The economic state of the UK means that booking a holiday simply isn’t compatible with the average person’s budget. When those purse strings just won’t cooperate with your travel plans, whether it’s a last minute winter sun holiday for 2023, or an advance booking for your summer holiday 2024, the savings team at Savoo is here to share some key industry insider information about how to save money on your hotel room when travelling.
I worked at a hotel for two years before joining Savoo, and during that time working in reservations, guest relations and the reception desk, I picked up some key tricks of the trade when it comes to the best way to save on hotels. I’d never advise friends and family to fork out for the first full rate they find, as there are several accurate ways to tell if you’re getting the best price (as well as a few ways to reduce how much you spend).
1. The BAR
This isn’t about the hotel’s drinks service, rather it stands for the Best Available Rate. Each hotel has a list of nightly rates that vary daily according to room type, day of the week, hotel occupancy rates, and season. These are the “best available" price for a particular room, on a given night.
While many price comparison tools for hotels will attempt to undercut a hotel, for the hotel it is far more beneficial for guests to book directly. That is why so many hotels will offer a price match policy (list below). The price match policy allows you to submit a cheaper rate you found elsewhere, and the hotel will offer you the same price, often even beating the competitive rate and/or giving you additional benefits.
By not having to pay commission to a third party for your booking, the hotel is able to offer guests these additional discounts and freebies, and still benefit from receiving 100% of your room rate. This fact is evidenced by just how many hotels will offer a price match policy when you book directly. A few examples of these are below:
- Apex Hotels (Apex Assured) matches other rates and offers the room 10% cheaper (by booking direct you’ll also get free room upgrades if one is available)
- Get the competitive price matched and receive an additional 25% discount on Hilton hotels with their price match guarantee
- Marriott offers 25% off or 5,000 additional Marriott Bonvoy Points
- The Radisson hotels group offers 25% off with their best rate guarantee
- An extra 25% discount on the matched room rate at Village Hotels
So, be sure to check out a couple of hotel comparison sites like Booking.com, Expedia, and Hotels.com then contact your hotel directly to see what they have to offer! In my opinion, this is the very best way to save money on hotels.
Hint: Price matched rooms are often offered less discount codes, so while we offer discounts for the hotel comparison sites above, these won’t be a factor in your final room rate. You can apply a discount code to your direct hotel booking when using the price match policies, but will often find the policy’s in-built discount is worth a larger % off than a code.
2. To book last minute, or to book in advance?
If there are rooms available last minute, they are often reduced on the day to fill the hotel to maximum capacity. For the most daring of holiday-makers, this is a really savvy way to get a heavily discounted hotel room. Check out these deals on a hotel’s ‘Last Minute’ page, or on sites like Lastminute.com and Wowcher.
However, book last minute with caution. You will definitely experience surge rates on popular days regardless of how last-minute your reservation is; that includes the weekends, during public holidays, and local events (commercial, charitable, and corporate). My reservations colleagues had a detailed calendar with rates spreading over a year into the future! For example, your hotel knows when the London marathon is scheduled a year in advance– and knows that both runners and spectators will be battling it out for rooms.
My tip is to book as far in advance as possible if the area is likely to be in high demand, stay with a friend the day of and keep the hotel for the day after, or simply skip the hotel altogether and drive (parking will cost you far less!)
Airbnb is a popular choice that can sometimes be a cheaper alternative to hotel stays. Private owners without the resources of a large hotel chain may not have the time to put together a public events calendar for the upcoming year and therefore may be slower to implement a surcharge. If you choose to stay at an Airbnb, do be sure to check the cancellation policy because of recent stories of Airbnb bookings being cancelled at the last minute.
3. Hotel loyalty schemes - what’s in it for me?
Plenty of hotels these days run loyalty schemes for frequent travellers. Business guests are by far the most loyal customers of a hotel: often staying multiple nights a week, every week of the year. For these guests, a loyalty scheme is a no-brainer, but how often do you need to travel to make a hotel loyalty membership worth it?
Well, the answer is, it’s almost always worth your time! Hotels rarely charge guests for membership, and the perks can save you significant amounts. Points collection is a common feature of these schemes, and although infrequent stayers might take longer to collect a helpful number of points, points collection is a great way of optimising your budget by adding greater benefit to money you would already have spent.
