Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Little (Hotel Search) Engines That Could

This was a guest post by me that originally ran on The Savalots.

I love to travel and I love saving money. With so many travel sites claiming they have The Best Deal, you want to make sure that’s really what you’re getting. Why bother searching multiple sites if they all claim this? Simple – because there are some sites that can actually get you better deals and incentives for future travel. If you’re on a budget, like many of us are, it’s important that your dollar stretch and you get the most you can out of it. Just because your budget is tight, doesn’t mean your vacations have to suffer. You can still save money without sacrificing destination or comfort, so try some of these lesser-known sites when booking your next trip: – This fast-growing site is UK-based and has a vast selection of hotels, bed & breakfasts and apartments worldwide. They have just started branching out to include American accommodations, but they do have listings for most of the big tourist cities, like Orlando, New York City and Los Angeles. What makes this site great is that the reviews are very candid, there are enough photos and information to know if it’s the accommodation for you and most of the listings don’t require you to pay up front. Some ask for a deposit, but many you just pay when you get there. I love this approach, because if you’re like me, you like to reserve as far out as possible, which isn’t always an option if you don’t have enough money in your bank account to tie up in a hotel reservation at the time. – With a free membership to their rewards program, HotelClub works a bit like your local grocery store rewards card, except the more reservations you complete, the more you can earn. A great resource for accommodations across the globe, you’ll find photos, guest reviews and a wealth of information about each property. Each time you book through them and complete a stay, you’ll bank 4% “cash back” in your account for use on future stays. After two stays you reach “Gold Club Member” status which can earn you 5% cash back, and after six stays, you’ll move up to “Platinum Club Member” status and earn up to 6% cash back. All last-minute bookings only get you 2% cash back, but a discount is a discount, and because this site is powered by Orbitz, you know you’ll have a wide selection of accommodations to choose from.
Enjoying our deck at our last vacation rental – Run by TripAdvisor, this site has over 100,000 vacation rentals by owner. What does this mean for you? Usually, you save over the price of hotels, you don’t have to worry about other noisy guests and you have all the comforts of home, including a kitchen, so you can save more money by limiting meals out and making as many as you want yourself. The site is super informative and includes detailed information about each property, previous renter reviews, many pictures and a nice calendar that shows you availability. You contact the owner safely through the site to ask any questions, request more pictures and to make your reservation. – If you’re planning a trip to Europe or the UK, this site is for you. Their motto is “London for Less” and they really deliver. While they have listings for other countries, they have amazing deals particularly for England. Book a “short break” with them and you could be looking at a package that includes accommodation and an activity, theater, concert tickets, dining or theme park admission for a huge discount. If you plan to stay longer, you can add more hotel days as well. I’ve found that Superbreak has some of the best deals on UK hotels on the Internet and flying there is very affordable in the fall and winter months.
If you do a bit of comparison-shopping for lodgings, you can easily save on convenient and comfortable accommodations wherever you go. The sites above have many other options than your traditional hotel websites, including smaller local hotels. Finding a hidden gem among big hotel chains is now easier than ever.

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