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Traveling for less is sooooooo simple. You just need to invest a bit of time. In the case of booking a hotel, like most things related to travel, it’s really simple: compare, compare, compare… and compare more. That’s really it. Take the time to compare. But it definitely helps to know pro tips on what and how to compare!

Both of us Flytrippers co-founders travel 120+ or 340+ days per year, so we often take things that are very basic for granted… but we want to do more content to help those who might be less experienced (so you too can become a pro).

Here’s a teaser of the basics of how to book hotels for less, step by step. We’ll also have many more specific hotel tips soon.

(We did a similar teaser for flights that will also be revamped and improved!)


Overview of how to book hotels for less

To keep this teaser more simple, I’ll stick to the scenario where you’ve already chosen a destination and dates… but if you want to save money, choosing the destination and dates is even more important (and we’ll have more on that too soon).

Most important tips! The most basic thing to do if you want to save is to obviously choose destinations where a hotel (and everything) is much cheaper — like Colombia, Egypt, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Türkiye, Indonesia, and Malaysia, which are the first ones in our new hotels feature — and to be at least somewhat flexible on dates.

So booking a hotel for less is really simple: it’s a lot of comparing. Like with everything else in travel.

First, here is what you should compare (by order of importance):

  • Compare all hotels and booking sites on an aggregator like Trivago
  • Compare prices with travel rewards that must be used on specific sites
  • Compare prices on different booking dates (even after you’ve booked)
  • Compare secret prices/opaque deals (especially at the last minute)
  • Compare the total net prices by considering the rewards earned
  • Compare with private rentals or hostels if you are more flexible

You don’t have to compare all those elements if your desire to save money isn’t strong enough to put in more time. If you want the best compromise that requires no time, at least use an aggregator that compares all hotels, like Trivago. That’s a must.

Support us at no cost! Click directly on our Trivago link (and any of our links) or save our Trivago link in your bookmarks, instead of going directly to their site! It allows you to support Flytrippers at absolutely no cost to you! We sincerely thank you.

But obviously, the more you compare, the more you’ll save. That’s a very simple concept that applies to hotels, flights, everything. It’s one of the 7 most important tips in our free ebook with 100+ tips to travel for less.

Logistically, I like to use a simple spreadsheet to evaluate all the hotel options, but maybe that’s the former management consultant in me. 

Whatever your method, just do the research and compare your options carefully. There’s no shortcut: if you put in more time before your trip, your trip itself will not only be more affordable, but more enjoyable too. Good planning and preparation are the keys!

If you want to save, here’s exactly how to compare for each of those steps.


Compare all hotels and booking sites on an aggregator

The most basic! Compare all hotel options and booking site options because there are thousands of hotels and dozens of booking sites… with very different prices.

How to compare:

  • Go to Trivago
  • Search with the tips below

Again, this is the most important comparison and the most basic tip. Never go to a booking site directly (no matter which one it is). Always use an aggregator.

Booking sites compare all hotels, but no single booking site (no matter which one it is) can have the lowest price 100% of the time. That’s impossible. Prices vary all the time, based on the hotel, the stay dates, and the booking dates.

Aggregators like Trivago compare all hotels but they also compare all booking sites to tell you which one has the lowest price.

Price difference Expedia Trivago
Price difference (image credit: Expedia, Trivago)


We’ll soon have a detailed post about Trivago specifically, as it’s the aggregator we at Flytrippers use ourselves and is the one we definitely recommend.

In the meantime, here are a few tips to compare hotel prices:

  • Always sort by lowest price
    • The most basic thing, if you like to travel for less
    • The default sort setting is never to help you
  • Play around with the filters and other options at the top
    • To find your preference
    • Every traveler is different
  • Look at guest ratings more than star ratings
    • Star ratings are for the specific services offered
    • Guest ratings are for the actual experience
  • Use the map view for the location
    • Consider transportation costs
    • To compare the overall price
  • Make sure to check the hotel’s total price
    • Taxes and fees aren’t included in the first results
    • Unlike with flights


Compare prices with travel rewards that must be used on specific sites

The easiest way to save! Compare all hotel options on travel rewards websites… because if you like to save money, you should definitely have a stash of the rewards currencies that must be used on specific websites.

