Can’t afford to splash out on a hotel? We give you 27 great tips for bagging the best deal on your accommodation in our comprehensive guide below.
Book Hotel At The Right Time
With the exception of late deals, where hotels are keen to fill empty rooms at the last minute, it’s unwise to leave your booking too late.
For the best price, you should book between three and four weeks before your desired travel date although the price difference is really not that much if you book a month before or a day before.
According to Skyscanner.com you should be mindful about dates you want to book. Some hotels hike their prices up on bank holidays, Christmas, Labor Day etc. You will also have to pay more at weekends instead of midweek.
Compare Your Booking Options
To get the best prices your best bet is to check out multiple sources including the hotel’s own website, as they’ll sometimes offer deals they don’t share with third-party sites.
We checked out ten of the UK’s top hotel comparison/ booking sites. Here is the low down;-
Expedia is a booking site rather than a comparison site. You’ll simply find what you need, at what is likely the best price. Just be sure to compare prices to a hotel booking site outside the Expedia family.
Customers rate Expedia 88% user rating based on 377,580 reviews- Source, Feefo.
great cheap prices, easy booking. good map.
Penelope, Source Feefo.
Verdict: Good prices for stays with the top chains!
The good thing about Trivago is that it searches lesser-known sites, including Agoda, Expedia, and Booking.com and displays the offers, sometimes the best offers are not the most clear so make sure you look at the results to make sure Trivago isn’t hiding a better deal.
We love Trivago, we use it all the time. Always get the best deals. The key is to look at the more deals tab and then select the cheapest one.
Kevin 2019, Source Trust Pilot.
Verdict: Wide range of hotel booking companies searched to give you different options across the board.
ebookers’ allows customers to book flights and a number of other travel options such as hotels and rental cars online.
Always a good service – competitive rates and the Bonus+ is great.
Only disappointment – used a voucher code and it was only taken off 1 of the 3 rooms I booked.
Beverley, Source Feefo
Verdict: Competitive rates
Booking.com returns the widest search results with a good mix of hotels, apartments, and even hostels. You can filter searches so if you aren’t interested in certain types of accommodation you don’t have to scroll through. The variety of property types is great for all budgets.
It’s also great to simply see hotels which offer free cancellation highlighted so you can book in the comfort of knowing you can cancel if you need too.
Interesting to see so many negative reviews. For me booking is always how i make the reservations for hotels. So far never had any issue.
Jenny, Source Trust Pilot
Verdict: Good for finding independent gems, but check the reviews. We liked its family friendly filter.
Hotels.com includes a lot of non-hotel properties as well, including guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts. There are plenty of filters!
Outstanding ‘ I’ve never had anything but positive experiences with hotels.com and use them very regularly, the rewards program is second to none
Mark, Source Trust Pilot
Verdict: Great reviews, wide variety of accommodation types, not just hotels.
It was refreshing to see some different hotels using Late Rooms’ search.
‘ Great site ‘
Would definitely use LateRooms.com again, found the perfect hotel at a great price on exactly the right dates. Site was easy to use and booked the last available room.
Biba, Source Trust Pilot
Verdict: Worth checking. It turned up lots of hotels we didn’t see elsewhere
TravelSupermarket is a comparison site which searches all of the best offers from sites such as Booking.com, Agoda, Amoma and Expedia etc. It’s a quick way to get an overall search of the cheapest price if you’re looking for a specific hotel!
TravelSupermarket has mixed reviews, this was a very positive one;-
Absolutely love travel supermarket ! They always have some amazing travel deals and it is extremely easy to book the deals through 3rd party companies. I wouldn’t book through anything else ever again.
Ainsley, Source Trust Pilot
Verdict: Equal to other comparison sites and sometimes better. Comprehensive but you may have to wade through unsuitable finds.
Agoda is a booking site that focuses on Asia, where properties in Malaysia, Thailand, and other destinations in that region are shown on homepage etc. But Agoda has prices for all over the world so its worth checking as you may find a hidden gem.
Very convenient interface. Fast search, map etc.
Alexis, Source Feefo.
Offers competitive service, worlwide coverage and award winning service. Trip.com
Im the first time user, the reason for signing up is due to the price compared among other web is cheaper. The reward points accumulated from the bookings made also attracts me to think of booking with trip.com as priority.
Cyndy, Source Trust Pilot.
Kayak is easy to use and has lots of filters to show other hotel booking sites’ rates so you can compare in one place. But the first hotel price result is often higher than better rates further down the list. It’s good for price comparisons, so long as you’re willing to check through or sort by price if you’re looking for the cheapest deal.
‘ easy as pie ‘ very easy…i was pleased to see the low price that you found for me.
Ralph, Source Feefo.
We used all of the above booking sites hotel search engines, to get a quote for booking a specific hotel in London on the same date. The results were surprising as prices ranged from £387-£655 for a double room. That’s £268 saved for 20 minutes of research! Therefore, it really is worth your while shopping around as results will vary and different sites offer various discounts at different times!
Why You Should Always Refer To TripAdvisor!
