How To Save Money On Hotels And Go On More Vacations

Ever since I switched to self-employment and became location independent, I have gone on several trips. Having the ability to travel more was one of the reasons I left my day job to work for myself, so it makes sense. I am often asked questions about how we are able to afford these vacations, and many just assume that we’re spending…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: March 13, 2024

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How To Save Money On Hotels And Go On More VacationsEver since I switched to self-employment and became location independent, I have gone on several trips. Having the ability to travel more was one of the reasons I left my day job to work for myself, so it makes sense.

I am often asked questions about how we are able to afford these vacations, and many just assume that we’re spending thousands of dollars on each vacation. Or, that we are in debt…

Neither of these are true.

Our vacations are usually fairly cheap and that is how we are able to go on so many. We spend no where near the $4,000 average that others spend on each vacation.

We are able to spend significantly less than the average because we actively look to save money when on vacation, such as with how much we spend on where we sleep. Usually hotel costs are one of the largest parts of a person’s vacation budget, but they don’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to save money on your accommodations, and, this way you can go on more vacations because you can spread your vacation budget further!

Here are my tips to save money on hotels and rentals so that you can go on more vacations.

Use credit card rewards.

Credit card rewards are one of my favorite ways to earn cheap vacations and save money on hotels. You can use credit cards just like you normally would (read the articles linked below for more information) and earn free hotel stays. Who wouldn’t want that?!

I recently signed up for the Chase Ink Bold Plus and I’ll receive 70,000 bonus points ($875 towards free travel) after I spend $5,000 in three months. $5,000 might seem like a lot, but it’s fairly easy for me to get there since I put most of my expenses on my credit card anyways.

Sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card.

No matter where we stay, we always sign up for a hotel’s loyalty card so that we can earn free hotel stays for the future. This way you can accrue points on the hotel’s member card (they are usually completely free) and accrue points on your credit card as well (if you can use credit cards responsibly). I have earned free hotel stays this way and it’s nice to earn double the points.

So, even if you book on a hotel discount site such as, you can still use the hotel’s loyalty card as well. Don’t forget that!

There are other benefits to signing up for these cards as well. Sometimes you can score free hotel room upgrades, early checkins or late checkouts at a hotel, additional discounts, and more.

Be flexible with the dates for your stay.

A flexible schedule can save you a decent amount when booking where you will sleep. Staying on the weekends will usually be more expensive, and choosing a destination’s high season will most likely cost you more money as well.

If you can, then you may want to do some research and see what an accommodation’s rate is when just changing the date by a day or week or two. This is an important money saving tip and can possibly save you hundreds of dollars over your vacation.

I once looked at a hotel that charged over $300 a night for a room, and just a few weeks later they had a cheaper rate that was less that $50 a night. That is a HUGE difference for the same exact room.

How To Save Money On Hotels, Airbnb Vacation Rentals, and VRBO
These are pictures I took at an Airbnb vacation home that we stayed at in Miami a few years ago.

Stay in short-term vacation homes such as Airbnb and VRBO.

My preferred way to travel is to stay in short-term rental vacation homes such as Airbnb and VRBO.

Staying in an Airbnb rental can be a great way to save money on your accommodations. Airbnb vacation home rates are usually comparable or cheaper than a hotel, plus you usually have more room and there is usually a kitchen as well. Also, if you have a lot of people going on vacation with you, you can usually split a house for a much cheaper price than it would be for everyone to get a hotel room.

Last year we stayed in Gulf Shores and paid $650 for 5 days in a beach house. This included cleaning fees, taxes, deposit (since we brought our dogs), and more. It was very affordable, and there were three bedrooms so we technically could have saved more money if we would have brought people with us to split the cost with.

Think about the whole cost when it comes to where you sleep.

We have been traveling with our dogs a lot, which means that there is usually an additional expense when staying anywhere.

