How to plan a group vacation on a budget
Now that the flight has been booked, the next step is lodging. While most of you probably won’t be spending much time in your hotel, there is still a lot of decision work to be done in order to get the best place at the best rate for your needs. Here are our tips (JUGs tricks of the trade), the ones we just used to book a room at the Ace Hotel for $30 less a night.
Talk Budgets, Again
Ok, we are saying this again because hotels are another major cost. It's extremely useful to figure out how much people are willing to spend a night on lodging before you start your search. Other important factors to find out: are people looking for a fancy hotel, a cheaper hotel, a trendy hotel, a hostel, a house or an apartment? Figure those things out first as it will all help narrow down your initial options.
Figure Out What Area You Want To Stay In
Have a general idea of activities you want to do and ask for more recommendations on neighborhoods to check out and or stay in. Don't know anyone in your destination region? Read travel guides like Lonely Planet, The New York Times 36 Hours column, or your favorite travel blogs. Nothing is worse than finding a hotel that you think is perfect, and then having be in a terrible neighborhood far away from all your planned activities.
Use The Popular Search Sites
For regular hotel lodging TripAdvisor, Orbitz, Hotels.com and all the main comparison sites are great places to start. If you are booking very last minute, which makes an OCD person like me cringe, I have heard excellent things about Hotel Tonight. Anther newcomer for booking sites is Stayful, which allows you to negotiate better prices on top boutique hotels. It sounds very interesting, though I have never tried it.
For hostels I use LonelyPlanet, my favorite travel guide since that time I was abroad in college.
Search For Additional Discounts
While comparison sites say they are getting you the best price, there’s always more wiggle room. Once you have your top places in mind, look around on coupon sites (retailmenot and coupons.com), which generally offer 15% or more off booking sites like Orbitz and Travelocity. And then don’t forget our beloved daily deal sites like Groupon, JetSetter and Living Social, as they may be offering up amazing rates on top quality hotels you never imagined staying in before.
Use Your Memberships
If you have any credit cards or membership cards (like AAA), visit those sites to see what hotels they have reduced pricing on. Most are affiliated with one or more brand name chain hotels, or offer up seasonal discounts on a variety of locations. Also be sure to check around at work and ask your parents to see if either could grant you access to a Hotel Rewards Program discount.
Lastly just ask for a better rate! Call the hotel and ask if they have a cheaper room available or if they can throw in something for free - a free breakfast, a free rollaway…stuff like that. We called the Ace Hotel because their site said they only had deluxe rooms left (WAY out of our budget) and we wanted to see if they had any cancellations for standard rooms. Turns outs they did… and we were able to talk them down on the nightly fee plus they threw in the rollaway for free! That saved us each $30 a night! How do you like them apples?!