5 methods to save big on hotels

Want to save hundreds on your next hotel stay? Perhaps you can

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Of course, it depends on when you book and how savvy you are at tracking airfare deals, but scoring a great deal on a flight these days certainly isn’t impossible.

Is the cost of other accommodations blowing up your budget?

With a bit of careful planning, it is possible to reduce the cost of an average hotel stay without sacrificing the quality of your trip. Here are five tips on how exactly to do that:

Become a hotel member.

Many of the large hotel chains have loyalty membership programs for repeat customers. Not only do members get reduced rates on their bookings, but many chains offer free upgrades and priority services to their club members. Most membership cards are completely free, allowing you to pick up the extra perks without shelling out extra cash on your stay. Many of the largest hotel chains also offer credit cards, giving you points toward your next vacation with every item you purchase.

Refer your friends and family.

Many of the large hotel chains offer money off your visit if you refer a friend or family member. If you're booking more than one room or traveling in a group, make sure to get a referral code and pass it on to anyone else who is planning to stay at the same hotel. The person you are referring will usually get money off their visit too, so it's a win-win situation.

Carefully time your visit.

Hotels and airlines operate on a seasonal model, with costs increasing during the vacation months (summer and Christmas) and decreasing over the rest of the year. Hotels also account for more local surges in demand, which can bump up prices during the typical off-season months. Events such as music festivals and business conventions can cause thousands of people to flood an area during off-peak times. Do some research on the area you are traveling to, and try to time your visit around these events, if possible.

Book direct.

It's tempting to take the legwork out of booking a hotel by firing up a comparison website and going for the cheapest deal, but this isn't always the best practice. Comparison sites charge hotels a fee to list their rooms, and that fee is often added onto your bill. By booking directly with the hotel, you will sometimes forego any possible charges and guarantee the best price for your room.

You can always use a comparison site to find a few of the cheapest deals and then book directly once you know the best-value accommodation. Make sure to clear your browser cookies before visiting the hotel site. Otherwise, you may still have the charge added to your price. You can also call the hotel directly to arrange your booking.

Track prices.

Several websites and apps allow you to track the price of hotel rooms before you book. If you're not in a rush to book a room, or you're just mulling over the idea of staying in an area, it's worth tracking some hotel rooms and seeing what happens to the price. Many of these tracking apps can show you historical price data, so you can see at a glance when a hotel room is likely to be cheapest.

By taking some time and thinking through your booking, it’s possible to save hundreds of dollars off a week-long trip almost anywhere in the world. While none of these tips can guarantee that you’ll get a bargain on your next vacation, you will likely pay much less in the long run by following each one carefully.