Rick Steves' Tips For Saving When Booking Hotels For Your European Vacation

Planning a European vacation is an exciting adventure, but it's no secret that accommodations can take a significant chunk out of your travel budget. Fortunately, travel guru Rick Steves has some savvy advice to help you save money when booking hotels for your European getaway. With these strategies, you can make the most of your trip while keeping your spending in check.

One of Rick Steves' top-tier travel tips is to take advantage of comparison shopping. Instead of booking the first hotel you come across, contact several hotels and ask for their best price. This is crucial, especially when dealing with larger hotels that utilize "dynamic pricing" — a sneaky computer-generated system that tracks and predicts demand for specific days and adjusts prices accordingly. You'll often find that high-demand days can cost nearly double the price of low-demand days. Once you have multiple offers on the table, you can make an informed decision and seal the right booking deal. 

Another hot tip is booking directly with the hotel. Avoid third-party websites and other booking intermediaries because these earn commissions from the hotel — meaning higher prices and fewer deals. By booking through the hotel's website or directly via email or phone, you have a higher chance of scoring a better price for your room. You're also better off opting for smaller hotels or B&Bs. The larger and more profitable the hotel is, the more taxes it has to pay, a burden that often gets offloaded onto the customer.

Stay longer, pay in cash, and book off-season

Prices for accommodations in Europe often rise with demand during the peak travel season, which is typically in July and August. However, if you're traveling during the off-season, you may have room to negotiate. Rick Steves suggests trying your hand at haggling with hotels during these quieter periods. If you a place seems a bit out of your budget, express your concerns and mention your limits — however, make sure to do so respectfully and within reason. In some cases, the hotel may be willing to work with your price, especially if they have vacancies to fill. 

A bit of leverage that could help with these negotiations is offering to pay the hotel in cash. Hoteliers have to pay credit card fees for every booking transaction, such as interchange fees (1.15% to 3.3%), payment processor fees (0.14% to 0.5%), and assessment fees (average of 0.14%). Cash payments can be a welcome respite for both the hotel and the guest.

Moreover, if you are booking a longer stay, then your leverage on the price (and potential discounts) is even greater. Many hotels offer weekly and monthly rates that are significantly cheaper than their short-term bookings. This might encourage you to try slow travel and fully soak in your European destination. With some planning and resourcefulness, you can secure affordable accommodations that suit your preferences and leave you with the leftover budget to explore the incredible sights, sounds, and flavors of Europe.