You can often find much lower rates on rooms at hotels and hostels by doing a little dialing after an online search. It’s no secret that pretty much anything you find in an online aggregator like, Kayak, adds some cost to your total price. Much of that additional cost comes from fees that aggregtors charge establishments that are benefiting from being available to a wider audience.
Understandably, the hostel you might be staying at enjoys the exposure but would rather forgo skimming any percentage off their bottom line. So, while they may not tell you directly, most would prefer doing business with you minus the middlemen. That’s especially true for smaller hostels and hotels who’ve got more to gain; with one more important variable that can work in your favor.
Use The Search, Skip The Click, And Pick Up The Phone
Aggregators and online hostel booking engines provide you, the consumer, the wonderful benefit of being able to find a bunch of lodging options all in one place. Reviews, photos, and price comparisons are great though to save money on booking, stop there. Jot down the contact information for a few of the places you’re interested in and give them a call. Get in touch with the person in charge of reservations and let them know you’ve found them via a booking site and are interested in hearing their best rate.
Chances are very good that the rate will slightly lower often with deals you may not have heard about otherwise. (Don’t forget to ask for them.) Also, it’s never a bad idea to flex your bargaining skills to see what’s the best price a hostel can offer – especially since you’re considering their competition down the street. (Never hurts to mention that either.) This tactic doesn’t only work for hostels and hotels but other common travel bookings like airfare as well.
And although it’s a bit counter-intuitive, a direct call to the hostel can give you a better idea of what rooms are like, including your options, by asking the clerk for details. Voice tone can tell you a lot about how honest a person is and if you want to learn how friendly the staff is – well, there you go. They’re right on the phone for you to find out.
Time Versus Cost With No Guarantees
The trade you make by trying to circumvent the aggregators is by adding a number of minutes to any booking. You’ve got to call and talk to people, both time consuming and potentially cumbersome when you’re traveling frequently. On top of the added time, there are no guarantees that you’ll actually get a lower price. Finally, you should consider that there are limits to how much you can save on the cheaper end of the hostel spectrum – it might not be worth 15 minutes of your time to try and save $10 on a $8 dorm room in Ecuador.
I used to work for a major hotel chain, and I can say this is true. A lot of people will book with third party sites because it’s quick and easy, but it’s usually more expensive. It’s always a good idea to call the hotel directly to see if there’s a better rate. Another problem with third party sites is they may only be able to offer a specific room type. If you phone the hotel directly you can inquire about other room types, as well as request amenities if you need them (like getting crib if your traveling with an infant).
That’s the key with so many things isn’t it, trading time over money. Plus it’s much harder to negotiate with a computer.
I was actually just going to write one on my blog about this one! I always find hostels on HostelWorld.com and then try and go to their direct website to book.
You can get some really serious discounts in the US as well by just calling up and asking what’s their best rate for a given night, if they offer discounts for AAA members, etc.
“What’s your best rate” usually gives you a better rate, definitely agree.
Yep, I do it all the time. The biggest hurdle is that the booking sites don’t show the phone number, so you have to Google the hotel/hostel name and try to find their direct website. That is usually not a problem with big cities or properties, but it’s more difficult in third world places or off-the-beaten-track locations, where many small properties don’t even have web sites. I usually save 5-10%, so it’s worth the time to me, but it’s definitely a time versus money issue.
That’s definitely the biggest obstacle and you can sometimes end up in those loooong Google searches that have you hoping the effort will save some money!
We’re always on the lookout for cheaper accommodation and don’t mind a bit of ringing around/emails. On our last visit to Istanbul, we paid a deposit through one of the hostel booking sites and then (Barry) negotiated a discount with the guy on reception when we got there.
Fethiye’s an odd one though. There’s a surprise! 🙂 It’s MUCH cheaper (sometimes half price) to use booking sites rather than booking direct through the hotel.
Fethiye is backwards?? haha, typical Fethiye reverse economics at work!!
Cutting out the middleman is always great to cut costs. you could save upto 10% of the cost
Works for many things in life!
Great tips! It’s funny how reverting back to the old fashioned way can be the best way.
It’s almost impossible for technology to overcome the human element in any negotiation 🙂
Hi Anil, I have used this approach many many times. Infact, booking directly with the smaller hostels is safer because often there is a lag between what aggregators show and what’s really available, or the hostels are more family style and check their emails once in few days.
Good point, often there are many more rooms available that you find when calling directly. Smaller hostels tend to have more to gain as well which is a nice incentive for both sides 🙂