How to get a bargain hotel room

lovemoney staff
by Lovemoney Staff lovemoney staff on 07 January 2013  |  Comments 27 comments

From budget to luxury, here are our top tips for paying less for a hotel room.

How to get a bargain hotel room

Wherever you're hoping to go away this year, chances are you'll want to keep the cost of your hotel to a minimum. Let's face it, hotels can end up working out to be pretty pricey, so if you're looking for ways to save money, make sure you follow our five clever tips on how to cut the cost of your hotel!

Tip #1 – Travel off-season

It stands to reason that hotel rooms will cost more when everyone is on holiday. After all, there's more demand, and hotels know they can charge more. So why not go a little earlier, or later, than everyone else?

A good way to judge this is to go on holiday once the kids have gone back to school! Providing you're not a school teacher, and you don't have kids, this is a far better way to get a cheaper deal on your hotel room.

Check out the general school half term dates for 2013 in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland to give you a guide if you’re not in the know.

Apart from steering clear of the school holidays it also pays to consider the days you plan to stay. Sunday nights are generally the cheapest to book for a hotel room.

Tip #2 – Book early... or last minute!

If you can book up a holiday well in advance – we're talking more than a year here – then you tend to get a much better deal.

The UK's big budget hotel chains Premier Inn and Travelodge also offer big discounts if you book in advance, particularly during the quieter months of the year.

Equally, if you book very late in the day, perhaps with a day or two to spare, then you can also get your hands on a great priced room in some places.

However, the latter option is very much fraught with danger. While on occasion you will get a great price, it's at least equally likely that most hotels in the area will be fully booked, so you may end up paying way over the odds just to secure a roof over your heads.

Tip #3 – Get discounts

First of all, you should have a look at sites like lastminute.com and Expedia, which tend to get absolutely amazing deals on hotel prices (in fact Expedia even offers a guarantee that if you find the same hotel room cheaper anywhere else, it will refund the difference).

But there are loads of other sites to check out, like Discounthotels.co.uk, hotelclub.net, otel.com and (particularly if you are off to the States) hoteldiscount.com

If you just want a cheap break somewhere, sign up for daily deals sites such as Groupon, LivingSocial, Groupola and KGBDeals, which regularly have hotel deals. Just make sure you check that the bargain they're presenting really is a good deal by looking at the hotel's own website.

It's also well worth reading the travel sections of national newspapers both during the week and at weekends, as they often have a selection of cracking looking deals. However, be sure to act quickly as they will disappear pretty sharpish!

Tip #4 – Book a 'secret' hotel

This is our favourite tip, and if you like taking a bit of a step into the unknown, it's definitely for you!

lastminute.com isn't just great for arranging a trip at short notice – it's also an awesome place to get a hotel room at a shockingly low rate. The catch though is that you don't know which hotel it is.

An absolute shedload of brilliant hotels – we are talking top of the range here – have signed up to the Top Secret Hotel scheme, offering up to 45% off their nightly rates. You go on, pick which date you want to go, and you'll be given a description of the hotel, as well as its location and rating. But not its name.

lastminute.com's sister company Travelocity has a similar service and you'll see some Top Secret rooms listed in your results.

There's also Hotwire, which does exactly the same thing as lastminute.com and promises "four-star hotels at two-star prices". One Lovemoney writer has saved over £100 a time via this site.

And if you are just looking for somewhere to stay in London, you might also want to check out Discounted Hotels London, which offers its own secret hotel service.

Only after completing the booking do you get sent the name of the hotel, though in all honesty, once you have the location and description, most of the time it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out just which hotel they are referring to.

If you have figured out which hotel you're booking, you could then try your luck at phoning up, quoting the price you've been offered and seeing if the hotel will beat it. You might get lucky, as booking with them direct means they don't have to pay the referring website commission.

Tip #5 – Use your loyalty points

Various hotel chains have their own reward schemes, including Hilton HHonors, the Intercontinental Group's Priority Club Rewards and Marriott Rewards.

If you shop at Tesco, or have a Nectar card, then you can trade in your points for some brilliant hotel deals. Build up points on a Tesco Clubcard and you can get money off all sorts of hotel chains, including Hiltons and Marriots, while you can use Nectar points to get money off deals at Expedia.

If you shop at Tesco or Sainsbury's, but don't have a loyalty card, you could be missing out on some bargain hotel deals!

So there you have it, our top five ways to cut the price of your hotel. Be sure to share yours via the Comments box below.

This is a classic Lovemoney article that has been updated

More on travelling for less:

The best debit cards to use abroad

The best credit cards to use abroad

How to beat sneaky budget airline charges

The best prepaid cards for spending abroad

What does an EHIC really cover?

