Booking.com may tell you you’ve found a great deal on a luxury four-star hotel, but don’t stop there. Comparison sites, such as Trivago and Kayak, will trawl the market for the lowest price they can find. Even then, it’s a good idea to use more than one as no single site has the best deal every time.
If the booking site offers ‘free cancellation’ for no additional charge, or very cheap (less than £10), it’s often worth opting for this over the non-refundable rate. If your hotel still has empty rooms at the last minute, it may slash its prices. If this happens within the permitted window (often up to 48 hours before check-in), you can cancel and rebook at the lower price without any nasty penalty fees.
Before you reach for your credit card, why not see if you can cut out the middleman altogether? Booking sites typically take around 15% commission, so it’s savvy to call the hotel and ask if it can do better. Even when hotels can’t undercut their agent, they may offer a tasty sweetener - such as a free bottle of wine, cut-price parking or a discount at its restaurant.
The trick for bagging a bargain is to do the opposite of everybody else. For long weekends, consider taking the Monday rather than the Friday off work. Hotels are typically quiet on Sundays so lower rates or free gifts are often dangled to drive demand. Similarly, hunt for weekend city breaks in financial districts – such as Paris’s La Défense. Once the business people depart at the end of the working week, savings are likely to be on offer.
Opting for ‘secret hotels’ on booking sites such as Lastminute.com and Hotwire.com can save you a bundle – sometimes up to 60%. Here, discounts on ‘mystery’ unsold rooms are available – with just the star rating, general location and a brief description revealed. You don’t need to be Columbo to work them out, though. Try copying and pasting key phrases from the hotel blurb into Google to uncover its identity.
New hotels often offer great deals to get an initial flurry of people through the door. Find out about openings on industry websites such as Hotelnewsresource.com. Alternatively, free-to-join hotel loyalty schemes and cashback sites, such as Quidco and Topcashback, can prove fruitful. They offer cash rewards of around 10% per booking – not a bad windfall for essentially doing nothing.
In April 2017, we looked at prices for a two-night stay at four-star business hotel the Westin Paris Vendôme from Friday 5 to Sunday 7 May. The price was £475 with Booking.com – significantly cheaper than a midweek stay at £624. However, by using the four steps below, we brought the price down to £222 – a saving of 53%.
Total saving: £253