The Starter’s Guide to Canadian Travel Hacking Accommodations
Travel Hacking Accommodations
There are many ways to travel hack accommodations. From a free night stay at someone’s couch to a free night stay at a luxurious hotel. Regardless of your travel style, it always feels good knowing that you saved a ton of money.
I will be dividing the travel hacking accommodations to three different categories. They are:
- Money Saving Hotel Websites
- Hospitality Exchange
Please keep in mind that I haven’t used all the accommodation styles listed in this blog post. I will continue to update this blog post over time as I try the different types of accommodations.
Lets start with money saving hotel websites.
Money Saving Hotel Websites
The best way to find cheap paid accommodations is to use hotel/property search engines and check to see which hotels are cheapest. While some websites are straight forward, you can save money on other ones if you use them wisely.
Here is a list of hotel/properties search engines you can use to save you money next time you need accommodations:
Airbnb is the ever popular rental website where you can rent individual people’s homes. This is a great way to save tons of money on accommodations while staying at a more homely setting. One good way to save money on Airbnb is to use a referral coupon code to get a discount on your booking. The only catch is you must spend a minimum of $97 before the discount code can be applied. Here is a link to get $45 off your next Airbnb stay.
In my opinion, Airbnb really shines if you are travelling with a group of friends and family and splitting the cost of renting a house.
Wimbdu is Airbnb’s biggest competition. It is exactly like Airbnb so I won’t go into detail how it works. The main difference is there is less options and possibly higher prices. If for some reason you can’t find a place you want to stay using Airbnb, Wimbdu is a great alternative to find more accommodation options.
Roomorama is exactly like Airbnb and Wimbdu. Use this website to find and compare accommodation options if you cannot find anything with Airbnb or Wimbdu.
The main benefit of hotels.com is they have a program where after booking 10 hotel stays, they will give you one free night. It’s pretty much 10% off after booking 10 stays. If you can’t find anything cheaper on the other websites, this is a good place to book and potentially get that free night stay in the future.
Priceline and Hotwire
One good way to find out what is a good starting bid is by using the following websites: betterbidding.com and biddingfortravel.com. Those two websites will tell you the bidding history for your travel destination and will give you an idea how much to bid.
Another good strategy you can use to determine much to bid is to go to Priceline and check out the express deals for your travel destination.
Select the number of star for the hotel you were planning to book and click the “What Hotel” link. For example, in the image below, I selected 4-Star Express Deal Hotel and clicked the “What Hotel?” link.
After clicking the “What Hotel?” link, it should take you to a page with a list of all the 4-Star hotel available in the area.
You now have a good idea which brand of hotels are available to book. The next challenge is determining how much you should bid.
Your next step is to check other hotel search engine websites such as Expedia.ca, or booking.com and check the prices of the 4-star hotels in that same area. Don’t forget to look at the images and try and match them with the screenshots under the express deals.
Usually, the prices on the other hotel search engines are actually cheaper! Priceline tend to over inflate the hotel prices on their website.
Once you have a good idea how much it cost on other websites, go ahead and bid 25-50% lower than the listed price under the competing websites. If you don’t win the bid, don’t worry, try another email address and keep bidding. You will typically win a bid if it’s 10% less than the listed price under express deal. Your goal is to maximize your savings, of course, so don’t just settle for 10% less if you can save more than that.
Last time I used Priceline, I saved a few dollars which is nothing to brag about. I am still fairly new to the whole Priceline bidding and will definitely try it again in the future.
Extreme Hotel Deals
There’s a new website called ExtremeHotelDeals that is publishing extremely cheap hotel deals all over the world. It has a lot of potential and I highly recommend using it as a reference guide before doing any paid hotel bookings.
Other Money Saving Hotel Websites:
Hospitality exchange has several definitions. Basically, with any hospitality exchange, you will be getting free accommodations. Sometimes, it’s completely free. Sometimes, you will have to do some sort of exchange. The exchange could be providing a service for the host and in return, you will get free accommodations. It could also be two home owners swapping properties temporarily.
Here is a list of some of the popular Hospitality Exchange programs around the world:
Couchsurfing is a type of free accommodation where a host will let you sleep on their couch for free. However, just because the name is Couchsurfing doesn’t necessarily mean you will sleep on a couch. Sometimes, you’ll sleep on the floor and, sometimes you get your own bedroom. The first time I couch surfed, I slept on a mattress on top over several pallets and wooden boxes. It was pretty cool!
