There are many methods when it comes to travel hacking 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.
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 stay at other people’s homes. This is a great way to save tons of money on accommodations while staying at a more homely setting.
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.
The main benefit of hotels.com is that 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. The free night is the average cost of the 10 nights you stayed. 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.
How to find out which hotels are available for bidding
One 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.
Matching hotel images from other websites
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.
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.
Doing Workaway volunteer is my favourite type of hospitality exchange. You basically do volunteer work abroad. In return, you will get free a free accommodation. And usually, you will also be given at least one free meal.
I’ve done Workaway volunteer work in Guatape, Colombia working in a hostel and it’s been one of my best travel experience ever. Other Workaway volunteer experience I’ve done includes teaching English in Poland and the Czech Republic. I enjoyed doing volunteer work in Poland but my experience in the Czech Republic wasn’t very pleasant.
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.
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:
Best Western MBNA MasterCard
Earn 20,000 Best Western Points if you apply on the MBNA websites. Typically, they have promotions where they give you 40,000-60,000 Best Western Points but those promotions aren’t available at the moment.
20,000 Best Western points will get you 1-2 free night stay depending on which Best Western Hotel you stay at.
Marriott Bonvoy American Express credit cards (2)
Marriott Bonvoy American Express
Depending on the current promotion, you can earn a minimum 51,000+ signup bonus after spending $3000+ in your first 90 days. $120 annual fee. However, I’ve seen this promotion go up as high as 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points. So do keep an eye and sign-up during a promotional period. Remember, sign-up bonus is once in a lifetime so you want to apply for this credit card when they offer the most amount of points.
One good strategy to use with your Marriott 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. If your sign-up bonus is 50,000 points, then and will 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!
Marriott Bonvoy Business American Express
Depending on the current promotion, you can earn a minimum of 51,000 signup bonus after spending $3000 in your first 90 days. $150 annual fee. Just like the personal Marriott Bonvoy AMEX credit card, I’ve seen the sign-up bonus go up as high as 90,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. So you definitely want to wait during a promotional period before signing up. Unlike the personal Marriott Bonvoy AMEX credit card, the welcome bonus points for this credit card is NOT once in a lifetime. That means if you do it right, you can get this credit card again.
One of the biggest benefit of the Marriott Bonvoy AMEX card is how easy it is to redeem a free hotel stay. For as little as 7,500 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 Marriott Bonvoy 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.
And if you follow a fast track method, you can get Gold or Platinum Status at a Marriott Bonvoy property!
If you get every single credit card mentioned above, you will get a grand total 15 free hotel nights! That’s over two 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 for travel hacking accommodations. They are: 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.