How to compare:

  • Go to your rewards program’s site
    • Or one you could get started with now
  • Search for prices

The world of travel rewards is by far the easiest way to travel for less, as evidenced by the 3 million dollars in free travel our savvy Flytrippers readers have earned just with the welcome bonus deals we’ve shared.

For example, there are currently 3 great offers to get free hotels very easily:

But those 3 deals work very differently, as does every different reward currency because they are different currencies

So depending on the travel rewards currency, if you want to use points for a hotel, you might need to do an extra comparison step.

The actual redemption logistics work in 2 different ways:

  • Use the points for any travel booked on any website
  • Use the points for travel booked through that program only

In the 1st case, you don’t have any extra steps because the price you see on Trivago or any other website is the one you can book, and then you use your points to erase that expense. The Scotiabank Gold American Express Card allows that. But there are fewer rewards currencies that allow that, and generally, they offer lower value or lower welcome bonuses. Because more flexibility almost always means less value.

In the 2nd case, you just need to compare prices on the reward program’s own website. It’ll take you 2 minutes. We’ll have a lot more information about this comparison step in a detailed post.


Compare prices on different booking dates (even after you’ve booked)

The little-known pro tip! Compare all hotel options after you’ve booked… because prices change constantly and most hotel bookings are refundable for free.

How to compare:

  • Go back to Trivago often
  • Search for prices again

Hotel prices vary based on the date of the stay… but also based on the date you make the reservation, obviously.

It’s similar to flight prices, with less variation for hotels though. With flights, if you make a reservation the very first time you do the research, you’re clearly not doing it right. You’re almost certainly not getting the most affordable or enjoyable option.

But with hotels, many reservations are completely refundable for free. So there’s no reason at all to not lock in your hotel as soon as you find an option you like, even the first time you do a search.

Sadly, 99% of travelers never look at their bookings again. No wonder they overpay for their hotels!

Simply recheck your hotel’s price (or even prices for other hotels) very regularly. They vary constantly. A week after you booked, maybe now your hotel is cheaper for the same dates or maybe now a different hotel is cheaper and better.

If your reservation is refundable, book the new one and refund the old one. You can save hundreds of dollars that way. I recheck them every few weeks, it takes less than 5 minutes. Again: put in a bit of time, save more.

I wrote a post about how I used this tip for my trip to India last summer, and how I helped my travel buddies save as they did not know that pro tip.


Compare secret prices/opaque deals (especially at the last minute)

Huge discounts! Compare all hotel options on a site that has secret prices/opaque deals… because you can save a lot if you look last-minute.

How to compare:

Here’s an extra comparison that’s honestly almost only good for last-minute searches

But it’s not just for those who wait until the last minute… because if your booking is refundable, you can possibly also take advantage thanks to the previous tip.

Hotwire is definitely the best option for last-minute searches. They offer secret prices, also called opaque deals. That means the hotel name is not explicitly shown — but you can figure it out very easily. 

By not showing the hotel name, they can offer discounted rooms that were otherwise not going to be sold, and it can often be 50% off!

Support us at no cost! Again, you can click directly on our Hotwire link (and any of our links) or save our Hotwire link in your bookmarks, instead of going directly to their site! It allows you to support Flytrippers at absolutely no cost to you! We sincerely thank you.

I’ve used Hotwire many times and saved hundreds of dollars on last-minute hotels. Even if I’m not that difficult overall, I still wouldn’t book a hotel without knowing which one it is. But by knowing the pro tips though, I can find the hotel’s name and still get the huge savings — the best of both worlds.

Of course, like all travel tips that exist, it’s not going to save you money 100% of the time. Everything depends on many things, always. But it’s worth taking a few minutes to compare.

You can read our post about Hotwire and opaque deals.

And you can read our post about exactly how to find the hotel’s name.

I’ll also mention that Hotwire has opaque deals for car rentals too, as we mentioned in our recent teaser of car rental tips.


