Plan a Longer Stay
As you attempt to save money on hotel stays, it might seem odd to advise planning a longer stay that will result in a more expensive bill. Often, your vacation is a prescribed number of days and additions are not possible.
But some travelers will book three nights at one hotel, move 100 miles, book another three nights, and then maybe finish their vacations at a third hotel in the same region.
If you are willing to consider hub travel, you'll find that there is often a point in the middle of all that moving, easily accessible by ground transportation, that could serve as the center of your hub.
With a longer stay, you will be able to negotiate lower rates. In some locations, three consecutive nights will result in a fourth night for free.
Stay during the Off-Season
If you're a serious about saving money, you're well aware that off-season travel is a wise practice that will bring big discounts on airfare as well as hotel stays.
Lower-priced room rates do not always follow seasonal models. In New York, for example, Manhattan hotel rooms are in demand all year. But in a place like Venice, you'll pay far less for a hotel room in February than it will cost in July.
Travel in a true off-season isn't always necessary to save money. In the shoulder seasons that separate off-season from peak times, sometimes scheduling a week earlier or later can save a lot of money.
Patronize Travel Auctions
Best-known among the online travel auctions for hotel rooms is Priceline, which offers chances to bid within zones of a given market for a hotel room. Likewise, Hotwire.com gives hints about locations and amenities, but asks you to agree to a hotel deal without learning the identity of the hotel until after the non-refundable transaction is completed.
Others have tried to enter the travel auctions game. Travelocity offers its Top Secret Hotels at discounts up to 45 percent, but some complain the zones are poorly defined.
Obviously, these deals are not for everyone. There are times when knowing the address and identity of a hotel room is far more important than saving a few bucks. But if you're willing to take the chance, travel auctions provide a chance to save money.
This budget travel strategy works best in larger cities and during dates when big hotels are apt to have plenty of empty rooms. These hotels would rather sell the rooms at hefty discounts than earn nothing.
Watch for Online Discounts
The weekly travel deals from About.com Budget Travel often feature at least one sale on either a popular destination or a huge selection of rooms in many locations. These offers frequently come from online travel agents such as Travelocity, Expedia or Orbitz.
There are many conditions that trigger these discounts, which can range from 25-50 percent depending upon the time of year and travel company making the offers. When you see them, investigate the cities being offered and be sure to read the fine print carefully. These deals often come with blackout dates that make them far less practical than they first appear.
Join a Loyalty Club
Frequent flier clubs attract millions of travelers rather easily. But putting the same concept to work on the ground with hotel loyalty clubs is good budget travel practice, too.
If you find a brand of hotel that consistently meets your budget and comfort expectations, why not join their loyalty club and make at least some effort to find their properties in your next destination? Lower costs, room upgrades and other perks can be the results.
Watch the Add-On Expenses
This article is about finding a great hotel room rate. But it must be said that many budget travelers become careless after snagging that deal.
Hotel add-on fees can quickly result in something less than a great deal. If you don't arrange for parking, you might pay $50/day for the privilege at the hotel offering your big discount. The same is true of honor bar and in-room movie charges. They add up so quickly that many travelers don't notice them until it's too late.
Search for a Free Upgrade
Free hotel room upgrades are elusive for many budget travelers, who select low cost and value on a case-by-case basis. Still, there are steps that make free hotel upgrades more likely that every budget traveler should consider.
Just as good deals are more likely in off-peak situations, so too are room upgrades. And above all, it never hurts to ask politely if such an upgrade is possible either at no cost or for a small fee. This might not improve the bottom-line cost of your trip, but it will add value.
Look for Quirky Hotels
Would you stay in a capsule hotel? How about a room so small it seems more like a ship's sleeping compartment?
That's exactly how owners of a Manhattan hotel called The Jane set out to creatively market their rooms. Given the extreme expense of Manhattan real estate, they made the most of what they had by designing rooms and hallways to resemble a ship at sea. Even though the rooms (called "cabins") are cramped, they come in at prices far below what you'd expect to pay in such a location.
If you're willing to enjoy a quirky experience, you'll probably find a budget travel reward.