Michael Stott, Commercial Director at Apex Hotels, said:
“Apex Insider is our secret for guests to get the best deals. Members can save 10% as well as complimentary room upgrades when available. They also receive welcome little touches such as late checkout so it’s really worth signing up. With Black Friday on the horizon, there is even more reason for guests to sign up as they receive an exclusive offer on bookings. I can’t reveal too much – you need to become a member!"
A few examples of the UK’s most popular hotel memberships and their benefits include:
|Hotel membership scheme
|Sign up fee?
|Other benefits (dependent on membership level)
|ALL (Accor Live Limitless)
|25 points per €10 spent (classic status level)
|Up to 10%
|Free WiFi, complimentary room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out, complimentary breakfast
|Complimentary room upgrades, late check-out
|10 points per $1 spent
|Unspecified member’s discount %
|Spa discount, 20-100% extra points, complimentary room upgrades
|IHG One Rewards
|10 points per $1 spent
|Free WiFi, complimentary room upgrades, early check-in, late check-out
|10 points per $1 spent
|Unspecified member’s discount %
|Complimentary room upgrades, late check-out, 10-75% extra points
|8 points per $1 spent (classic status level)
|Complimentary room upgrades, complimentary breakfast, 10% food discount, early check-in, late check-out
4. Are hotel package deals worth the money?
A hotel package deal is a combination of room, hotel services, and in-house or local activities. Examples of popular hotel packages include a hotel package for couples with spa treatments and Champagne, or family hotel packages with discounted kids’ activities and attraction tickets.
Because the hotel will have a large number of tourism guests, local attractions can afford to offer them cheaper tickets due to the large numbers of foot traffic that the concierge or guest relations staff send their way. If you are looking for a cheap family hotel stay while visiting Legoland, for instance, it might be beneficial to book both in one. Offers like these will be found on a hotel’s ‘Packages’ or ‘Offers’ page like the QHotels offers page which includes their 2024 Golf Breaks, Girls Night In Spa Break, and more.
Booking your attractions using guest services provided by the hotel yields some great benefits, including lower rates, better seats, free tour guides and more.
5. How to get hotel freebies
While freebies don’t account for much of your final savings, do be sure to see what little luxuries you can get to make your stay an experience to remember, for less.
- We can all expect a tiny shampoo and bodywash waiting in our rooms when we arrive, but did you know hotels often carry other essential amenities for those guests who have forgotten or lost essential items on their journey? More things you can ask for include a toothbrush and toothpaste, a sewing needle and thread, ear plugs, and even an extra pair of slippers.
- Need to get to or from the airport? Call and see if your hotel has an airport shuttle. This could be free, or it could come with a small charge, but either way it is likely to be less expensive than chartering your own transportation. The same goes for taxis: most hotels are partnered with a local taxi company and get better rates on their prices as a result. Simply make your transport request and the booking should be handled for you.
- Staying for a special occasion? From birthdays and hen-dos, to engagements, honeymoons and anniversaries, hotels love to offer the very best customer service and want to be involved in your special moments. Getting the hotel involved in a grand gesture could set you back a couple of pounds, but adding a note to your booking will often result in a free, pre-decided treat from the hotel. For example, in my time working in guest relations we offered complimentary slices of cake and fruit baskets to those celebrating special moments while staying with us.
- Simply ask for a room upgrade! If a hotel is not at maximum capacity, guests are often offered free room upgrades based on factors like special occasions and the type of room they originally booked. That being said, asking politely goes a long way! Whether you call a day or two in advance when your room number is being allocated to your booking, or you wait until your arrival, this is a great way to score one of (usually) very few upgrades available to hotel staff to give.
6. What not to do if you’re trying to save money on your hotel booking
- The hotel breakfast Most saving experts will often tell you that the best way to save money is to not spend at all; and not getting the hotel breakfast is a good way to save money on food while staying at hotels. In my experience, the buffet breakfast is something which can be an unnecessary expense (unless it is complimentary). With many hotels offering two rates for a room: one being room only and the other being room and breakfast, the added price only makes sense if you have an especially big appetite. I recommend looking online at nearby cafes and restaurants before your stay: you’ll almost always find somewhere less expensive to start your day.
- Early check-in and late check-out fees Another thing you should consider is not paying more for an early check-in or late check-out, unless you really need that extra access to your room. Arriving in the city a few hours before check-in? Most hotels will offer a free luggage holding service, allowing you to drop your bags off and spend a few hours exploring the city before officially checking in. Alternatively, check out our list of hotel membership schemes above to see which free scheme offers extended check-in and check-out benefits to their members.