Hotels can be expensive and all the nights of your frugal road trip can add up quickly to a very large sum. Does that mean you have to stay in some rat-trap with cockroaches to save a buck?
Nope! There are lots of ways to save money on hotels when you travel – and they apply no matter what kind of trip you’re on. This will involve a little homework before you go, but it will make all the difference to your wallet.
So how do you save money on hotels?
- The top frugal road trip tip is to start by getting a AAA membership. The basic membership is fine and will get you what you’re looking for: hotel discounts. Most hotels offer AAA rates (Best Western’s deal is especially good) which are typical $20-30 cheaper than usual rates. Add that to any of the other savings solutions suggested here, and you’ll have a great deal. Of course, the membership also offers free towing, lock-out help, battery charging, tire changing, fuel delivery, and much more. I know I sound like an ad here, but I have no affiliation – just a true believer!
- Never spend extra for a hotel room with a view during a frugal road trip. Get the cheapest no-view room you can get and get out of your room to enjoy the view! At the beach? Go take a walk down that beach. In the mountains? You’ll have many beautiful views all day driving on your trip and at every stop along the way. The cost of the “view” room is usually much higher, and as you’re on a road trip, you’re not living in your room anyway, so it’s not worth it.
- Consider going to your destination off-season. Beach community hotels charge peak prices all summer long, but that same beach is just as beautiful and enjoyable in the late spring or early fall and the rooms are far less expensive. The same goes for skiing or any other seasonal destination. Find out what the off-season is and go then to reap big savings.
- Hotel chains often have specials. Check out hotel chain websites to see what they’re offering currently and take advantage. Be advised that some deals come with a multiple-night requirement – those obviously won’t work on a road trip.
- Never get a suite during your frugal road trip – just like the room with the view, it’s usually more expensive. You’re not living there, you’re just there for the night, so it’s not likely you’ll get many benefits from it. The one exception is if the suite has a couch with a pull-out bed and you intend to use that for an extra bed for your group.
- Look for rooms that have microwaves and mini-refrigerators. You can save a lot of food on your trip when you can store it in the fridge and heat it up to eat while you’re in the room. When my husband and I travel and decide to go out for dinner, we’ll eat half of our entrées (they’re usually so huge we can’t finish them) and then take home the leftovers for an unusual breakfast the next morning. Spaghetti for breakfast? You betcha! If you decide to do this, make sure to bring plastic or real silverware.
- You might want to consider staying at older motels and motor lodges. They’re almost always cheaper than newer chains and some are very well kept (although old). Do your homework online if you go this route by researching each motel on TripAdvisor or CitySearch. Why research? With an older hotel, everything depends on the owner and their pride in their place. If they keep it up well, it will reflect that in the reviews you find online. But, there are two things you should watch out for! One, make sure the reviews are within the last year. Any older and the management might have changed and the motel could be completely different (falling apart, dirty, terrible service). Two, watch out for a ton of reviews that are extremely praising in a way that doesn’t sound realistic. That’s a sure sign of an owner posting false reviews about their own motel.
- When you book a room, either book directly from that hotel’s website or call the hotel directly (not the chain’s toll-free number, the local number of that specific hotel). The chain’s website is where the deals are, not at any of the general travel-booking websites. The chain shops out the more expensive rooms to the travel websites as that increases the chance of filling them and saves the cheapies to use when negotiating with customers directly. If you call, ask to speak to a manager. The manager is much more motivated to sell you a cheaper room and fill it than someone hired to man the phones.
With these frugal road trip tips, you can really trim down the cost of your hotel rooms on your road trip, freeing up some money for fun things on your trip, or simply allowing you to be able to afford more frequent vacations! Want more ways to save money? Check out these frugal road trip tips.