How to Find Great Hotel Deals on the Road

Your bags are packed, your route is set, and the perfect road trip is just a few sleeps away. Which reminds you…sleep. Where are you going to sleep?

When you’re crossing off to-dos in preparation for a driving vacation, you might remember to stock up on snacks and get your engine examined (both good things!), but you might forget the small matter of accommodations. The good news is that nowadays, you can use an endless array of apps to book a hotel room at any time. The bad news is those “last minute deals” are rarely the money-savers they claim to be.

But back to the good news: it’s totally possible to score an awesome room at a great rate if you know which hotel hacks to implement.

Here’s your handy how-to guide on booking affordable accommodations—even at the eleventh hour

  • Compare, compare, compare. The beauty of the abundance of hotel booking sites and apps is that you don’t have to swoop on the first deal you see. While it’s always a good idea to get the lay of the land from sites like Kayak and Expedia, once you have an idea of what’s out there, you can put your search engine to use and see if the specific properties listed are offering any kinds of promotions not mentioned on the money-saver sites. You might even find that a hotel’s website offers a lower rate than what’s listed anywhere else. So start sleuthing and don’t be afraid to use your smartphone as an actual phone and call the front desk!
  • Time your stay wisely. Sure, you’ll need to sleep somewhere every night you’re on the open road, but if you’re eyeing a particularly posh property (i.e. anything fancier than a Motel 6), try making your reservation mid-week. Fridays and Saturdays are peak nights for most places, so if you can plan to stay in more modest digs those nights, you may be able to land a good deal on more upscale locations Sunday through Thursday.
  • Skip hotels altogether. Traditional hotels aren’t the only travel option anymore, thanks to websites like Airbnb that allow you to stay in local apartments and homes. While you may not wake up to maid service every morning, you could potentially get a lot more space for a better price. This option is great for big groups, but if you’re on your own, you might consider staying a hostel. Before you cringe at the thought, know that modern hostels aren’t necessarily the nightmarish pseudo-dorms of your college days. Many major cities now have upgraded hostels that are still cheaper than hotels but offer nice perks like wifi, laundry, kitchens, and more.
  • Reach out to a pro. It may seem crazy to abandon the apps altogether, but hear us out: travel agents are often able to negotiate preferred rates us normies simply can’t access, and some can even get you free food and upgrades. Another plus: many agents don’t charge a fee for hotel booking services.
  • Put your credit card to use. While it’s never a good idea to charge your life away, all that shopping might come in handy when it’s time to travel. Many credit card companies offer reward points that you can redeem for hotels, flights, and more. Be sure to check your current program and see if you’re eligible for hotel discounts or free bookings.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based journalist/writer/editor and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumna. She’s written extensively on health, body image, entertainment, lifestyle, design, and tech for outlets like Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, O: The Oprah Magazine, Seventeen, and a whole lot more. She’s also a contributing editor at Fitbit and the social media director at California Home + Design Magazine. She is an avid admirer of shiny objects, manatees, and preteen entertainment.