Ten Ways to Save on Vacation Lodging

Happy girl camping with family

We want to see your vacation dreams come true!

Do you have visions of taking a dream vacation with your family? Or maybe on your own or with a friend? Vacations are a beautiful and necessary part of life, and they create memories that last a lifetime. We’re here to tell you that a memorable, fun, and affordable vacation is possible!

First of all, what type of vacation are you considering? It’s going to be important for you to research your expenses and make a budget so that you have a reasonable idea of what to expect. The dollar signs below represent a price estimation for each type of vacation, from the least expensive ($) to the priciest ($$$$).

  • Camping (tent or trailer) $
  • Cruise $$$
  • All-inclusive resort $$$$
  • Theme park resort $$$
  • House rental (perhaps a log cabin) $$
  • Staycation (stay at home and enjoy local attractions or take day trips) $
  • Road trip (sleeping in hotels) $$ – $$$

Any type of vacation is possible, if you plan and save. Depending upon your individual situation, it may take you a year or more to save for your dream vacation. (Meanwhile, you can still have a fun staycation or take a day trip or two!) To help your big dreams come true, here are some ideas that could save you a lot of money on lodging costs.

Use online travel agencies

Numerous websites make hotel reservations a breeze and offer reasonable prices. Check out online travel agencies (OTAs) like Hotels.com, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire, Tripadvisor, Airbnb, and Priceline. Be aware that there will be extra taxes and fees added to the initial price listed.

You’ll get the best deal by paying for your room in advance — just know that you won’t get your money back if you need to cancel (unless you buy reservation insurance on their website). Most OTAs offer the option to pay when you arrive, and if your plans change, you can usually cancel your reservation up until the day before your intended arrival.

Many OTAs provide bonus points if you make reservations using their app on your smartphone. An added benefit of these apps: Having your entire itinerary at your fingertips.

Call the hotel directly

Not sure if you want to go the OTA route? That’s fine, because sometimes if you contact a hotel directly, they’ll offer you a better deal than you would get online. To save even more, ask if they have a free rewards program.

Booking your room over the phone also allows you to be more specific about your needs and interests — extra crib or cot, wheelchair accessible, room with a view, etc. If they provide roll-away beds, you may be able to squeeze everyone into one room instead of having to reserve a second room.

Consider an extended-stay hotel or rent a home

If you plan to be in one area for several days, your best deal would probably be an extended-stay hotel or an Airbnb or Vrbo rental home or rooms. The extra space will make your stay more comfortable and relaxing, and the kitchen will help you save on food costs.

Stay with friends

You may know someone who lives in the area you plan to visit. If you feel comfortable asking if you can stay with them, go right ahead! If you’re not sure, you could send them a message letting them know you’ll be in town and would like to see them.

They just might say, “Really?! That’s awesome! Why don’t you stay with us?” If you accept their invitation, it would be proper to take them out for a meal, offer to help cook, or leave a thank you note with a gift card inside. If they don’t offer you a room, you could still arrange to meet with them during your stay. They may provide you with information about must-sees in their area. And, hopefully, you’ll get to catch up in person!

Rent a friend’s second home

It’s possible that a friend, relation, colleague, or acquaintance owns a second home in the locale you plan to visit. They may be happy to rent it to you at a great price. (This can be a win-win situation!) Be sure you understand their expectations and leave the place as good or better than you found it.

Trade houses with a friend

If you and a friend need a change of pace, but hotel money isn’t feasible right now, how about trading houses? You can stay in their house and do fun things around where they live, and vice versa!

Stay off the beaten path

If you’re willing to drive a few extra miles to get to the attractions on your bucket list, you can save big by staying 15-30 minutes away. Even 10-15 miles away can reward you with considerably lower costs. Bonus: It will probably be more restful to stay further from the crowds.

Look for discounts

Your workplace may offer corporate discounts for certain hotel chains. Also, many hotels offer discounts for military families, religious leaders, AAA members, and AARP members. Plus, if you have our All-in Checking account, you can take advantage of travel discounts!

Combine hotel stays with camping

Campgrounds cost a lot less than hotels, so if you have tents, sleeping bags, and other camping necessities, you can camp on good-weather nights. During bad weather, stay in a hotel so you can be warm, dry, and safe!

Stay in a hostel

Have you considered hostels? (They aren’t just for youth!) If you’re willing to bring bedding and towels, hostels usually provide bunk beds, a clean room, and a community kitchen/eating area. (Getting to know other families while cooking and eating meals can be fun!) You may have to go down the hall to use the restroom and get a shower — kind of like a dormitory. Scan reviews to be sure the hostel has a good reputation and it’s in a safe area. As one of the most affordable options, hostels save you money that you can use for local attractions and transportation.

A few final thoughts

If your idea of a big vacation is to hit the road, you may want to think about purchasing an RV or another type of camper. It could save you some money down the road! (You see what we did there….) On the other hand, if you frequently go to the same vacation spot, you may want to consider investing in a vacation home. That way you could enjoy it whenever you want and rent it out the rest of the year to earn some extra income.

We’re excited for you to take a much-needed vacation! By using money-saving tactics for lodging, your mind and wallet can rest easy. Bon voyage!