Ways to get a free flight upgrade

The best value long-haul holiday destinations

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Comments (27)

  • SJCardiff
    Love rating 0
    SJCardiff said

    I've used lastminute.com for this service and I found it excellent. It was a while ago so I appreciate the service may have changed since!

    One tip I have: whichever 'Top Secret' hotel you look at on there, check if you can see reviews. When I was looking for a surprise trip to London for my girlfriend and I, the reviews for one particular hotel mentioned the hotel name!

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • hitchinjohn
    Love rating 0
    hitchinjohn said

    Seems to be not only in the American dollar, but only gives information but relates only to American destinations.

    JH

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • akfwillow
    Love rating 0
    akfwillow said

    I just tried lastminute.com and got a message saying "address not found'. Hotwire seems to refer only to American rooms, flights etc.

    What use is this article?

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • flying4fool
    Love rating 0
    flying4fool said

    I use Lastminute, usually to find a hotel near a theatre, search for the one closest, so if .54km away to venue, if topsecret choice also list it at same distance away, with same facilities, you can "guess". I have done this several times recently and saved a fortune. Next time I will look at both sites to see if I can save more!!

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • PartingtonJ
    Love rating 1
    PartingtonJ said

    Oops!

    Having retired almost a year now, and used to corporate 5* venues during my working life, I welcome this.

    I just hope that all this publicity does not shrink the market!

    There are some great deals around ... should you look.

    JohnP

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • maysons
    Love rating 0
    maysons said

    If you cut and paste the hotel details into a search engine it usualy identifies the property from their own site !

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • roziz
    Love rating 0
    roziz said

    For the smaller hotels the best bet is to walk in and ask! If you can get a 'manager' they will nearly always fill the room on their own authority if things are quiet.

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mcgowank107
    Love rating 0
    mcgowank107 said

    Laterooms.com is excellent for booking last minute hotels at knock down prices; also all hotels are identified

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • ascentium
    Love rating 0
    ascentium said

    I've used Lastminute.com's "Secret Hotels" in the past.

    I've found that sometimes they leave the name of the hotel restaurant in the description of the "secret hotel", so a minute with Google identifies it :-)

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • john8pies
    Love rating 0
    john8pies said

    would you book with a travel agent if they didn`t tell you which country you were going to until AFTER you`d paid, or book a meal without being told what food you were getting until AFTER you`d paid? I doubt it, and to be honest, I can`t see much difference with the hotel equivalent mentioned here!

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Piglet25
    Love rating 0
    Piglet25 said

    The link to the lastminute.com website is http://www.lastminute.com/

    I've tried searching for hotels in the UK on the Hotwire website and found them without a problem.

    Thanks for the article, I think it's a lot of "use" actually(!). I knew about Lastminute and Laterooms but not about Hotwire. You can sometimes also identify hotels by typing in the description from to a Google search as it's often been taken directly from the hotel's blurb.

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • haribo78
    Love rating 0
    haribo78 said

    @ john8pies:

    Whilst you wouldn't book with a travel agent if you didn't know what country you were going to, there are several travel agents who use an "allocate on arrival" process, where you don't know which hotel you're staying at until after you land...

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Redsec
    Love rating 0
    Redsec said

    Thank you I did not know about these sites for cheaper rooms.

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • RuthlessInvestor
    Love rating 0
    RuthlessInvestor said

    Another link to click and generate commission for www.fool.co.uk

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Ascr
    Love rating 0
    Ascr said

    Got your email this afternoon, looking for a room in london in a couple of months so thought why not, lets give it a try. Used Hotwire and it really worked for us, managed to get a room in a four star hotel in central london for £57 ($81). Superb. We also had a fair idea of which hotel it was going to be by reviewing the other website Betterbidding. No issues with using american site, charged in dollars, immediate confirmation by email, including a confirmation number for the specific hotel chain booked with so able to independently verify. Top recommendation.

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • elephant888
    Love rating 0
    elephant888 said

    @ RuthlessInvestor: Your snarky point would be perfectly made IF the links in the article were affiliate links; which they're not. In fact, the one to lastminute is actually malformed and doesn't work! Oh well, good try. You get 100 'I am super-savvy-cynical' points! Well done!!

    Report on 16 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • DiverNic
    Love rating 0
    DiverNic said

    You will never find it as cheap unless you do your own legwork and research properly. I have managed recently to book a trip to kenya for next month all-in for 5 getting 2 rooms and upgraded flights for less than £4k, I know where I am going and where I am staying! That's £800 per head for a tropical holiday with nothing else to pay for beyond sundries. But I had too work damned hard on the internet to find this bargain I figure I saved around £2K though.

