If you’ve been reading for any length of time you know that B and I love food. It is one of the things we love most about traveling. So when I make a budget for our trip, I know a good portion of it is going to go to food. For some people, it might be worth it to spend a little more on accommodations because you plan to spend some time there. For B and I, that’s not the case. Typically on vacation we need a place to crash after a jam-packed day. However, even if you like to relax by the pool or have breakfast in bed, this article will help you find the best accommodations for the least amount of money. And who doesn’t love saving money!
I always like to take stock of hotel prices and AirBnBs while planning a trip. One, I love planning of all types and two, it gets me excited about our next destination.
Pro Tip: If you’ve never used AirBnB before, use my link to get $40 off your first stay. After you stay, you can let me know if you liked it!
On any given trip, I usually browse through hotels.com (best rewards program without being “brand loyal”), priceline.com (best last minute deals) and AirBnB. I tried to book through VRBO once, but the deposits were crazy ($1500!) and the fees seemed more extensive than any I’ve ever paid. So, I canceled it and went back to old reliable (AirBnB). After taking stock of all the options, I can usually narrow it down to one of the sites.
If the hotels aren’t crazy expensive and I know we’ll be getting in late for check-in, I’ll usually go with a hotel. On hotels, I typically won’t spend more than $100/night (before taxes and fees) because it adds up fast. I’ll usually choose a hotel if I know we’ll be driving to our destination (like Disney World).
If all the hotels are out of budget or in locations I’m not fond of (google maps is your friend here!), I’ll typically stick to AirBnB. In our experience, AirBnB is usually the way to go in big cities, you just have to know what to look for. Like hotels, I typically won’t spend over $80-100/night on an AirBnB. I’ll usually choose an AirBnB if we want to walk to a downtown area or take public transportation (like New Orleans).
**Pro Tip: hotels will try to sell you on their rewards program by offering “special deals” but I have found that being “brand loyal” often costs more than it saves. Try finding reward programs on budget travel sites (like Expedia or hotels.com) to save money without having to limit yourself to one brand.
Destinations I would choose AirBnB:
- New Orleans
Destinations I would choose a Hotel:
- Disney World
- Roadtrip Stopovers
- Small Towns
So now that you’ve found a dream AirBnB or dirt-cheap hotel, how do you know if it’s too good to be true? The real answer is, you don’t REALLY know. But, you can do some digging to lower your chances of having a bad experience.
What I suggest is:
- Figure out a list of priorities for yourself (do you need a pool? Do you have to be close to downtown? Do you love a coffee maker in the room or those little shampoo bottles?). Write those down so you know what to look for. The more “must haves” the harder it’ll be to stay in budget so really think on this!
- Go straight to the reviews and read what other people say about the place. For Bruce and I, we are typically looking for cleanliness, safety and location, and don’t care about other things. We then look for those key words in reviews. If all the reviews say, “awesome location”, or “super clean”, for example, then B and I are golden. If the reviews say something like, “clean, only had to drive 10 minutes to downtown”, then I’m going to pass. Remember, I want to walk downtown. So even though it is still a good review, it doesn’t have what I’m looking for.
- You also have to know how to dissect reviews. If a review talks about a place not having great amenities, that might mean they don’t have little shampoo bottles. While that might be a deal breaker for some, it isn’t for me, so I’ll keep that one on my list.
This might take a little longer than booking the first thing you see, take an hour off social media and look through the reviews. They’ll give you a great idea of what the accommodation provides and whether it’s worth your money.
Last but not least, always check the hotel or AirBnB policies. You might need a late check-in and find out too late its not available, or miss a $25/night hotel fee for parking your car. It is very important to check out fine print before hitting submit on that reservation. For B and I, cancellation policies are very important. Once you start booking your weekends, travel becomes more spontaneous! Sometimes things happen and we have to cancel, and that’s okay! Just don’t get stuck paying cancellation fees because you didn’t read the fine print!
Whew, so that is what I do to get those awesome accommodations around the world. Do you have any tips or tricks? Leave them below!