Compare the total net prices by considering the rewards earned

Pro level! Compare the actual net prices and not just the cost itself… because you can earn a very different amount of rewards depending on the hotel you book.

How to compare:

  • Check the rewards earn rates
  • Do the math

Now this is a more advanced tip, but it’s still really simple.

You should always consider both sides of an equation and never one variable alone. Hotel prices are a great example. You should always consider the rewards you earn with a specific hotel, as the amount can vary greatly.

There are 2 things to look at in terms of earn rates that can vary:

  • Rewards earned with the program directly
    • 10% back with
    • Better earn rates with hotel chains
  • Rewards earned with your credit card
    • Multiplier earn rate at Marriott
    • Foreign transaction fee if not in C$

The rewards with the program directly are what vary the most for hotels and what you should compare. 

The simplest example is that the Rewards program gives you 10% back in rewards on any hotel worldwide. Super simple. So at a similar price, you actually save 10% by booking on rather than almost any other booking site. Even if the hotel is 5% cheaper on, if you do the math right, you know you’re still better off booking on to get 10% back.

As for earn rates with hotel chains, it only applies to hotels that are part of the large chains. These offer their own programs and if you book directly with them, you’ll usually earn more than 10% back. But those points can only be used for that specific chain, so it’s only good if you’ll be staying often with that chain.

The rewards with your credit card won’t vary that much, since all hotels will earn the same amount. Card earn rates work by merchant category codes, and all hotels should usually have the “hotels” merchant category code.

The exception is for Marriott Bonvoy, the best rewards program for Canadian travelers. If you have the only card that is for every traveler with no exceptions, the Marriott Bonvoy American Express Card, your card earn rate is 5 pts/$ at Marriott (and the card also gives you automatic Silver Elite status, which boosts the points you earn from the Marriott program directly).

As for foreign transaction fees, it’s not very common as most booking sites will allow you to pay in Canadian dollars. But if you’re comparing 2 options and one is in C$ and one is in a foreign currency, take that 2.5% fee into account as it lowers the net rewards you earn.

You can read our infographic that summarizes the basics of travel rewards.


Compare with private rentals or hostels if you are more flexible

For other types of lodging! Compare the other types of lodging if you don’t absolutely need a hotel… because private rentals will often be cheaper and hostels will almost always be cheaper.

How to compare:

Pretty straightforward. 

Private rentals aren’t hotels, but rather rooms, apartments, homes, or villas you can rent. Many travelers like that experience.

Some of these results do appear on Trivago directly, but you’ll see more options if you use all the sites that are specifically designed for private rentals. We’ll have more content on that soon.

For the search, the same basic tips apply, but the filters are even more important to make sure you’re getting exactly what you want, as the breadth of variety is much larger with private rentals than with hotels.

Hostels are amazing and one of the best ways to travel for less, especially if you are traveling in an expensive country and/or traveling solo.

You share rooms and save a lot of money. You also get to meet plenty of interesting people. Hostelworld is really the reference for hostels. We’ll have more content on that too soon.

Again, use the same tips for the search. As you’d expect, some hostels are very basic and there are way fewer options, so just look at the reviews and ratings.


Learning how to travel for less

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To book hotels for less, you need to compare. Then compare more… and more. And then compare at a later date. At the very minimum, you compare all the options with Trivago. But the more of these other comparisons you take the time to do, the more money you’ll probably save.


What would you like to know about how to book hotels for less? Tell us in the comments below.


See the flight deals we spot: Cheap flights

Discover free travel with rewards: Travel rewards

Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration

Learn pro tricks: Travel tips


Featured image: Room at the Four Points by Sheraton Bali Ungasan Hotel (photo credit: Marriott)

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Andrew D'Amours

Andrew is the co-founder of Flytrippers. He is passionate about traveling the world but also, as a former management consultant, about the travel industry itself. He shares his experiences to help you save money on travel. As a very cost-conscious traveler, he loves finding deals and getting free travel thanks to travel rewards points... to help him visit every country in the world (current count: 71/193 Countries, 47/50 US States & 9/10 Canadian Provinces).

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