Vacation costs start with picking lodging. Here are Solo Trekker’s 10 inside tips to getting best lodging rates while considering safety and convenience.
As a child studying French, I early on developed a wanderlust to visit exotic foreign venues, the more remote the better. However, like many college graduates, I started my career with student loans to pay back and therefore a small remaining budget to roam the world. How was it possible overtime to make it to 66 countries and all 50 US states? By finding creative ways to save on lodging costs beyond just the popular wisdom.
As you will see below, every one of our inside tips comes from one economic theory: supply and demand. That concept applies whether at a 5-star world-class property, an unrated boutique or short-term rental.
10 Inside Tips to Getting Best Lodging Rates for Solo Travel Savings:
1. If it is too good to be true, pass it by. Whatever level of service you are looking for, the Internet makes it very easy to identify the average price at that level for your chosen destination. When you find what looks like an unbelievable price, way below market, it is very likely that the fine print has “hidden costs”, like taxes or usage fees, or that there are real quality issues.
2. Understand what is meant by off-season. You may mistakenly think that this is not worth the 40-50% price reduction. The reality? Even in the French Riviera as early as Sept. 9, rates at the 5-star level can drop as much as half. The same is true in mid-May in top Croatian hotel offerings. Similarly, Christmas and New Year’s rates often will not increase until Dec.22. That can give you time to take advantage of great pre-holiday reductions and then plan a “staycation” to welcome in the New Year!
3. Don’t pay for what you don’t need. As consumers, it is often the adds-on, the “bells and whistles”, that close the deal. If you are heading to the tropics but looking to trek the rainforest, why pay for beachfront access? Do you need an exercise room or outdoor swimming pool if you plan to be too busy to use either?
4. Location, location, locations drives pricing. As a long-time woman solo traveler, I look for a safe place to stay but sometimes trade off staying in the city center to stay within budget. For example, if the Place Vendome in Paris is not within your budget’s reach, look at close-in suburbs and airport hotels on public transportation/subway routes. I previously found a real “steal” at an international chain, modern high-rise at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport.
5. In cities like New York, check out business hotel bargains on Fridays and Sundays when demand is down. (One consideration in Manhattan though is that Saturday night charges can go back up to accommodate weekend demand, such as by theater fans on a short-visit.)
6. Don’t pay for the view if you will only be in your room after dark. This is most often seen at resorts since even leading urban hotels have little control over what you can see gazing out their windows. Also remember what constitutes a view is a matter of definition. In New York, I had a special “view” via a window only slightly larger than a porthole. In contrast, in Sydney my view of the Opera House was “up close and personal” where I felt like I could stroll on the rooftop!
7. Bite the bullet. Being undecided is costly. If you can lock in a non-refundable/non-cancellable room rate, take it if your plans are set. I have recently booked ahead almost 6 months for a top hotel in India. Although planning in advance, I recognize that last minute I could need to cancel. Two factors to consider: (i) Have you already booked non-refundable airfare so that you are locked in? (ii) Do you have trip insurance?
8. Take advantage of reputations for bad weather. Related to traveling off-season, a reputation for extreme heat, cold and storms drives down the demand and pricing. As Rudyard Kipling famously stated: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun”. As a result, the Caribbean is cheapest in the summer. The rainy season can be a good value, particularly since its “official” period is more often an estimate than a true schedule. In addition, as I saw one December in the Brazilian Amazon, tropical rains tend to be brief not providing continuous gray skies.
9. When comparing the cost of a meal plan at remote resorts, remember to add-in transportation costs to get to off-site restaurants and cafes. Generally, I favor having the flexibility to try out local spots. However, that works best in cities where options are walking distance or easily and safely accessible by public transportation. I have twice found in 5-star resorts, one in the US and one abroad, that the meal plan was the better deal providing top cuisine at a substantial savings. (In the latter case, I estimated the daily charge of not selecting the meal plan to total about $75/day.)
10. Exchange your destination with the road less traveled by. Early on, I was drawn to the romance of traveling to the South Pacific and islands with endless rows of tall palms, targeting Tahiti as the ideal destination. When I looked at the cost of airfare and my limited travel budget, I needed to find more affordable lodging. I found just what I was looking for, then at about one-third the rate in Tahiti: Rarotonga and Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. Although in the intervening years prices have gone up as tourists, many from New Zealand, have “discovered” those spots, the principal remains that less well-known sites within a region will likely be less expensive. Why? Ah, that takes us back to the most important economic theory most of us lay-people ever need to remember: Supply and demand drive prices. Before you travel, check out our 10 inside tips to getting best lodging rates.