As you search for hotels you’re going to need reviews. Because in the competitive hotel game a good deal is not always what it seems – you don’t want to find yourself staying in a dirty, noisy, unfriendly hole that looked okay in the photos and scored reasonably on the booking site.
The hotel star rating system only applies to the UK but searching on sites like TripAdvisor will let you read reviews. Not all reviews are equal and it’s better to look to an independent site like TripAdvisor for a warts-and-all account.
Compare what different sites say about one budget hotel in Birmingham;-
TripAdvisor AVERAGE 3 stars from 315 reviews “Adequate accommodation, but beware the noise of late-night revellers at the weekend”
Booking.com GOOD 7.1 from 874 reviews “Nice clean comfy stay”
Laterooms.com GOOD from 71 reviews “Clean, Tidy with very helpful and friendly staff”
Expedia GOOD 3.5/5 from 640 reviews “84% of guests recommend it”
In our experience, TripAdvisor reviews provides the most accurate sense of the quality of a hotel, with many experienced travel reviewers who are willing to factor in value-for-money and customer expectations.
Check For Hidden Charges
Once you’ve pinned down the hotel you like, there are two steps you should take before pressing ‘book’.
First go to the hotel’s own website and check you can’t book it cheaper direct. Many of the big family-friendly chains like Premier Inn and Travelodge offer online saver rates that are better than you’ll find anywhere else.
Some independent hotels, too, will do you a better deal direct. Bear in mind they often have to pay commissions to brokers, so money not spent on a middle agent could be money saved for both parties.
Travelling Abroad? Check Combination Packages
If you’re flying to your destination, here’s another thing you should check before confirming.
When searching flights, see if you can get a better deal by booking a flight + hotel combo package.
Find A Bargain Hotel Deal In The School Holidays
While finding cheap flights in the school holidays can be a nightmare, hotels are a better prospect. Book well ahead at the likes of Premier Inn and Travelodge and your purse shouldn’t suffer too badly. Meanwhile lots of hotels have special school holiday offers.
lastminute.com is a good place to look for half term deals.
Spoil The Secret! How To Get Discounts At Luxury Hotels
High end hotels don’t advertise discounts, because it’s bad for their premium image.
Typically on these you’ll see a hotel described but not named, so you don’t know where it is exactly. But a bit of investigative work and you should be able to work it out.
Using lastminute.com we found a £77 room for two available in two weeks’ time at a classy London hotel. It was described as a “modern, 4-star hotel is located in vibrant Kensington and just minutes away from shopping centres, famous museums and parks, and well connected via public transport.”
A quick Google of this description and in seconds we discovered this hotel is the The Hilton London Olympia. The same room spec is advertised for £111 on their website and with various booking sites.
Looking For A Cheap Hotel In America?
Hotwire is America’s secret hotel site, except it doesn’t just offer premium hotels it searches the whole market. All the hotels are anonymous and there are huge savings to be had.
Searching for a family-friendly hotel in Florida’s Orlando, close to Disney World, we found a four star chain hotel with rooms for £53 a night on Hotwire. With taxes and resort fees this went up to £77. However with a bit of Google searching we worked out this was probably the opulent Marriott, where rooms start around £200 per night if you book direct.
Meanwhile Priceline is different concept. A kind of ‘eBay of hotels’, you bid for a room stating how much you’re prepared to pay, the areas you’d accept and the minimum stars. Priceline then either accepts your bid and offers you a suitable hotel or it declines and invites you to raise your offer. It’s quite fun!
UK Attraction Breaks, Are Their Packages Worth It?
If you’re booking a trip to Legoland, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers or another of the popular UK attractions, do take a look at the hotel deals these attractions offer. They seem convenient, but are they a good deal?
Before you commit it’s worth checking the price of booking a hotel separately. Often these attractions offer cheap ticket deals that can’t be used with hotel deals.
It does usually work out cheaper to put together your own attraction breaks deal, but the theme parks can often have great short break deals via their holiday websites, so its worth comparing before you make that booking.
Use Newsletter Sign Ups To Your Advantage!
Many hotel booking sites will give you a discount if you sign up for their newsletter.
It’s an easy way to knock pounds off a hotel you may have already seen on their site.
Split The Family Up! Separate Rooms Can Be Cheaper
If you’re struggling to find a family hotel room and you don’t mind being separated, consider booking two rooms (ask for adjoining). This can also work out cheaper sometimes. Use Booking.com which enables you to search for multiple rooms in the same hotel.
Use Loyalty Schemes
Reward schemes are popular. Ebookers runs Bonus+ with up to 5% cashback and special deals like 3 x Bonus+ points when you book cheap flights with United Airlines. Once you’ve booked 10 nights or more with Hotels.com you get an extra night free with their Hotels.com Rewards.
Use these sites when it makes sense. If you can continually find cheaper prices elsewhere it doesn’t always make sense to build loyalty.
Check Brand New Hotels For Offers
Often when a new hotel opens they’ll start with low price deals to tempt guests in. Type into Google the name of your destination followed by “new hotel”. Click on Google’s news tab and see if there are any recent hotel openings. Give them a call and a quick question can sometimes win you a money-saving stay.
