A Travel Agent Shares With Us Their Best Tips For Finding Budget-Friendly Hotels

If hotel prices seem exorbitant lately, you're not imagining it. Demand for rooms is up after the COVID-19 pandemic, and hotels are having trouble keeping pace. As Sebastien Bazin, CEO of hospitality group Accor, revealed during a 2023 conference (via Reuters), budget and mid-range rooms are now priced 15% to 20% higher than just before the pandemic. Even worse, accommodations in tourism hotspots like London and Paris are exceptionally pricey, costing travelers up to 50% more than in 2019.

If you're like many, you might've started lowering your standards just to stay on budget, but according to Marissa Waiters, a travel agent and the owner of Spread Your Wings Travel Agency, you can still have a three-, four-, or even five-star experience without breaking the bank. Waiters shared her insider tips exclusively with Explore to help you save money when booking.

One of her most essential pieces of advice (especially for spontaneous travelers): Book early to grab the best deals. "Hotels tend to offer attractive rates to early bookers as a way to secure occupancy well in advance," the expert disclosed. "The closer you get to your travel date, the higher the likelihood of prices increasing, especially if it's a busy season or there's a significant event in the area." Additionally, Waiters suggested looking for price-match offers or free cancellation when booking. Then, if you find a better price before your reservation, you can rebook to save even more money.

Choose your travel dates wisely

When it comes to reserving your hotel room, Marissa Waiters says that timing is everything. As the travel agent exclusively told us, dynamic pricing — where prices fluctuate based on demand and other factors — can drastically impact the cost of accommodations. One day, a traveler may spend $200 for a room, and another day, the same room could spike to $300, all because of the dates it was booked.

One of the best ways to make the most of dynamic pricing, according to Waiters, is to choose off-peak travel periods. "Generally, hotels experience less demand during the weekdays," she explained. "As a result, hotels often lower their rates to attract more guests. If you travel during these days, you're likely to find more competitive prices and better deals." If you plan a weekend trip, on the other hand, expect to shell out more money for your stay. That's when people tend to schedule leisure trips and quick getaways, Waiters noted.

While you might have to get a little creative when maximizing your vacation days, it'll be worth the effort when you get more bang for your travel buck.

Collaborate with others to snag the best deals

While solo travel may be trending, organizing a group trip could be the secret to finding a hotel that suits your budget. Marissa Waiters exclusively told Explore, "In many cases, hotels are open to negotiation when you're booking accommodations for a large group. This flexibility is due to the significant business that a large group brings to the hotel." If possible, round up several friends or family members, and contact the hotel in advance about your trip. They may be able to offer discounts, customized packages, or other perks, especially during low seasons and unpopular travel days, Waiters revealed.

If you'd rather not travel with an entourage, reaching out to others could still save you money. Specifically, the travel professional suggested working with an agent when you're short on both time and funds. "By leveraging a travel agent's expertise, you can save time and avoid the hassle of sifting through endless options. They can quickly identify the best accommodations for you, simplifying your planning process," she explained. Travel agents are in the loop when it comes to exclusive hotels and resorts, insider deals, and new accommodations that haven't hit the booking sites yet. Waiters added, "We can match you with hotels and resorts that suit your specific needs and desires, whether you're looking for luxury, family-friendly options, or unique local experiences."