This post is about finding amazing cash rates for hotels. Forget about crappy hotel deals sites like Priceline, Hotwire, and Expedia and pick up some new tricks, for those who want really cheap hotel prices. Averaging $20 to $30 a night for 4 and 5 star hotels, like we did in Europe, is possible for anyone.
Many people are surprised that I continually say that I only go for deals that average out under $30 a night for 4 and 5 star hotels, and anyone could do the same or better.
The next comment I usually hear is about how we stay in cheap countries. The fact of the matter is that in the last couple years we’ve spent more time in Europe (or the USA) than all the other continents combined. We’ve stayed in expensive places, usually in 4 and 5 star hotels for under $30 a night.
Our average was actually under $20 a night and hopefully will be again. My main strategy is points from great hotel promotions. But since I talk about that enough, I decided I would give some other resources and ideas for getting similar prices without living out of IHG and Radisson hotels like we do.
Seriously, please forget junk like Priceline and Hotwire, or deals listed on sites like Expedia, or crappy OTA rewards programs like Hotels.com and Expedia rewards. There is a better option out there.
- Roomer: “last minute deals” and “amazing deals”
- Mistake Fares
- Best Rate Guarantees
- Hotel Chain earning and burning deals
- Amazingly Cheap Hotel Redemptions
- MSing for Hotels
This is a cool website I hadn’t heard of until recently that allows people to sell their prepaid rooms that they can’t use to others. Sometimes you’re confident about your plans and book a non-refundable rate, then the plans change anyways.
The great part is that as the date approaches and the room hasn’t sold people decide it’s better to get some of their money back rather than none and sell for super cheap. I have seen downtown Marriott hotels in nice locations go for $30 this way.
And roomer makes it even easier by giving you a list of hotels sorted by the biggest discounts – on the amazing deals page. Here are some examples I found looking at the site right now.
The problem (or maybe the awesome part) is that the site isn’t too well known, and therefore not a ton of people are putting their rooms up for discount. There are usually barely 100 hotels, usually 1 to 5 night stays, on the amazing deals page.
So this strategy either takes flexibility or luck. I’d like to try it out but so far it hasn’t fit my schedule. But I still keep an eye out. Worth checking, but all that to say; don’t just go searching for the city and dates you want and expect an $18 hotel. It’s not going to happen like that.
Mistake Fares are probably even more unlikely in terms of destination than Roomer. But the dates are often flexible. So if I do see a hotel in a place I might go in the next year, I book if it’s a cancelable rate.
I personally get alerts from all 3 of these and I must admit that the second two are like chasing unicorns and I’ve never booked one from 2 or 3. “Here’s a hotel in Cornwall, England on Feb 24th and 25th for $5.” Like, I can’t do that, don’t like the cold, and am not traveling anywhere for a 2 day hotel deal.
FlyerTalk has been really good to me but you have to have the patience to get tons of alerts for crappy hotel deals, ones that don’t apply to you, and people posting dumb things that aren’t hotel deals/aren’t supposed to be in the hotel deals forum – i.e. “anyone know of any deals for Chicago next weekend?” and what not.
Best Rate Guarantees
I’ve talked about this on the surface level many times before but BRGs are consistently the most hackable ways to get hotel deals.
But if you want my quick overview on the BRGs to get the most amazing hotel deals, I’ll summarize 4 of them. The first two have guarantees that they’ll have the best rate or you’ll get your first night free.
First let me say that all these work the same way:
- Book on the website of the chain offering the guarantee
- Find a lower rate on a different website
- Fill out their “claim form”
- Wait to hear back on whether it’s accepted and discounted or not
IHG BRG – Find a lower rate, get your first night free. An awesome guarantee, as even if your stay is one night, it ends up being completely free.
I have used this to get free nights at many InterContinental hotels. For example the IC San Juan, IC Budapest, IC Vienna, IC Nairobi, IC Dusseldorf, IC Austin, and more. Read more about IHG BRGs.
Choice BRG – Find a lower rate, get your first night free. Same as IHG but I tend to do it less because my success rate is lower and I might as well choose 5 star hotels like InterCons.
Hilton BRG – Find a lower rate get $50 off ($50 off bill internationally, get a $50 amex gift card in the mail for domestic BRGs). $50 off a bill doesn’t sound as cool but there are $50 to $60 hotels all over. I actually got a Hilton in Wales for $9 a night doing this. Plus there are many Hiltons in eastern Europe, and all over Asia that can be had for similar prices.
Best Western – Find a lower rate, get a $100 Best Western gift card. This is pretty incredible as you can use a gift card to pay for a hotel that you’ve BRGed. It could potentially be an endless circle of BRGs. I’ve been too lazy or preoccupied with other things to invest in the original stay. Read more on Best Western BRGs.
Again, check out the Complete Guide to Best rate Guarantees as you’ll see that this can apply to booking sites and just about every hotel chain. However, it’s most amazing with these 4.
