Anyone can book a hotel room -- but not everyone can save big while doing it. Travel like a genius with these 12 hotel hacks that will help you save money on your next stay, from lowering the nightly rate to avoiding surcharges for Wi-Fi.
1. Book directly with the hotel.
To encourage direct bookings (and avoid paying commissions to sites like Expedia or Hotels.com), many hotels now guarantee that you'll find the lowest possible rate on their website. If you see a lower price elsewhere, call the hotel and see if it will honor it. Many chains will not only match lower prices elsewhere on the web but also throw in extras such as a free night (Choice Hotels) or a gift card toward future travel (Best Western).
Another benefit of booking on the hotel website? Most chains only grant loyalty points to travelers who book directly. (See The Trouble with Hotel Reward Programs to learn more.)
2. Earn miles with every hotel booking.
This contradicts our last hack a bit, but stay with us here. If you'd rather collect frequent flier miles than hotel points, a site called Rocketmiles is for you. Each hotel booking on the site generates thousands of miles for the loyalty program of your choice. So you may pay a few bucks more a night than you would if you booked directly, and you won't get any hotel loyalty points, but if you travel frequently you'll rack up miles that you can parlay into free flights down the road -- which could save you even more in the end.
3. Booking early? Take advantage of falling rates.
If you've ever agonized over when to book your hotel ("Will the rate go down if I wait a few more days?"), there's an app for that. Book with Tingo.com, and you'll automatically get refunded any time the price drops between when you book and when you stay.
4. Booking late? Use a last-minute app.
If booking ahead isn't your thing, you can take advantage of deals on unsold rooms the day you arrive by using a last-minute app such as Hotel Tonight or Booking Now (from Booking.com).
5. Know your days of the week.
Downtown hotels that draw lots of business travelers may be more affordable on the weekends once the suits have cleared out. Meanwhile, cozy B&Bs that specialize in romantic weekend getaways typically offer lower rates during the week. Time your booking accordingly to save.
6. Resell your room.
If your plans change unexpectedly and you're left with a nonrefundable hotel booking that you can't use, you can resell it to someone else using RoomerTravel.com or Cancelon.com. You won't get the full price back (each site charges a fee, and your room won't sell if you don't offer a bit of a discount), but it's better than losing everything you've already paid.
These sites save buyers money too -- it's not uncommon to snap up a room for half the price of the initial booking.
7. Be loyal to get free Wi-Fi.
At several chains, including Omni and Fairmont, you can avoid paying a daily fee for in-room Wi-Fi by signing up for the hotel's loyalty program.
8. Use a wireless router to avoid paying for Wi-Fi on multiple devices.
Paying for Wi-Fi at your hotel is a drag; paying per device is even worse. Luckily, there are various tech solutions to get around this, such as a Wi-Fi travel router that will set up a single hotspot for all your devices to share. For more ideas, check out How to Share a Hotel's Single Wi-Fi Connection with All Your Devices.
9. Make your own breakfast.
If your hotel doesn't provide free breakfast, buy (or bring from home) a few packs of instant oatmeal. You can cook it in the microwave if your hotel has one; if not, use the coffeemaker or tea kettle to heat some water for an easy meal.
10. Bundle parking into your stay.
If you're staying at an airport hotel the night before an early flight, you can often leave your car in the hotel lot during your trip for less than the cost of parking at the airport. Use ParkSleepFly.com or BuyReservations.com to find packages that include both the cost of your hotel and a few days' (or weeks') worth of parking.
11. Skip the hotel bar.
We love this tip from commenter nomedia on Lifehacker: "Pick up a six-pack from the gas station, fill your bathroom sink with ice from the machine and water, and use it as a cooler. Much cheaper having a few beers in your room while watching TV than hanging out at the hotel bar." The sink-cooler idea works for anything you want to chill in a room with no fridge, from sodas to white wine.
12. Do your own laundry.
You're on a long trip, but you don't want to lug three suitcases full of clothes. (Who has money for all those baggage fees?) Instead, pack a universal sink stopper to plug the sink, a travel-size bottle of laundry detergent and a clothesline. Voila -- you can wash your clothes yourself instead of paying through the nose for your hotel to do it for you or feeding coins into the machines at a dingy laundromat.
Of course, this works best for lightweight, quick-drying fabrics; in a pinch you can use your hotel's hair dryer to blast away any lingering dampness.
What's your favorite hotel hack? Share yours in the comments!
--written by Sarah Schlichter
Editor's Note: IndependentTraveler.com is published by The Independent Traveler, Inc., a subsidiary of TripAdvisor, Inc., which also owns Tingo.