When planning a trip, you might think your hotel doesn’t matter since you’ll probably just be there to sleep after a day full of fun. But there’s nothing better than staying somewhere with an amazing ambiance and luxurious amenities to make your stay that much more special. Unfortunately, those types of hotels can be a bit pricey, so knowing how to get cheap hotels that don’t skimp on quality is the ultimate travel hack.
We’ve been helping members book hotels for over 100 years. We’ve compiled our knowledge on the cheapest ways to book hotels in the 26 hacks below so you can put more of your budget toward dining and attractions for your trip.
1. Book the Hotel Directly
Try booking directly through the hotel rather than through a booking site. Some hotels may not appear on booking sites — and if they do, you may end up paying additional fees to the booking site.
You can also try calling the hotel to ask for a lower rate, but most of the larger chain hotels will transfer you straight to their reservation line, which uses the same website you'll use to book a room.
2. Bundle Your Hotel With Your Flight and Rental Car
Some trips only require a hotel room, but others require additional travel add-ons, like a flight or a rental car. If you need more than one element for your trip, bundling everything together can save you money.
Booking websites are great at this, but you can also explore vacation packages from travel agents, membership programs and other outlets. Save even more when you rent a car with one of AAA's car rental partners.
3. Sign Up for Loyalty Programs
If you travel frequently, consider signing up for loyalty programs for your favorite hotel chain or booking website. Some loyalty programs involve special membership offers and discounts — you may also earn points towards discounted stays, upgrades or future bookings.
Be aware that some loyalty programs won’t let you apply other discounts if you want your rewards or have limits on when you stay or what types of rooms you can stay in. If you stay at one of our preferred hotels, that won’t be a problem — you can use your AAA membership for lower rates and get extra loyalty points at the same time.
4. Use Discounted Gift Cards
This hack requires a bit more planning than others, but it’s worth it.
Some warehouse stores frequently run gift card promotions where you can buy gift cards and save 5% on your purchase. That means you can buy $100 worth of gift cards for $95, which you can then redeem to pay for your hotel stay. Basically, you'll save $5 for every $100 you buy in gift cards.
Let’s say the bill for your hotel stay is $500. If you used $500 worth of gift cards and saved 5% when you purchased them, you would have spent $480 on them and still paid off the $500 hotel stay, saving you $20.
This hack works for any major travel purchase, like tickets to Walt Disney World, and it can be a huge money saver!
5. Open the Hotel’s Credit Card
Many hotels offer credit cards with rewards. You can only use some of these at the hotel itself, while you can use others on purchases anywhere you use a credit card. Guests can redeem points for free stays, upgraded amenities and more.
6. Compare Prices Across Sites
There’s a lot of differentiation in hotel prices, so if you put in the time to compare prices across sites, you can find cheaper rates. However, keep in mind that comparing every travel site on the internet is a rabbit hole that you may never come out of. Put a time limit on your search or limit comparing to only a few sites.
7. Use Incognito Mode
Website cookies make many things easier online, but they can also make your hotel rooms more expensive. Cookies stored on your computer can tell a hotel or booking website that you’ve been researching your trip, so the site may raise the prices they display. In their minds, someone researching is more likely to take the trip, and someone who has already made up their mind to go is likely to pay more.
To avoid this, use your browser’s incognito mode when researching and booking hotels (or flights, for that matter). Incognito mode does not store cookies, so the website is more likely to show you lower prices.
8. Stay Midweek Instead of Weekends
No matter where you live, people generally work or attend school Monday through Friday. As a result, most people book over weekends to minimize the days they miss work or take their kids out of school. This creates a higher demand on the weekend, raising hotel prices.
If you can, book your trip during the week rather than a weekend to get a lower rate. More rooms will be available and hotels will be more open to lower rates to fill vacant rooms.
9. Book Your Stay During the Offseason
Some travel is tied to a specific time — you visit your family at the holidays, you go Universal Studios when the kids are out of school, you head to New York to see your favorite Broadway show — but if you have some flexibility, it pays to book a hotel stay during the off seasons.
Check the local calendar before booking your trip, too. Local events like concerts, state fairs or festivals can increase hotel demands. Avoid booking your trip during those events to save a bit of money.
10. Negotiate Your Rate
If you are a frequent guest at a hotel — or if you need to reserve a block of rooms for an event like a wedding — you may be able to negotiate your rate if you call and talk to a representative. Keep in mind that you may have better luck negotiating for free upgrades instead of a lower rate overall.
11. Search for Coupon Codes
Search the web for coupon codes before you finalize your reservation. You can use a browser extension to do this automatically for you. You also can search for it yourself by typing the hotel, the word “coupon,” and your current month and year to weed out expired codes.
12. Stay in a Business Hotel Instead of a Resort
The two main reasons people travel are business and pleasure, and they tend to stay at different hotels. Business hotels have fewer amenities like spas but still provide a room. As a result, their rates tend to be a little cheaper — unless there’s a convention going on that week and demand for a room is high.
If you aren’t looking for many amenities and you’re open to staying in a business area rather than a tourist neighborhood, consider staying at a business hotel. You can always make reservations for dinner at the resort restaurant or schedule a spa treatment, even if you aren’t a guest.