Couchsurfing is an awesome way to meet locals in your travel destination and get an insider’s scoop on which places to visit.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOFing)
WWOOFing is essentially you working in a “farm” in exchange for free accommodations and three meals a day. I put farm in quotation marks because you won’t necessarily be farming or working in a farm. I have a friend that has done things such as carpentry, taking care of livestock and doing nothing at all! Here is a link to a quick guide to WWOOFing. If you don’t mind doing some manual labour in exchange for free accommodations, definitely give WWOOFing a try.
Home Exchange is temporarily trading your home for somebody else’s from another country and city. If you want to travel the world and would like to save money on accommodations, why not trade homes with someone from another country? You will both save money on accommodations and have your own private place to stay. Once I have my own property, I will definitely be using this service to live in different countries all over the world.
CultureGOGO is free accommodations in another country in exchange for English practice for the host. This is definitely a win-win scenario for both you and the host!
House Sitting is taking care of someone else’s house for them in exchange for free accommodations. Some house sitting requires you to do basic chores and take care of the owner’s pets. Here is a list of popular house sitting websites:
Other Free Accommodation Options
Travel Hacking Hotels
Here comes the fun part. How to travel hack hotels and get free night stays.
Just like travel hacking flights, using credit card signup bonus is the single best way to travel hack hotels stays.
Karen and myself staying for free at a Marriott Hotel in Miami
Here are a list of Canadian hotel credit cards that will help you get free hotel stays:
Earn 50,000 Marriott Hotel Points from this special link. If you use another link, they’ll most likely give you 30,000 points. Make sure to use the proper link when signing up for this credit card.
The great thing about this credit card is that your first year’s annual fee is waived. You will also get a free night certificate valid for any category 1-4 Marriott Hotel around the world.
One good strategy to use with your Marriott Hotel points is to book your hotel stays in consecutive nights. Pick a category 2 Marriott Hotel then book four consecutive nights in a row using points. By booking 4 nights with points, you are eligible to get the 5th night for free. You would have used up 40,000 points and have 10,000 points left over. Go ahead and use the remaining 10,000 points to get one more free night stay. Don’t forget the free night certificate for a grand total of 7 nights free hotel stay. That’s one week’s worth of free hotel stays!
Earn 60,000 Best Western Points from this special link. If you apply on the MBNA websites, they will only give you 20,000 points so make sure to use the special link.
60,000 Best Western points will get you 3-4 free night stay depending on which Best Western Hotel you stay at.
I will be writing a guide on redeem Best Western points in the coming future. Stay tuned for that!
Starwood American Express
There are two Starwood American Express Cards. They are:
Earn 20,000 SPG signup bonus after spending $500 in your first 90 days. $120 annual fee.
Earn 20,000 SPG signup bonus after spending $500 in your first 90 days. $150 annual fee.
One of the biggest benefit of the Starwood AMEX card is how easy it is to redeem a free hotel stay. For as little as 3000 SPG points, you can stay for free at a category 1 hotel. That means if you get both cards above, you will get a total of 13 free night stay at Starwood properties! Despite the annual fee, you should look at it as an investment. For $120, you will get 6 free nights. That’s merely $20 per night at a hotel.
In a future blog post, I will outline how you can get Gold or Diamond status with Starwood properties.
If you get every single credit card mentioned above, you will get a grand total 24 free hotel nights! That’s over three weeks of free hotel stays! And all it costed you is $270. That is definitely a good use of travel hacking accommodations.
Travel Hacking Accommodations Conclusion
In this article, we covered the three major ways you can travel hack accommodations: Money Saving Websites, Hospitality Exchange and travel hacking hotels.
Depending on your circumstance, it’s a good idea to mix and match the strategies outlined in this blog post.
Here’s an example of what you can do with the information above:
Because I will be traveling the world for one year, my goal is to save as much money on accommodations as possible. To stretch the money I have saved up, I will have to signup for every single hotel credit cards available and build up my points reserve. By getting all the cards above, I can secure 24 free hotel nights!
This leaves me with about 11 months worth of accommodations that I need to prepare for. I can use hospitality exchange in many first world countries to help me save money by getting free accommodations. By couch surfing in first world countries, the probability of me being safe is also higher. I have already couch surfed once and found the experience enjoyable. If I couch surf for a total of 1-2 months, I can definitely save a ton of money on accommodations.
Best Western Balcony in Sooke BC
Let’s say I still have 9 months worth of accommodations that I need to pay for, I will most likely use a combination of Airbnb, Agoda.com, Booking.com, and, Expedia.ca to book a room for my family, friends, and, Karen who will partially be joining me on my one year trip. There will probably be a total of about 5.5 months when I will be traveling with them and we can easily split the cost of our accommodations.
The rest of my stays will be at hostels which I will add to guide in future updates.