The added expense can sometimes be free (we like LaQuinta because they do not charge for dogs so we know we can usually just show up with no problem) or it may even be an extra $100 per night. $100 extra per night for having your dogs can be a very large expense, and it can make a hotel completely unaffordable if you forget to budget it in.

Other costs you may want to think about include:

  • Is the hotel’s internet an extra charge?
  • Is there a resort fee?
  • Does it cost money to use the hotel’s fitness center?
  • How much is food at the hotel? If it’s expensive, are there other options nearby or are you stuck eating there?
  • How much will it cost to get to where you are staying? If you are trying to save money so you have chosen to stay at a place far away, is it actually affordable anymore?
  • How much is it for any extra people in the room? Many hotels will charge extra (such as $30 per person, per day) if there are more than two people in the room. Some will even charge extra if there is more than one person in the hotel room.
  • Is there a cleaning fee? With short-term rentals, there might be a cleaning fee.
  • How much is parking? I recently almost stayed at a hotel that had a $40 DAILY parking fee. That is just insane.

Ask for a discount.

My last vacation money saving tip is to simply ask for a discount. When you are looking at hotels, motels, short-term rentals, and more, simply ask if there are any discounts available. I usually book my trips at the last moment, and asking for a discount usually works for me because places are trying to fill up any remaining rooms.

Sometimes asking for a discount will work, other times it does not. It’s just a simple “Are there any available discounts I can receive?”

The worst that can happen is that they say no.

What’s the maximum you usually pay per night for a hotel or short-term rental?  What money saving travel tips do you have to share?

Recommended reading: How To Stay At Hotels For Free

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Great tips Michelle! Staying on an Airbnb really save you a lot compared when you will stay in a luxury hotel. You can also sign up for a membership so that you will receive an email notification if the airlines will have a promo, every week, our leading airlines have a different promo where you can buy a discounted ticket, like 25-75% off.

  2. Nice tip there on asking for a discount. It’s extremely simple, almost so much so that it might seem not worth mentioning, but I’ve no doubt it’s a money saver from time to time. And like you said, the worst thing anyone can say is “sorry, no discounts at the moment!”

    1. Yes, it’s so easy to ask. I don’t know why more people don’t ask, because I think most of the time they expect it.

  3. Nice site and nice tips. I already follow most of them. I miss the loyalty card and I’m going to look for advantadges.
    Cheers from Portugal!

  4. Love these tips!! We just moved to NC and are thinking of taking a trip to Asheville. We have two dogs and two kids, so a cabin or house is the way to go for us. I will definitely look into the Airbnb – thanks for that!! The maximum we usually spend is $200 per night, unless it’s just my husband and I in which case we have spent more. You’re very right about being flexible with the dates. We work for ourselves too so luckily we can travel in the middle of the week instead of just on weekends!

    Thanks for the tips! Hope you have a great weekend!!

    1. Yes, definitely look into Airbnb. I love using their service!

  5. We’re all about the credit card rewards and hotel loyalty points. We use the Starwood Preferred Guest AmEx and, we’ve had it for so many years that we’ve been able to rack up quite a few points. Another benefit is that when we travel for work, we try to stay in a Starwood hotel and pay for it using that credit card (and get reimbursed by work) because it yields double points. We like AirBnB as a second option if there are no Starwood properties. Thanks for sharing your great tips!

    1. Yes, I used to do that too at my day job. It was nice to rack up points and just charge the expense to my job! 🙂

  6. We use credit card rewards for most of our trips. For the others, we do things you mention like negotiate rates and ask for discounts. I’ve found that condo owners will typically give you a discount if you ask nicely.

    1. Yes, most short-term rentals will give discounts. I think many of them expect it anyways.

  7. Because I am anti-credit card (I’ve never had one), I don’t get the rewards, so this isn’t an option. That’s worth it to me so I’m not tempted to spend, but I have to be more creative with making trips cheap. Usually, I’ll travel where friends are and stay for free. Or, I’ll get a plane ticket as a Christmas gift from my parents. It takes more creativity, but I do manage to spend under $1,000 anytime I travel.

