For the last couple of weeks, I have been immersed in too many websites looking for accommodations for my upcoming trip to Mexico.
Since that occupation had been my “bread and water” for so many days, I want to share the options I have considered and my findings.
On my trips, I am content with a private room with ensuite bathroom. I give a plus to places which include breakfast and have high ratings for cleanliness. This is why I look for but I believe my strategies can work for different accommodation types.
Find a Place Once You Arrive to Your Destination
I have done this many times. Once I arrive to a city, I stop by some hotels to ask for quotes. At other times, I have asked locals for their recommendations. Or I have encountered people offering lodging in bus stations and plazas. Another idea is to stop by hotels suggested in a guide or website (assuming you have done some previous research).
This method has yielded me the lower prices for what I am looking for. Seriously, no website has found me cheaper prices. Remember you can always negotiate the rates in person. Sometimes hotel owners / managers drop the original rate because they don’t want to lose your business (you don’t even have to ask).
I understand this method does not work for everybody. I you use it, take the following things into consideration:
- Always ask to see the room and ask questions before sealing the deal.
- This works mostly for small cities. Use in large cities at your own risk (I have done it, no good).
- Consider the time of the day you will be arriving to a city. This method may cause problems if you are arriving early morning or late night (or when you are tired).
- Always consider your safety.
Use Hostel Booking Sites
These sites are not just useful for people wanting to stay in dorms. A lot of hostels offer nice private rooms. If you do not like the ambience of hostels, many B&Bs are listed in these places too.
I have used three sites to book: hostels.com, hostelbookers.com and hostelworld.com. The variety in the last two places is better in my opinion. Of the three only Hostel Bookers do not charge a service fee (and claim to be cheaper than Hostel World). Hint: this doesn’t mean it is cheaper. I found a room at a B&B in Oaxaca listed for $36 in Hostel Bookers. The same place is listed for $30 in Hostel World. It is cheaper to book thru Hostel World even when they add a $2 service charge. It may be worth to check the three sites.
These sites have worked very well for me. They have helped me to uncover cheap places in big and expensive cities (example, Rio de Janeiro and San Francisco). Take into consideration the following before booking:
- Prices are usually listed per person.
- Some of this places offer private rooms with shared or private bathrooms. Make sure you understand what type your booking includes.
- It is possible to find places including Wi-Fi and breakfast.
- Make sure the accommodations are close to the center of town (or on the safe part of town).
- Read the reviews.
Use Hotel Comparison Sites
Sites such as Kayak search hundred of travel websites to find hotels (and flights, cars and deals). You have the option to compare your search to major booking sites such as Expedia, Travelocity and Hotwire. I also like to find hotels with Trivago. This site usually gives me information about hotels which do not appear in other booking sites. The prices are reasonable too. For Oaxaca, I found about 20 options under $50.
Book Directly with the Hotel
Using some of the previous methods, you can come up with a list of hotels you want to stay. You may decide to go directly to the hotels’ website and shoot an e-mail asking for quotes, promotions or specials. This works well in low season or when you want to stay more than 3 days. This is a way to avoid fees charged by booking sites (explicit or hidden).
Other Methods I Haven’t Used
Here are some other popular options, I have never used:
- Short term housing
- Use credit card rewards
What have worked for you and what haven’t?