Whether you’re travelling domestically around Australia or overseas, it’s much harder to have a cheap trip right now. With the cost of travel continuing to rise, particularly airfares as reported by the ACCC, your choices for saving money boil down to doing less or spending less, and accommodation is a smart place to look at for spending less.
Many factors affect accommodation costs, from who you book with to what you book, as well as how and when you travel.
Reducing costs involves looking at each of these factors and finding ways to save on some or all of them. These approaches won’t suit every situation, and some may take more time than others, but the pay off can really help you have that dream trip you’ve been waiting for.
9 ways to save on travel accommodation
Leveraging membership discounts
One of the simplest ways to save money on hotels and accommodation is by signing up to free membership programs offered by hotel booking sites. Wotif gives members 10 per cent off their general prices, while Booking.com’s Genius program provides 10 to 20 per cent discounts depending on membership level, as well as other perks.
But membership discounts on accommodation can pop up in other places too, including through motor club membership. Members of RACV, NRMA, RACQ etc., are entitled to discounts at RACV resorts around Australia, plus select hotel chains.
Collecting reward nights and points
Rather than giving you a discount each time you book through them, some sites use a reward system to reward brand loyalty. Stay a certain number of nights using them – 10 nights in the case of Hotels.com – and you receive a free night of accommodation.
The same goes for programs offered by hotel chains, such as IHG and Accor, where bookings earn members points redeemable for rooms. Using these programs can limit your options, but if you frequently travel to the same kinds of places, it can pay off.
Checking price comparison sites
Rather than remain loyal to one website or brand, another approach is to widen your search. And for this, hotel aggregator sites that collect hotel prices from a range of platforms, are the way to go.
At a quick glance, you can see who has rooms at the cheapest rate and click through to that site to book your stay. Hotelscombined and Trivago are two of the more established aggregators, but Google’s Travel tool has quickly become a popular alternative.
Finding deals and coupons
Deals and coupons are a staple of online shopping, so why should booking accommodation online be any different?
To find deals, it’s often best to look directly on the websites of hotels or travel agents to see if they have any specials running. But some accommodation platforms do have dedicated deal pages, such as Agoda’s deals page, where they publish coupon codes you wouldn’t otherwise see.
Using Frequent Flyer Points
Australians have access to a seemingly endless range of rewards points schemes, including frequent flyer programs for both Qantas and Virgin. And booking hotels, apartments, and more with them is another way to spend them.
Now, redeeming your points in this way won’t necessarily provide as much value as using them to fly. But if your points are burning a hole in your pocket, this approach may work better for you than trying to find suitable reward fares.
Travelling overnight instead
A common backpacker technique for saving money on accommodation is to simply forego overnight accommodation entirely and spend the evening travelling instead. Rather than taking a bus/train/plane during the day, book an overnight journey and sleep as you travel to your next destination.
The obvious downside to this approach is the quality of your sleep you get, particularly if you’re a light sleeper. However, you might decide that the time and money you save doing this are worth it.
Hotel and accommodation prices rarely stay the same throughout the year due to the demands of seasonal travel. Greater demand for accommodation in peak season means higher rates; less demand during the off-season means cheaper accommodation.
While it might seem that travelling in the off-season will mean a worse experience, there are destinations that are just as good if you visit in the off-season. Plus, travelling to tourism hubs in the off-season helps certain areas become more self-sustainable.
The usual mindset people have when booking trips is to arrange everything months in advance. However, the benefits of this relate more to availability than price. In fact, studies have shown that booking 15 days in advance is the sweet spot for getting the best price on hotel rooms.
But it can pay to wait even longer, thanks to sites such as Last Minute and Hotel Tonight. With them, discounted rates only become available days or hours before you can check in. This can be a high-risk/high-reward approach and works best for flexible travellers.
Choosing non-refundable options
There’s always a risk of unforeseen circumstances changing your travel plans, which is why bookings with free cancellation are so appealing. But that security often comes with an unseen cost that only becomes clear when non-refundable options appear.
Some websites, such as Booking.com, will give you a discounted price if you choose a non-refundable room. This is understandably risky in the modern age of travel, but having good travel insurance can make this a much safer option.
The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans
Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.