    1. That’s awesome Natalie!

  8. Robin

    We used VRBO for the first time this year and liked it but have never tried airbnb. Do you prefer one over the other?

    1. I like both, but VRBO makes it a little easier if you have pets because they have an option to just look at pet friendly places. However, I do like the layout and design of Airbnb more, it’s easier to use!

  9. Yeah, everyone looks at me skeptically when I say I’m frugal because I go on SO many trips. What they don’t realize is that between subletting my apartment when I’m away and all these savings strategies you’ve outlined, I’m coming out even.

  10. My head nearly fell off when I read that the average cost of a vacation is $4,000!!! I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than half of that amount—and I like to travel. Thanks for the tips on rewards cards, that’s an area where I usually don’t capitalize bc I just don’t know much about it.

    1. Yeah, it seems crazy, but I definitely see how some people pay that price. Surprisingly, many people do not look for discounts or ways to save money. Instead, many just take the first price they see.

  11. We just spent a weekend away in a cottage using AirBnb. We got the whole cottage for less than what a single hotel room would cost us. A great tip, everyone should try it at least once!

    1. That’s awesome Joe! Where did you go?

      1. We went over to Norfolk in West England, plenty of seafood!

        1. Awesome. Sounds like fun!

  12. Manolis Saviolakis

    I like this.It is lovely. Thanks for the tips on rewards cards, that’s an area where I usually don’t capitalize bc I just don’t know much about it.

  13. Planning a trip for next year and will have to check out AirBnb. Seems like a really good way to save some cash.

    1. Yes, I love Airbnb!

  14. Carolyn Flanagan

    last family vacation we took there was 11 of us all together so we just rented a house while we stayed in Florida! Had it’s own pool and everything!

    1. Wow that’s awesome!

  15. These are some great tips! I really need to look into reward cards – we don’t use any for anything.

  16. Tie the Money Knot

    Great tips. I’d like to try Airbnb sometime, as it’s an interesting concept where you can get more room and nicer furnishings for perhaps the same cost as a hotel. As for hotels, loyalty programs are essential. I used them on business trips in the past, and have received enough free nights to cover a few vacations. Without that loyalty account, it wouldn’t have happened!

    1. Yes, I love loyalty cards. They are free anyways, so why not?

  17. WOW my credit has been awful due to student loans, unemployment, and a credit card I wasn’t smart with in college (that I finally paid off with my tax return). Just for kicks I applied for that credit card and it said I was approved! W00t! I love traveling and free travel is even more fun!

    1. Awesome! Free travel is amazing 🙂

    2. Also, which one did you apply for? I would love to tell others about this 🙂

      1. The email says it’s the Barclaycard Arrival™ World MasterCard. I wasn’t aware that there was two so I wonder if they’ve changed as this one does say you get 2x rewards for travel/restaurant purchases. We’ll see! Thanks for posting about it!

  18. Pamela

    We have used VRBO in the past, but haven’t used AirBnB yet. I look forward to our next vacation and trying it out.
    The Loyalty cards are amazing. My husband travels a lot and we were able to get a free night on one of our last vacations. So Glad that he uses those.

    1. Yes, Airbnb is great! Good job on the free night as well.

  19. Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver

    These are great tips, Michelle! I always forget to sign up for hotel loyalty cards, which is so dumb of me! It’s a great way to earn points to a free room! The only little thing I would add is, if you’re really adventurous/young/broke, you can always check out Couchsurfing. I did it, survived, and had a lot of fun!

    1. Yes, couchsurfing is something I should have mentioned. That’s awesome that you’ve tried it!

  20. Manolis Saviolakis

    Thank you! Getting rid of my dogs isn’t even an option.Welcome!

  21. Rae L.

    I don’t always remember to think in terms of coupons for hotel stays.

