Great Ways to Save Money on Hotels

Travel is wonderful, and everyone loves getting more value for their money. There are a lot of ways to save money on hotels, from traveling in off-season to travel hacking. Bonuses and perks from travel rewards credit cards can save you and your family and friends big money. We save thousands each year thanks to travel reward card bonuses from credit cards. Perks like complimentary lounge access, free meals and upgraded rooms help make travel more comfortable. Here are some of our favorite travel tips to help you save money on hotels!

A glass pyramid in front of the Louvre Museum after it has just rained

Get Free Hotel Nights with Travel Rewards Card Bonuses

Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card includes a complimentary priority pass. This allows for 10 free airport lounge visits in a year. The bonus offer of 130,000 Hilton Honors points is worth around $700 in travel credit at participating Hilton hotels. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card also includes automatic Hilton Honors Gold Status. And as a gold member, you get room upgrades when available. This is fantastic value, as the annual fee is just $95. So even infrequent travelers can find great value using this card!

Grecian fresco at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago
The historic Palmer House Hilton in Chicago dates to 1871.

The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is a card we continue keeping. The perks of the card offer far more value than the annual fee of $95 per year, even if you rarely stay at Hilton’s. The 130,000 Hilton Honors bonus points (after the initial spend with everyday purchases) can be redeemed at participating Hilton brands. So you can use it towards free stays at Hilton, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Curio, Waldorf Astoria, Tru and more. We cancel some credit cards after a year or two, but as it stands, we continue keeping the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.

IHG Rewards Club Premier by Chase

The IHG Rewards Club Premier offers great bang for buck, including Platinum Elite Status at IHG hotels. IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) is currently offering a 125,000 point bonus after charging $3,000 in the first 3 months after opening your account. There are around 5,900 hotels under the IHG umbrella, including Holiday Inn, Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, Candlewood Suites and more.

We’ve been impressed with the customer service we’ve received at the IHG brand hotels we’ve stayed at – even during the pandemic. We’ve appreciated free room upgrades when available with IHG Platinum Elite status. We’ve also found some great value when redeeming our points. For example, a Holiday Inn stay only cost us 15,000 IHG points instead of around $150 per night. And if a small issue comes up, IHG hotels are often happy to give their customers a few extra thousand IHG points back. Another perk is earning up to 25x IHG points on stays. So if you charge $300 on an IHG stay with the IHG Rewards Club Premier, you can receive around 7,500 IHG points. That translates to free additional nights fast!

Travel Off-Season

View of Tokyo Tower and Asahi Building (aka Golden Turd) from the Azuma Bridge in Tokyo, Japan

Traveling in the off-season or shoulder season offers significant savings over summer and holiday travel. Both airfare and hotel costs are significantly cheaper in European destinations and elsewhere. For families, educators and other professions, summer is the best time to take off. But those who are more flexible should strongly consider traveling outside summer if you want to save money.

Asides from cost, busy summer travel puts a strain on cities and areas that deal with over-tourism. Some destinations are overcrowded in summer, and starved for visitors in the off-season. Also, some destinations are very hot in summer and offer more ideal temperatures in spring and fall. Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece are good examples.

Some destinations are not as enjoyable in the winter, but this can also be personable preference. Winter is a great time to explore European museums, restaurants, pubs and cafes, while still enjoying the outdoors. Bell and I first met traveling in a hostel in Brugge, Belgium during the winter of 2002. You can read more about that story in our about page.

We recently embarked on an 8 day Danube River Cruise with Emerald Cruises. Afterwards, we stayed in Budapest longer and found excellent value in both Airbnb and hotel stays in late September and early October. This is typically a great time to explore European destinations, with comfortable temperatures perfect for walking and outdoor activities.

Weekend Stays in Some Cities Can Offer Better Value than Weekdays

This is not the case for some cities, and it can depend on the weekend for others. But cities like Washington, DC, can see hotel rates drop by upwards of 300% on weekends compared to weekdays. Capital cities can offer great weekend getaway opportunities at a fraction of the cost of weekday stays! Many major cities rely more on business travel compared to tourist travel.

Visit Holiday Destinations on Weekdays When Possible

Of course, the flip side of this is destinations that rely on tourism. These destinations often charge significantly more on weekends, especially during peak seasons. Ski destinations and charming smaller towns tend to draw more weekend visits. If you want to save money and have some flexibility, book mid week stays when you can.

Book Hotels with Free Cancellation

Searching for the right hotel in a big destination can be challenging when there is a huge volume of choices. One way I weed out some of the choices is based on flexibility of cancellation. If one hotel offers non-refundable rates and another allows flexible booking, why book the hotel that’s non-refundable. Especially these days, travel plans can change fast. It’s great when you can book a hotel that allows free cancellation, sometimes even up to the day of your stay. We like that booking.com often offers great rates with flexible cancellations. They also give frequent customers genius discounts of around 15% off, including room upgrades when available!

Great Ways to Save Money on Hotels Recap

Take advantage of credit card travel reward bonuses as much as you can. It’s a fantastic way to save big money on hotels. The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card and IHG Rewards Club Premier are two cards we highly recommend. Both cards offer far more value compared to their nominal annual fees.

Part of the glacier falling into the sea and creating a large splash

Off-season travels equals more bang for your buck. You’ll also experience destinations with far fewer crowds, allowing you to have a more authentic experience in some cases. Often times, the more touristy a destination is, the less interested locals are in having some authentic engagement with their visitors.

Disclosure: This article contains some affiliate links. When you book or sign up through these links, we earn some commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for using them when you can!

2 thoughts on “Great Ways to Save Money on Hotels

  1. This article is helpful. Thanks for writing it. I’m thinking to sign up for either the Hilton Honors AMEX Surpass card or the IHG Rewards Club Premier card. Which one do you think offers better value?

    1. Great question, Derek! It depends how frequently you fly and whether you already have a priority pass for complimentary airport lounge access. The Hilton Honors AMEX Surpass card comes with a complimentary priority pass, while the IHG Rewards Club Premier card doesn’t. Personally, we’ve generally found better value redeeming our IHG points over Hilton points. And we’ve found customer service at IHG hotels to generally be better than Hilton hotels during our recent stays. The IHG Rewards Club Premier card also comes with a complimentary night each anniversary date. Both cards come with perks that well exceed their $95 annual fees.

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