As Hotels.com's regional director for Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, Katherine Cole knows a thing or two about the hotel industry. Travelling on a fortnightly basis to all corners of the globe, she's stayed at hundreds of hotels and has learned a few tricks along the way. We asked Cole to share her top hotel hacks with Lifehacker readers, from the best time to book your hotel to the hidden costs you need to watch out for.
With the summer holidays fast approaching, many Australians are starting to book trips away. Whether you're planning a weekend on the coast, a business trip or a month of international sight-seeing, these tips should help you to save money at almost no extra effort.
#1. Make use of loyalty programs
"Loyalty programs are an easy and sure fire way to save yourself some serious cash and bag a bargain," Cole explains. "Booking websites will often incentivise customers for multiple bookings. For example, Hotels.com gives customers one free night after 10 nights booked – which can be great for banking up rewards, or for longer vacations."
#2. Never underestimate the power of a hotel staffer
"Whether it’s giving you a complementary room upgrade, bargaining cheaper rates for tours and services on your behalf, or giving you access and discounts to local haunts, it pays – quite literally – to be polite to hotel staff.
"Additionally, if you’ve forgotten your toothbrush or toothpaste, or perhaps need a razor, it's worth asking the front desk before you rush out to buy as more often than not, they’ll have these at hand for free."
#3. Look for hidden costs
"It might seem dirt cheap, but make sure you look at what’s included – things like Wi-Fi, breakfast, late check-out and parking can add up and end up more expensive in the long run if they aren’t included in the initial price, and it often pays to add them on beforehand if need be for a cheaper rate."
#4. Location, location, location
"Do your research! If you’re travelling for business, it’s often more logical to stay in a CBD. On the other hand, if you’re travelling for pleasure, it can be cheaper to book places that are slightly outside the main tourist hubs.
"The added benefit is that you can get a little more off the beaten track by being off the main tourist trail – which will often mean that prices for things like food and drinks will also be cheaper too."
#5. Be flexible
"It’s worth paying slightly more for flexible rates, as you never know what could happen at the last minute, so having the option to change dates and/or cancel is a safe back-up that means you won’t lose out should something happen."
#6. Book in the off season
"Off season doesn’t necessarily mean rain and cyclones. Planning on working the tan in the Greek Islands? Go in September – it’s still warm, the crowds aren’t as plentiful and the hotel prices drop significantly. Heading to Mexico for some sunshine? August, the hottest time of the year is actually off-peak. Rainy season in Hawaii means it only rains for an hour on average in the evening.
"Do your research on weather conditions, and you might be pleasantly surprised as you will see cheaper rates during this time."
#7. Best time to book
"The general rule of thumb is to either book as far in advance as you can, or wait until the last minute, however this is not always the case. Weekends and major events for example mean that hotels can book up quickly, which will often mean a price hike at the last minute.
"Consider travelling on less busier days to save money too – Sundays and Mondays are the slowest days for hotels, which means cheaper rates, while Fridays and Saturdays will always be the most popular, hence the most expensive."
#8. It pays to be a VIP customer
"Signing up to e-newsletters and alerts often means you get access to exclusive deals that often aren’t available to everyone. Subscribing to e-mails and downloading official mobile apps often gives you access to exclusive prices, which means more money in your pocket to enjoy on holiday."
#9. Make use of a price match guarantees
"There’s nothing more frustrating than booking a hotel only to find that it’s gone on sale straight after you booked it. Make sure you make use of price matches. Hotels.com has a 'Best Price Guarantee' that will refund you the difference, meaning you’ll be price matched right up until check-in – it's a win-win!"
#10. Make use of the facilities
"Toiletries, towels and hair dryers are pretty much guaranteed in all hotel rooms, so there’s no need to pack them - not only will you reduce your luggage load, but you’ll reduce the risk of the ever-so-popular shampoo spillage situation. These days, we’re seeing hotels go one step further, providing luxuries like premier-branded toiletries, pillow menus and even straighteners in their rooms!"