Living in Ipswich means I have a fairly long and expensive commute to central London, so I often stay in hotels in the capital. Ever since I joined MoneySavingExpert.com in April 2009, I’ve been trying to find the cheapest ways to stay over, so here are some of my tips.
We all try to live by MoneySavingExpert values here in the office. Our weekly email is the lifeblood of our company and I, for one, particularly love to know the latest hotel deals coming up.
Because of my frequent hotel stays and eye for a good offer, I now have a bit of a reputation as someone who can find those elusive hotel deals.
My mainstay is Travelodge, so here are my tried, tested and trusted methods to finding a good deal in the budget hotel chain. You can also read our Cheap Hotels guide for more tips.
1. Plan ahead.
It’s plain and simple – the best bargains are those that are booked way ahead. Travelodge lets you book for up to a year in advance, so if you can, book 10-11 months ahead for the lowest prices.
2. Be flexible.
Staying midweek is substantially cheaper than staying at weekends. You can also save cash by picking hotels away from the city centre. If you’re looking for a London stay, for example, search for the postcode of where you want to stay rather than just selecting "London" – as you’ll typically find a better range of prices. Saving £50 on a room is worth the bus fare and a 15-minute ride to where you want to be.
3. Don’t miss free upgrade possibilities.
I’ve found Travelodge likes to hide the ability to grab a better room for the same price. See this image where a ‘double room’ is available for £64 – the same price as a single room, but double the bed!
4. Go early for the sales.
Travelodge typically advertises a sale as "starting Boxing Day". This normally means it’ll release a tranche of prices at 5am that day. I appreciate it’s not a convenient time for many, but it’s important to get in first if you want to grab a good deal.
5. Compare Travelodge prices with other local hotels.
Laterooms is a cracking website for comparing hotel rooms, but also don’t forget to cover all bases by phoning other hotels in the area, especially those which aren’t part of a chain. Hotels normally love getting someone into an unoccupied room, even if it’s only for a single night.
For more extravagant rooms I love Priceline’s ‘name your price’ feature. You name your price for the star rating and location – the gamble is you can’t see what hotel you’re bidding for before it’s booked – but you can get some rock-bottom rates.
If you’re searching for rooms in London, for example, with Priceline you have to specify specific areas. So if you’re looking for a £50 room in Hammersmith, you might try a £40 bid first of all. However, if you don’t win a room at that price straight away, you have to change the star rating, the amount you’re willing to pay, or add in other areas in London to search for more rooms.
One trick to get round this is to add in expensive areas you don’t want to stay in as you know you’ll never get a cheap room there anyway, and if you do – lucky you.
6. Split bookings.
If you’re staying at a budget hotel such as Tune Hotels or easyHotel, any added extras cost, for example room cleaning. So if you’re staying more than one night, simply split your booking into single nights and you get your room cleaning for free.
7. Record your savings.
Although I’m not quite as graph-obsessive as Martin, I do record all of my stays into a spreadsheet. You could do this to see if there’s a pattern about what hotels tend to be cheapest and when, or just do it for fun. Here are some stats about my bookings over the years:
- Number of nights booked: 205
- Average price/night: £30.53
- Cheapest rooms: Hoxton Hotel for £1/night, followed by Tune Hotel for £1.51/night, with Travelodge (Kew) in third place at £10/night.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips for bagging cheap hotel rooms? Please share your thoughts in the discussion below, or in the forum.