10 Hotel Hacks to Get More Bang for Your Buck

By Meagen Seatter | Published on 09 Aug 2023

Hotel Hacks to Get More Bang for Your Buck

With the price of everything from gas to groceries soaring, it’s no wonder that hotels have been upping their prices over the last couple of years. With the desire to go places as strong as ever, hacks are needed for affordable travel. Fortunately, our top 10 hotel hacks are here to help you learn how to travel hack your way to low prices, upgrades, free rooms and later check-outs for next to nothing or even completely free.

1. Using a last-minute booking app

Last-minute booking apps buy hotel rooms in bulk and resell them to consumers at discounted rates. Using a last-minute booking app like HotelTonight or Hotwire can save you a bundle on comfortable accommodations including 4-star hotels and resorts. However, the savings come at the risk of being stuck in a dingy hotel or, even worse, no hotel room at all.

Booking a hotel on Expedia as a failsafe prevents you from ending up without a room. As long as you pick a hotel that don’t charge a cancellation fees, you can always cancel the reservation if you end up finding something cheaper, but you are guaranteed a room if you don’t have any other options.

2. Get a free night using credit card rewards

If you have a travel credit card you might be entitled to a free night or other perks like free breakfast or late checkouts, and credit card welcome offers can put you on a fast track to earning rewards. For example, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express card rewards cardholders with a free night every year after the first year, and Bonvoy Points can be redeemed for free nights and getaways. Right now, you can earn 65,000 points by charging at least $3000 to your new Marriott Bonvoy American Express card within the first 3 months.

Other credit cards also offer free nights or annual travel allowances to be spent on anything travel related including hotel rooms.

 3. Always ask for an upgrade at the front desk

Unlike with airlines, hospitality is paramount at hotels, and if you ask them for an upgrade, especially if it’s a special occasion like an anniversary or graduation trip, they might be willing to accommodate. Hotels rely on customer reviews, and staff are often urged to go above and beyond to make the guest feel comfortable and welcome.

Even if you’re not travelling for a special reason, it doesn’t hurt to ask politely. You’re more likely to get an upgrade if you ask towards the end of the day when the front desk staff has a better idea of the hotel’s numbers.

4. Join a Hotel Loyalty Program

Hotel loyalty programs reward guests with points for staying with them. They are usually free to join and different tiers can be reached depending on how often you stay. Hilton Honors points, for instance, can be earned by staying at Hilton hotels, which can be found all around the world. You can also earn points by dining at partner restaurants and using Hilton American Express credit cards. Points can then be redeemed for free rooms, tickets to events and more.

The World of Hyatt is another global hotel chain that has a similar program in place. The highest level tier of the World of Hyatt reward program gets you automatic room upgrades and a guaranteed room within 48 hours of booking.

5. Travel Off Season

Hotel rates are typically much lower during the off-season, so booking a room during this time can end up saving you a couple of hundred dollars in accommodation. Plus, you’ll have fewer crowds to deal with and shorter lines at the buffet.

Unless you’re going somewhere with a heavy monsoon or hurricane season, off-season weather is still fairly pleasant and sunny in popular vacation destinations, and the cooler evening temperatures are often a pleasant relief from hot and humid days.

6. Join CAA

Several hotels throughout Canada and the United States offer discounted rates for members of CAA. Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and MGM Resorts all offer exclusive discounted rates for members.

For example, CAA guests of the Marriott will receive a 5% or more discount on their bookings and will earn Marriott Bonvoy points, which earn you a higher status and can be redeemed for free rooms. You could also earn up to 10% of the cost of the room back in CAA dollars, which can be cashed in to pay for hotel stays or vacation packages.

CAA members can also enjoy discounts with Accor, a global hotel chain with locations in over 110 countries. From now until January 15, 2024, CAA members will get 15% off hotel stays and a $50 dining credit at certain participating locations.

7. Use Credit Card Points

Credit cards that offer reward points can sometimes be transferred to hotel loyalty points, allowing you to secure that complimentary hotel room faster than through accumulating points from hotel stays alone. For example, the Scotiabank Gold American Express card earns you points for everyday purchases which can then be used for a statement credit towards travel purchases, including hotels. However, before making a decision, it’s advisable to compare different credit cards to identify the most beneficial for you, based your specific circumstances and spending habits.

If you do want to collect hotel loyalty points on your credit card, there are several options that let you convert your reward points to different programs. For example, American Express cards let you transfer your Membership Points to the Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton Honours Program.

8. Switch It Up

If you’re staying for 4 or 5 nights in the same city, stay in multiple hotels. For example, if you’re staying somewhere for 5 nights and one hotel is more expensive on the 4th and 5th night, move and stay somewhere cheaper for those nights. Hotels are often concentrated in one area of the city, so moving might even be as easy as walking a couple of blocks.

Not only that, but some hotels offer free breakfast or other perks on your first night. Moving to multiple hotel rooms during one trip can get you sweet perks that save you money every other day.

9. Explore Alternative Accommodations

In order to stretch your travel budget, it can be beneficial to explore accommodations beyond traditional hotels. Platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo offer a broad array of lodgings, from cozy city apartments to scenic countryside homes, often at lower rates than traditional hotels. Airbnb tends to offer more budget-friendly accommodations, making it a favorite for solo travelers or couples. Vrbo, on the other hand, is ideal for larger groups or families desiring a home-like setting, often offering amenities like a full kitchen. For the most adventurous and budget-conscious, Couchsurfing.com offers the opportunity to stay with locals for free, providing an incredibly immersive and cost-effective travel experience.

10. Bundle your Hotel and Airfare

While not guaranteed to be the cheaper option 100% of the time, bundling your hotel and airfare can save you money on a last-minute getaway. When you book a flight directly, the entire cost of the flight is due at the time of purchase. However, when you bundle the cost of your flight and your hotel stay you end up paying a lower upfront cost and you’ve secured the price of both the hotel and the flight so you don’t need to worry about the price suddenly jumping unexpectedly.

Low-cost carriers might be able to offer flights at a significantly reduced price, but big-name airlines are able to offer packages that include airfare and hotel rooms at a much lower rate than buying the two separately. They are also likely to offer perks like meal vouchers or upgrades, so even if the price works out to be nearly identical, you’re getting more bang for your buck if you bundle your hotel and airfare together.

Meagen Seatter is a freelance journalist for Hardbacon. She's been using credit cards to travel-hack her way around the world since 2019. In addition to freelance work, she writes for Investing News Network, a global publication reporting on the latest investment news, developments, and trends. She studies online at Athabasca University and currently resides in Vancouver, British Columbia.