Another idea is to check Hotel Design’s industry news section and see which hotels have had refits and relaunches – again, often these venues are keen to bring new business and deals are available.
Got A Big Family? Think About Alternative Accommodation
It can be challenging travelling with a large family. Sometimes the hotel world seems unfairly biased towards those with two kids or less.
If a hotel says rooms are only for four persons, ask if they’ll rent you a fold up bed or other to take your own blow up bed.
If you’re forced to take an extra room, try to get an adjoining room and ask for a discount.
You might find independent hotels more accommodating than purpose-built chains, due to their quirk room shapes and more flexible rules.
Stay On A Sunday!
If you can be flexible, include a Sunday in your hotel stay – it’s generally the cheapest night in the hotel world. However it depends on the market and there could be other good times to find.
A business hotel in a financial district that becomes a ghost-town at weekends may have some great prices for Friday and Saturday nights. While a tourist town like Brighton that has a strong weekend trade may offer cheaper prices during the week.
Look For ATOL Protection
If you’re flying to your hotel destination and you book a flight + hotel deal via a broker, you should be ATOL protected. ATOL cover means you don’t lose money if the airline goes bust (and they do).
When you book an ATOL protected trip, you should be given an ATOL Certificate by your travel company as soon as you pay over any money for the holiday – even if this is only a deposit. It will tell you what’s protected by ATOL, who’s covered and who is providing this protection (the travel company’s name and ATOL number).
Book Everything Separately
While sometimes there are deals to be had, usually it pays to arrange of all your travel separately. So if you need cheap flights, cheap car hire or cheap train tickets as well as a cheap hotel, check out our travel guides. And don’t forget cheap travel insurance. These expert guides contain over 100 tips that we guarantee will save independent travellers money.
Expand Your Search
It there’s a group of you travelling it may well be cheaper to look at holiday apartments and houses for rent.
Try eBay Holidays & Travel category is actually great for bargain-hunting, particularly if you leave it late. Many property owners that advertise their homes elsewhere will try a last minute ad on eBay to fill an otherwise vacant villa.
Another to try for holiday homes abroad is ClickStay.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to Holiday Rentals here>>
If you’re staying more than three nights and going to a traditional holiday destination like the Spanish islands, the Costas, the Algarve or Greece, check out package holiday deals.
Using TravelSupermarket to find a Christmas holiday sun break, we found 7 nights in an self-catering apartment on the Costa Brava – flights and accommodation – for £590 flying from Manchester to Barcelona, with Monarch.
Using Skyscanner to find cheap flights the same Monarch flights came to £406. Without even factoring airport transfers, this means an accommodation cost for our package of £184 – or £26 per night.
If you’re looking at clean and basic low budget hotels, consider hostels. They’re not just for backpackers or young travellers, many are family friendly and attract adventurous older couples too.
Hostels can be a more interesting, sociable experience than staying in a characterless chain hotel on an edge of town retail estate. Check out the YHA’s site, where family rooms start at £25 and members get a £3 reduction.
Anne from Somerset says:
Our family stayed in a perfectly good room at a youth hostel near Stonehenge. Lots of them have their own quirks. This one was attached to a huge rare breeds farm with animals and a trim trail. We were allowed to access it for free and even stayed in there after closing time – they were very relaxed and friendly.
Book Empty University Rooms
In expensive cities like London, university accommodation is an interesting option – though probably better-suited to single travellers or couples.
When students aren’t using their halls, many universities rent them out at a reasonable price. You may have to look on the local uni’s own website to find their booking details – some don’t have a formal online booking system in place.
Others, like London’s LSE for example, lsevacations.co.uk. On this site we found single rooms starting from £35 per night. For central locations like Bloomsbury this is a steal.
Try University Rooms to look for student accommodation around the world.
Camping in the UK or Europe
In good weather, camping is an absolute joy. Kids love the freedom that campsites offer and it feels good to spend time in nature, with campfires, outdoor cooking and starry nights.
Stay with a local
Do a home exchange
Live in a tourist town or attractive area? Willing to let strangers stay in your house while you’re not there? A home exchange could save you a fortune.
Most home swap sites operate on a membership fee basis. HomeExchange has over 65,000 properties listed and costs @ £100 to join, a one-off fee.
Find a working holiday where rooms and food come free
There are farms, ranches and hostels across the world where you can stay free so long as you help out with some jobs. Typically you’d be expected to give four hours a day to help with fruit picking, gardening, animal care or even boat crewing. Check out Helpx which operates in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Europe.
Airport sleeping – when you don’t want to book a hotel
If you’ve got a flight stopover and don’t want to shell out, this website will make sleeping in the airport a little bit more comfortable for you.
- Premier Inn
- Late Rooms
- Travel Republic
- eBay Holidays & Travel
- Ice Lolly
- On The Beach
- University Rooms
- UK Campsite
- YHA’s site
We hope this guide will help you find your perfect hotel stay and enjoy money off your next family break – happy holidays!