cut the cost of housing on your next trip by using any of the aforementioned methods.

These aren’t the only certain methods to save money on lodging, though. An approach that I strongly support, but which does not fall into any of the four categories of this guidance, is to plan long-distance travel during the night, when the cost of your lodging is roughly equivalent to that of your plane ticket.

Any transoceanic flight is likely to occur throughout the night if you’re going to another continent. Once you’re in the nation, you may do the math to see if it’s worth it to spend eight hours in a train or bus seat instead of a hostel or hotel.

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