We generally follow a 5 step checklist while booking any hotel and this has helped us crack amazing deals on our vacations. Using this checklist, we have been able to stay at a Marriott for free, get all meals for a day at Taj Hotels for mere $70 (~5000 INR) – basically get the biggest bang for the buck.
So, if you agree with this, then read on…
1. Search online but book offline
- These days, most hotels are running at <80% occupancy, hence they can oblige with a combo offer (like inclusive meals) or give you a better deal than online travel partners.
- You might get a last-minute deal if you are booking late. If you are someone like us who plans their stay much in advance, then yes, you already have an edge and can negotiate on the best deals.
2. Pooch dala to life jingalala* (ask for upgrades)
- There is no harm in asking – as one of the advertisements said earlier in the day “Poochne me kya jata hai. Puch daala to life Zingalalaa”.* Always ask for an upgrade at least a week before your stay. Mention if there is a special occasion – honeymoon, anniversary, birthday and you’d be surprised with the kind of upgrades you’ll get. Request for early check-in or late check-out to get a bang for the buck. If you are lucky, you’ll either get more square feet or extended hours for the same price.
- Pro tip: Look out for room tips on Tripadvisor and know which rooms have the best view, which rooms to avoid before you have the conversation.
3. Meals – to have or not to have?
- If you are staying in a budget hotel with inclusive breakfast buffets, the cost of meals is pretty manageable.
- For a luxury hotel,
- It’s recommended to take an all-inclusive meal option (if offered). You won’t burn a hole in you pocket and also won’t feel the need to venture out of your hotel.
- Otherwise, do step out and explore the local cuisine. Most travel apps (TripAdvisor, Google Maps) provide good nearby recommendations, with cost and user reviews.
- Pro tip for ordering tea/coffee – Order for one, the quantity is generally enough for two 😉
- Prepare beforehand – tea/coffee can be easily prepared using premixes. We always carry these as a good morning tea is a must. Keeping some fresh fruit from the local market for those small hunger pangs is a good idea.
- Tell them if it’s a special occasion – most of the times, your dessert will be sorted, and you might get some discounts or free wine or the cliché room decoration too.
4. Get the hottest deals online
Know the golden online listing rule – the more you search, the expensive it gets. Hence, Go Incognito – When you lookup for a hotel or destination multiple times on the internet, the algorithm jacks up the price or prompts you to book early with messages like few rooms left, etc. This is done by tracking your browser cookies and browsing history, which can be partially prevented by going Incognito or using a VPN.
5. Register for and use memberships wherever possible
- Most hotel chains and airlines have a reward points program. After registering, you can accumulate points with each spend. These can be converted/redeemed as vouchers or miles which can be used for payments or subsequent bookings. For example, we booked a Marriott deluxe room using reward points (accumulated during past business travels) and then got an upgrade to an executive room (registered members are preferred for upgrades), which essentially meant that we stayed at a room worth INR 8000 for free 😊
- Use credit card points – This one is a no-brainer! Use credit cards which reward you for spending in terms of travel miles/points – you can later use these for bookings made on travel websites. For instance, when we booked a staycation via MakeMyTrip at Taj Mahal Lucknow (read about that here), we used points worth INR 5000 accumulated over the lockdown period.
- Card that we use and recommend for domestic travel booking – Citi Premier Miles. Want a referral? Drop us a note in the comments.
We’d also recommend asking local trusted travel partners, such as Tripofer.com, to book your stay. Sometimes they might get a better package deal or guide you with better hotels than any of the online giants.
PS: This is not a sponsored post; these are genuine suggestions for our travel family to book more bounce for the ounce.
Drop in a comment if any of these tips have worked out for you in the past. Let us know if you are planning a travel soon and if these tips helped you plan it cheaper. Do you have other tips that are not mentioned here, share it with us and get featured in our next post.
*Reference to an old Tata Sky advertisement