I don’t usually pay for hotel rooms. Most of my hotel stays are IHG BRGs, point stays, or mistake fares… sometimes, I even stay at hostels (the shame!).
Yesterday I had to buy the most expensive hotel stay I’ve ever done, and you know what, it wasn’t that bad. I’m going to detail the process that I went through to limit costs as much as possible.
My partner and I are going to South Africa at the end of July. Lamenting over the fact we weren’t doing a safari (because of cost), we decided to suck it up and pay for a safari.
First thing I did is look at where we wanted to go. I pulled up a Google Maps of the Johannesburg area, and in another screen, a list of the best parks within 3 hours. I decided on Pilanesberg.
After than, I pulled up a Trip Advisor list of the best hotels in the park. I wanted to go to either #1 or #2 (unfortunately, there were no viable places for free point stays).
#1 and #2 were both $400 per night (+100 fees), which is too much for me. I then pulled up the hotel on Trivago.com, which searched a number of websites for the best fare.
The best price was with hotels.com for $300 per night. Luckily for me, hotels.com is a partner with gcr.ca, and I was able to get a 4.5% refund of the hotel price through them.
Moreover, there was a 75$ off 500$ booking coupon for Canada Day. Score!
If I just went with the first option that Trip Advisor told me to book, I would have paid about $900. Pre discounts on Hotel.com, it would have been $691. I paid:
($691 – $75)*0.955 = $588.28.
Even better, the hotel had their own Frequent Guest Program. With a little bit of research, I discovered that guests get a free bottle of wine, and more significantly, all safari options for free during the stay. Their website wasn’t very good, but I was eventually able to get into the program. I called up the hotel and they put the number in the reservation and confirmed the free safaris.
I was going to be paying around 100$ per day for a safari. So, if I just used the first option that Trip Advisor gave me without doing any research, I would have paid $900+$200 (two days of safari) = $1100.
In the end I saved $511.72, and I spent around 20 minutes doing the appropriate research and bookings. Not too shabby!
Before you pay for a hotel, first look if you can do it on points. If not, use Trip Advisor and look for hotel ratings that you’re interested in. Pick those hotels and then search them on a hotel comparison site like Trivago. Get the best rate, then look if the travel agent is associated with any cash-back schemes (like GCR). Next, search if there are any available coupons. Last, look at the hotel’s website to see if there are any offers for their frequent guest programs… might be able to get freebies! (you might actually want to do this last step first, because some hotels offer a big discount to their frequent guest program participants that wouldn’t show with travel agents, and might be a bigger discount than you can get with cash-back/coupons.)