Hotel Chain earning and burning deals
Club Carlson 2-for-1 Rate
Club Carlson has a rate available for its gold/concierge members (gold is an easy status match and comes with the credit card) for 2-for-1 weekend rates, and even 4-for-2 (starting on Wed/Thur). This is only available in Europe, Middle East and Africa, but one of Club Carlson’s strengths is its presence in this region of the world.
This is a pretty amazing deal on its own as it’s already 50% off, but the fact that you earn points makes it even better. It’s basically a buy one get one free, so half of the nights will show up as paid rates.
We’ve earned a fair number of points on paid Club Carlson stays. They’ve had promos for 50,000 points, 30,000 points and triple points. You could potentionally pay for 1 night and get one free with the 2-for-1 rate and get enough points for another night.
The problem with this rate is that its availability can be pretty bad in peak times. In winter it was super great. Hotels are already cheap for winter and then I got 50% off. However, it seems to have terrible availability even looking at some of the same hotels for the spring. Plus, it doesn’t seem to have good availability booking ahead either. That being said, it is definitely worth checking on your next Euro trip.
IHG’s Big Promos + PointBreaks
The most deadly earning and burning hotel combination is no doubt with IHG. For the last many quarters they’ve had one of the best hotel points earning promotions. It’s possible for anyone to get at least 50,000 points in 3 paid nights.
And on the other side they have one of the best hotel redemptions and best redemption promotions – PointBreaks. They pick a couple hundred hotels every couple months to go on the list and be available for 5,000 points a night.
Now combine the two. Pay for three nights -> earn 50,000 points -> redeem the 50k for 10 nights during PointBreaks. 13 nights for the price of 3. This is how I roll.
Amazingly Cheap Hotel Redemptions
I just did a post on this that I’ll let do the talking here: Amazingly Cheap Hotel Redemptions.
The concept is simple, using your rewards points for category 1 and 2 hotels can save a ton of points. It’s rare that they are in a good location so I tried to make a list of all the cheap hotel redemptions in hotels/places that I would actually spend time.
It’s true with basically every chain but here are a couple of examples. 30,000 SPG points could go to 1 night at a top tier hotel or 10 nights at a category 2 hotel on weekends – and there are tons of good SPG category 2 hotels. A great redemption!
Or take 95,000 Hilton points- that is 1 single night at a top tier hotel or 19 nights at a category 1 hotel.
MSing for Hotels
The art of buying gift cards on credit cards that earn lots of points and cashing them out could still work for hotels.
|Co-Brand Credit Card||Category Bonus||Transfers||Category Bonuses||$ to cat 1||$ to top tier|
|Hyatt||Hyatt||1x||Chase||Ink Bold 5x||$1,000||$6,000|
|IHG||IHG||2x Grocery, Gas||Chase, Citi||Ink Bold 5x||$2,000||$10,000|
|Hilton||HHonors Surpass||6x Grocery, Gas||Amex 1:1.5, Citi 1:1.5||Hilton Surpass 6x||$833||$15,833|
|Club Carlson||Club Carlson||5x everywhere||Club Carlson 5x||$1,800||$14,000|
|SPG||SPG||1x||Amex 0.33:1||SPG 1x||$2,000||$35,000|
|Marriott||Marriott||1x||Chase||Ink Bold 5x||$1,500||$14,000|
The biggest problem with this chart is the Ink Chase partner thing. I would never transfer Chase points to Marriott in the first place, and right now earning Chase points at office supply stores on the Ink isn’t as easy as it used to be.
The best options to me are Hilton, Club Carlson and maybe SPG.
Hilton Surpass has 6x at grocery/gas and 5k point category 1 hotels. A great combo. At a 1% loss that’s $8.33 for a free night.
But both the Surpass and Reserve earn 3 points per dollar everywhere! As I’ll say with Club Carlson in a second, that’s super easy and it makes places I normally wouldn’t buy gift cards, like Simon, a reasonable option.
Club Carlson at 5x everywhere is a killer deal too. $1,800 spend to get a free night at non-bonus category locations like Simon is reasonable. If you have an easy method, it’s definitely worth the spend with Club Carlson. Easy and less than 1%, I’d say you should always do it (given that you don’t have a better card to be using), especially before the deval.
Realistically right now with simon and BlueBird you can do .6% cost/gc fees and double the value with the bogo, which you can book with until June 1. Makes two nights at a category 1 $10, or $18 at a category 2.
SPG is only 1x but free nights start at 2,000 points. Realistically, I’d redeem for category 2 hotels ranging from 3,000 (on weekends) to 4,000 points. But at 1% $30 to $40 for a free night is more than Club Carlson, so I tend not to care too much about SPG right now.
My hope is that there are enough amazing options here that you can score something on your next vacation. I assure you that $30 a night at 4/5 star hotels isn’t because we’re special or because we only travel to specific locations; it is entirely because we have the methods listed in this post at our finger tips.
And at the end of the day, you always have rewards programs to get free nights. Free nights from credit card sign up bonuses or spending.