  22. Myles Money

    Asking for a discount… most people feel bad about asking, but what’s the worst that can happen? They could say “no”. The upside is that more often than not, you’ll get a discount just for asking. It doesn’t even need to be as direct as “can I have a discount?” — try “I’m on a tight budget: what’s the best price you can do for me?”

    1. Yes, exactly! Thanks Myles!

  23. Yes, being self-employed is great for this reason. It makes traveling much more easier! It does stink having to always work on vacation, but luckily I enjoy what I do.

  24. Never had a chance to use reward points or any discounts for overseas travels or for hotels. I just know how they’re able to do it. Does that mean I use my credit card like always? Thanks!

    1. If you already have the rewards points, then you will have to redeem them first through your credit card. What credit card do you have? I can probably help you out one I figure that out.

  25. Petra Jadan

    We hardly travel because w rare a family of 5 an it’s a small fortune. Thanks for these great tips.

    1. Are you good with credit cards? If so, you may be able to use them to your advantage and earn free vacations.

  26. Kiki Bacaro

    I’ve only recently heard about airbnb and it sounds great. I have used vrbo in the past and had some great experience with them. I did find that, at least in nearby Florida beach towns, it was difficult to find anything right on the beach, regardless of the price. I’m hoping that’s just a south Florida thing and look forward to finding something for our next vacation on there. Thanks for posting!

  27. Carol W

    I love all of your money saving ideas. We don’t take very many vacations simply because of the cost involved. I had never heard of Airbnb and VRBO so hopefully I can use some of your suggestions so that we can begin to travel a little more. Thank You so much!

    1. Yes, you should definitely look into Airbnb and VRBO. Both are great companies!

  28. When I get my chance to spend money on hotels and go vacations, I’ll try some these nice tips. Especially, the “ask for discount”:))

    1. Sounds great Jun! 🙂

  29. That’s a great deal!

  30. Helena

    Hi there 🙂 comment for giveaway entry

  31. Veronica Lee

    Gonna check out Airbnb for sure. Sounds like a great company.

    1. Yes, they are great 🙂

  32. anna pry

    We haven’t really taken family vacations yet. We just got a reward credit card and have a nice point balance already. Now we just need to decide where and when we want to go!

    1. Good job! Let us know where you decide to go 🙂

  33. Tracy M

    Really great tips! One that I use is the points for shopping that get reflected in my mileage program. There are several sites such as e-miles, United Airlines, etc, that will record purchases and give you x-amount of miles for each dollar spent. Since I rarely can afford vacations but shop a lot online, I found this to be a really great way to earn those miles and use them for flights, car rentals and hotel stays.

    Shell has a program as well that allows you to earn gasoline points for purchases made (even for groceries) through their referral network. This helps greatly too when planning to travel by car.

  34. Jerry Cartwright

    This blog post makes a whole lot of sense. I only wish that I had this to read when I WAS young and maybe it would have done some good. Good advice for younger people like this is one thing but getting them to follow the advice is another. Maybe though IF someone younger is reading this then they will follow it.

  35. Amy Roberts

    Uber is much cheaper than taking taxis!!! I got a free $30 ride with the code. Worked in NYC on 11/5.

  36. Darcy

    What about Homewood suites? They usually run somewhere around $200/night. But, it’s large enough for my family of 6 and they provide breakfast and dinner on weeknights. They also have a small kitchen in the room.

    1. That’s always a good idea as well, as long as it’s affordable and in a location that you are interested in.

  37. We paid sooooo much last year for vacations…I need to do better! One of them was Disneyworld, so that skewed the savings a bit. 😉 One thing we did that saved us a ton of money was win vacations at silent auctions. People donate stays at their beach houses, etc for raffles and auctions, and if the event planners have done a great job at rounding up lots of items/packages, you will have a good chance at winning. We got a three night stay at a beach house last year for $150 this way!

  38. Clifford Briggs

    Greetings. There’s a lot of stale content here. Is this site still relevant to what you’re doing now?

    1. Can you clarify what you mean? Are you asking if I stay in hotels?