13. Expand Your Neighborhood
Location, location, location! This real estate mantra fits hotels as well. When traveling, it’s not unusual for people to want to stay within walking distance of attractions and food to eliminate parking fees. Unfortunately, you'll pay more for the convenience of being so close to the action.
Consider staying a few blocks away from where you want to be to get a cheaper hotel rate. You can always walk a little further, use a rideshare or take public transit to eliminate parking fees.
14. Book Ahead With Free Cancellation
Hotel rooms are generally cheapest the earlier you book, but your plans may not always be set in stone. Reserve the best rates by booking as soon as you start thinking about the trip, and then cancel if you find that date no longer works for you.
For example, if you take a girl’s trip every year, make reservations with free cancellations for the next one while you’re on your current trip to get the best rate. If you need to move the trip because something comes up, you can do so without paying a cancellation fee.
15. Book With Non-Refundable Rate
Free cancellation became an effective strategy to encourage people to book hotel stays during the pandemic when travel restrictions were uncertain, but you’ll pay for this convenience with a slightly higher rate. The higher rate covers the potential for a lost booking and an empty room that a hotel can't rent out at the last minute.
If you want the best rate available and your travel plans are definite, book a non-refundable rate. The hotel will charge you less knowing you'll pay them for the room whether you show up or not.
16. Use Your Warehouse Membership
Some warehouse memberships come with more than just discounted bulk groceries. Check out your warehouse membership website for any potential travel savings. Sometimes they may offer discounts at hotel partners or special vacation packages that include lower hotel rates.
17. Book Last Minute
Studies have shown that the best time to book a hotel is 15 days before your trip. Hotels are trying to make a last-minute push to get the room booked, and an occupied room with a lower rate than they’d normally accept is better than an empty room. Obviously, this works best if the dates don’t matter to you, but you risk not having a place to stay during peak times.
18. Use Your Air or Rewards Miles
Airline miles from your frequent flier membership or your credit card’s rewards miles aren’t just for cheaper flights. In some cases, you may redeem them for hotel stays. The specific process differs based on the rules of your membership and credit card, but you may be able to transfer your miles to a hotel loyalty program or redeem them directly through your membership and credit card’s website.
19. Stay Longer
It sounds contradictory, but the longer you stay, the more money you can save on your hotel bill. The reason is that your daily rate may be lower. Some hotels may even offer special weekly or monthly rates, so if you plan an extended stay, ask for those deals when you book.
20. Look for Inclusive Deals
Be careful when you book your hotel: The lowest price may just cover the cost of your room. By the time you add in any additional fees like parking fees, internet access and breakfast, your room may cost much more than you budgeted for.
Look for hotels that offer free parking, wifi and breakfast. The cost will probably be cheaper than paying for each element a la carte.
21. Buy Someone Else’s Reservation
People will sometimes book a non-refundable hotel room and cannot keep the reservation. Rather than losing the full rate, they will sell their reservation at a discounted rate to recoup some of their losses. If you are traveling last minute, this is a great way to save money. (Just make sure you get the reservation transferred to your name or use a reputable website to avoid scamming.)
22. Check Deal-of-the-Day Sites
Deal-of-the-day sites occasionally offer great hotel deals. Just make sure you carefully check blackout dates and other fine print details to ensure the discount is available for the dates you want.
23. Stay at Local Chains
If you know someone from the area or who has traveled to your destination a lot, ask them if they know of any local hotel chains or independent hotels. They may offer lower rates than the national name-brand hotels. These often won’t appear at the top of your search engine result pages, making them harder to find.
If you’re traveling abroad, consider using a region-specific search engine or booking website, which may return better deals.
24. Sign up for Price Alerts
Unless you have to travel at a particular time, sign up for price alerts from your favorite hotel chain or booking website. When you get a price alert, book your trip. This strategy is an excellent option if your travel plans are flexible and you don’t mind getting email or text alerts. You can always opt out of them once you’ve booked your hotel.
25. Ask for Price Matching
Many booking sites or hotels offer price matching (sometimes called a best rate guarantee), so if you book your stay and find a cheaper rate, you can get a refund.
Check each site’s or hotel’s price matching requirements carefully — some will only honor a price match within a certain time of your initial booking, while some may offer a price match and a percentage off your booking, rewards points or a combination of the two.
26. Use Your AAA Membership
As a AAA member, you qualify for discounts at several of our hotel partners, including:
- Best Western: Earn Best Western Rewards Gift Cards during your stay and take advantage of exclusive deals.
- Hilton: Save 5% in exclusive deals.
- Hyatt: Save up to 10% in exclusive deals.
- Marriott: Save 5% or more and earn Marriott Bonvoy points.
- MGM Resorts International: Save 10% and earn MGM Resorts M Life Tier Credits.
Combine your AAA membership with a loyalty program at the hotel chain of your choice and rack up discounts even faster.
Explore our membership options today and join more than 60 million members who enjoy travel discounts on everything from dining and the movies to car rentals and hotels. Use your savings to make all your travel dreams come true.