    Report on 17 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • andrewwe
    Love rating 0
    andrewwe said

    I have used the last minute.com secret hotel option several times, and have just booked a room for two people inc full english breakfast for 3 days at the Hilton London Olympia for £225!

    I am more than happy...

    Report on 17 February 2009  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • fukkoff
    Love rating 0
    fukkoff said

    why go to late rooms etc - all hotels have to pay CVommission - even though they brag that you dont have to -= all places would prefer to pass on the saving to you and not pay exhorbitant reates themselves. Phone hotels direct and tell them youve seen themn on Bookings.com or late rooms - - you might get some more off. if you book direct - happens to me all the time.

    ALl you are doing going by later rooms etc is force the hotel to pay!

    Report on 30 June 2010  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Henry-GBG
    Love rating 57
    Henry-GBG said

    I don't know about that. Hotels in Britain are a rip-off by Swedish standards, where there is a basic minimum below which no-one could expect to stay in business. In Britain, it seems hotel owners can get away with being well-sub-standard. I would certainly avoid any belonging to the Britannia chain after my experience at their dump in Brighton.

    http://physiocrat.blogspot.se/2012/01/brightons-fawlty-towers.html

    Report on 30 July 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • riab1879
    Love rating 11
    riab1879 said

    I last used Lastminute's secret hotel just over a year ago and would not be inclined to use it again. I knew which hotel I was booking and under extra info/special requests I typed that I wanted a double room. Upon check in at Hilton Stansted airport the rude receptionist said we were given a twin room as they were busy and we had booked a discounted rate. Not only did we have twin beds, our air conditioning didnt work and the cups in the room were dirty where the cleaning staff had most likely just rinsed them out in the sink in the bathroom rather than replace them with fresh cups. I am travelling through Stansted in a few weeks time and have booked with Radisson Blu as that experience put me off using Hilton too!

    Report on 04 August 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • alexms
    Love rating 8
    alexms said

    a couple of tips:

    1. Quidco gives good cashback with at least one online large room broker, which in turn gives me airmiles on my amex card.

    2. sneakier - use a PC. On booking a hotel in Istanbul recently I found three different searches gave three very different results. I searched from a PC in Khartoum, then did the same via quidco, which linked me to the UK,when I thought I was ready to book but had suddenly to shoot off and work, from my mac at home via quidco. Each gave very different prices. It turns out mac users are offered mid-range places as they are thought to be richer, and connecting to this giant global site via the UK did the same, as well as offering GBP instead of USD prices. The cheapest was direct to the server from Khartoum, but not once I'd factored in the currency conversion charge and the quidco rebate.

    Report on 11 November 2012  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Norton
    Love rating 0
    Norton said

    I have found some good hotel deals using Groupon. I have also searched for hotels using hotel comparison websites, found the cheapest prices, then rang the hotels direct to see if they can beat the online price. This has worked for me twice. Hotelless.com has been the cheapest for hotel rooms.

    Report on 07 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Norton
    Love rating 0
    Norton said

    This the link to http://www.hotelless.com this hotel room comparison site has found me some sweet deals.

    Report on 07 January 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • SecretHotels
    Love rating 0
    SecretHotels said

    I also found http://www.secrethotels.org to be useful when looking for a "secret" hotel. Gives reviews on the local area and amenities.

    Report on 28 February 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • babyhk
    Love rating 10
    babyhk said

    Booked hotel via Hotwire and actually saved £2 per person when we found out from reception that there were deals if you phoned the hotel direct so next time will get info from cheapie websites .... then phone hotel.

    Agree with Henry that Britannia hotels are far from great. National coach holidays use them a lot and despite our driver being brilliant the hotel ruined our holiday.

    Try packages that include travel /hotel/transfers all in one. I've recently booked a 4 day stay in Paris and saved a lot of money booking a package plus some freebie tours around the city.

    Report on 18 May 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Flashpack Travel
    Love rating 0
    Flashpack Travel said

    I've had mixed success with this type of 'opaque' booking... I think the key is getting the location right, as the amount of stars a hotel has, and the list of facilities, are usually a good indicator of quality.

    Sites like http://www.londontown.com is pretty handy... You can use the map on the secret hotel description page to get a rough idea of where it is, then whack the postcode into londontown and you've got a rough idea of whether or not you're going to be spending all those savings on taxis...

    There's a few supplementary sites around also, as pointed out above, http://www.secrethotels.eu/london and http://www.secrethotelslondon.com - both pretty handy if you need filling in on the local area (I'm not sure how much additional info these guys get, but they seem to fill in the blanks re facilities etc)

    Report on 20 June 2013  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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