Many cruise vacationers book hotels in conjunction with their vacation plans. These days, it's often smart to arrive in your departure city a day before your cruise to eliminate worries and snafus caused by transportation delays. Spending several days enjoying the city after your cruise can also be an additional benefit.
Some travelers avoid staying overnight at their departure port due to high hotel costs, however. If you're thinking about staying in a hotel as part of your next vacation, here are ten insider tips to help save money on hotel bookings:
1. Score Unpublished Rates. There are numerous hotel booking sites on the Internet promising great prices. Review the rates at Expedia.com, Travelocity.com, Booking.com, Trivago.com, Kayak.com and others and then head to GetaRoom.com to check out their deals. The advantage to this site is that better rates are often available by phone, particularly at the last minute. Call their toll free number to see if you can get a low price on a quality hotel in your departure city.
2. Bid for Travel Using Insider Information. Many travelers use online sites like Hotwire and Priceline to bid for and purchase travel at low cost. Savings on hotel can be quite substantial, with room rates sometimes as much as 60% off. It can be disconcerting to think of buying a hotel room on these kinds of opaque bidding sites, however, since the name of the hotel is not revealed until after the room has been successfully purchased. If you’re considering bidding on your hotel room on Hotwire or Priceline, check out sites like BiddingforTravel.com, BetterBidding.com and BiddingTraveler.com. These sites use information obtained by previous bidders to help identify the likely hotel names as well as successful bidding strategies. Families and those requiring special arrangements should be careful, however, as bed types and other amenities cannot be guaranteed.
3. Play Your Cards Wisely. Membership in clubs such as AAA, AARP, Costco and Sam’s Club can generate substantial savings on hotel room rates. Make sure to inquire about reduced rates and remember to bring your card along with you to the hotel.
4. Save With A Cruise Package. Many hotels located in U.S. and Canadian homeport cities offer packages for guests wishing to arrive the night before their cruise. While the room rates are often attractive, another money-saving aspect of these packages is free parking for those driving to their cruise vacation as well as complimentary shuttle service to and from the cruise pier.
5. Be Social. Some hotels offer special rates via Facebook and Twitter, so make sure to follow your favorites on social media. You may also find great local deals by searching using the name of your destination and the “hotel deals” search term. Cruise lines occasionally offer low social media rates as well.
6. Get On The List. Join hotel guest loyalty programs and sign up for their newsletters. There’s absolutely no cost to join and the benefits can be substantial. Hotel chains often sent out e-mail newsletters with special savings offers. In addition, membership in hotel guest loyalty programs can often come with additional special perks such as free Internet, room upgrades, continental breakfast, late checkouts, and other amenities.
7. Skip the Hotel Entirely. If you need a room for two or more nights, consider bypassing hotels entirely and stay in a condominium, villa or other type of private accommodation. Rates for these properties can sometimes be 40-50% less than those charged by nearby hotels. Check out sites like HomeAway.com, VRBO.com, airbnb.com, FlipKey.com and others.
8. Go Local for Deals. Research your city or destination online and scout for savings on hotels, restaurants and attractions. Check out local versions of Groupon and LivingSocial as well as regional papers and their online sites. Entertainment books can sometimes be helpful for hotel deals as well.
9. Use a Travel Agent. Travel agents can often help you find excellent hotel deals and evaluate packages. They can also be aware of unique money-saving strategies, like staying across the river in cities like New York. More importantly, a good travel agent can match the right options with your needs and help you plan the best travel experience for your family.
10. Get the Code. Hotels sometimes offer special booking codes for great deals. Check out sites like RetailMeNot.com, CouponHeaven.com, and Orbitz.com to see what's available.
If you're making a same day reservation, check out HotelTonight.com and Booking.com for low rates. These sites are good tools for vacationers who change their plans or for those who are playing the last-minute vacancy game in hopes of getting an exceptionally low rate. Although it's a risky strategy, the deals can be superb. Mobile apps for both are available as well.