In Economics there’s a principle called the Pareto principle, which basically observes that a large number of factors or agents contribute to a result, the majority (about 80 percent) of the result is due to the contributions of a minority (about 20 percent) of factors
or agents. This is usually associated with an ABC analysis, where you divide your factors into 3 groups of different importance, being:
A. the 10%-20% factors, typically contribute to 70%-80% of the result.
B. the 15%-25% factors, typically contribute to 15-25% of the result.
C. the 50% factors, typically contribute to 5%-10% of the result.
So… What does this mean for us?? In terms of travel savings, this translates into understanding which are the A factors of your costs and then focuses on reducing them. The main costs are the ones that deserve most of our attention, reducing 10% on the A costs will be a bigger saving than a 40% or 50% of savings in a C cost.
Firstly, we need to clarify also that this depends on the kind of traveler you are. If you like short breaks, the flight will probably be much more important than accommodation, but if you are a slow traveler, that makes trips for 6 months and rarely flies, accommodation will be the major problem. Anyway, in our experience, the two major costs (the A type costs) are accommodation and Transportation. So we will focus on these two in the first place, trying to be as a specific as possible about these cost centers.
So let’s start with some general saving insights, which are fundamentally valid for all travelers and to any kind of accommodation you are fond of. But when choosing the accommodation, the price isn’t the only thing you should be aware of (check this for more insight). You should take into consideration these factors:
Breakfast: when choosing a hotel you should have in mind if the price includes breakfast; including breakfast may help you save on food.
Location is also very important: if you are in the city center you are probably close to everything and will save in transportation or even food. Not to mention the time you may lose.
Parking: If you are on a road trip, or using a car you should be aware of parking costs. It can cost you 15, 30 USD per day in some places.
WI-FI: nowadays any place that doesn’t offer free WI-FI is almost extorting travelers, but there are still many places that will charge you for it. So always check it.
Other amenities: Dry cleaning, lending (or renting for very low prices) bicycles to customers, being pet friendlies, Gym, swimming pools could also benefit you more than the additional price of the hotel.
As said above, for slow/long time travelers accommodation can be a nightmare, imagine having to pay for a hotel for 6 months in a row. Most of these people developed ways to get FREE accommodation, which usually involves some kind of part-time work:
Our favorite concept is House Sitting, which basically means that the owner of the house lets you live there while they are away. The price you pay for this is your commitment to taking care of the house, and possibly the pets and garden. This is a great way of “living like a local” and taking your time to really know the surroundings. The downside is that you are bounded to that area, as you have your daily duties to take care of. If you are traveling as a couple house sitting is even better and more fun!
Another fantastic way of not spending on accommodation is (part-time) working for accommodation (many times accommodation + food). There are many options but our favorite is WWOOF is an organization that connects “people who want to live and learns on organic farms and smallholdings with people who are looking for volunteer help. WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Volunteers give hands-on help in return.”
Finally, we have Couchsurfing which is a bit different as it’s about hospitality exchange and social networking, not about working for the host. You can (and should) “consider making your couch, spare room or air mattress available to travelers”, because this is an exchange website. For those who truly value the importance of “meeting the locals” this is an excellent way. Check this post by the RTW guys, if you want to know more about how to start using Couchsurfing.
Map of CouchSurfers users, as you can see is a worldwide network!
Scouting for Hotels
If any of the above isn’t your thing or if you don’t have time or flexibility you will have to pay for the accommodation. This means that you will have to hunt for the best value for money, and these are the best ways to do it:
Airbnb is a community marketplace where potential guests can book spaces to hosts. Why do we call it spaces? Because you can book anything from a couch or a room in the host’s house to an apartment, or even a complete villa with pool and many rooms. This means that Airbnb can either be similar to the experience of Couchsurfing (but paid) or rent an apartment (but usually short-term), it depends on what you are looking for. In other words, whatever is your necessity you will probably find it in Airbnb. This is great for saving because you can get great deals for longer periods and if you rent a whole house/apartment you can save cooking yourself, by staying in the city or just because it’s a group of people so you can divide the bill with more people!
Use search aggregator site. These sites do part of the search job for you! They look in other booking and searching sites for the best price for each hotel. This will make you save a lot of time comparing prices. When searching for hotels my first step is usually going through these sites, being my favorite Hotelscombined.com. Just make an experience, use your usual booking site, and then check the same day & Hotel using it.
Finally, you should call the hotel, especially when you are in the low season. there is absolutely no harm in contacting the hotel and ask if they have some kind of discount or special fare. The worst things that can happen is listening to a polite no, but on the other hand, you can save a few bucks or get free breakfast included… Hotels usually prefer to make a little less in a room than leave it empty for the night.
How about you? Do you find these tips useful? What other ways do you use to save on accommodation?