Traveling for Less

I love to find new ways to travel cheaper but better, I’ve done a number of posts on utilizing sites like Homeexchange, Homeaway  or VRBO to rent private condos or homes. I continue to have terrific success with home exchanging and rental, my wife and I are renting a condo in Roatan Honduras for Christmas at a fraction of the cost of a hotel.

Renting a home gives you a lot of benefits that you don’t get with a hotel room, more room, a kitchen to cook meals and better exposure to the local community. You do lose some of the benefits of a hotel like housekeeping and room service but for me renting a home is more economical and can be even more luxurious and private than the nicest four star hotel. More and more people are getting in on the trend, now Trip Advisor has teamed up with Flipkey to start their own vacation rental section.

There are other sites I have mentioned like Couchsurfing  where you can bunk down on a generous sole’s couch or Caretaker where you can stay free in someone’s house while the owner is on vacation, your job is to take care of the pets or water the garden.

There are a couple of more sites that I have found recently that will offer room and board in exchange for a little work or help with various tasks from helping on a farm to volunteering to teach English at an orphanage. Helpx was started by Rob Prince, an Englishman who ended up with an injury that wouldn’t allow him to walk unassisted so he started a website exchanging room and board for help. Most of the Helpx listings are in England, Australia and New Zealand because of its origin.

Workaway was started by three people who had traveled the world and wanted more out of the experience then just staying in a hotel. Understand that when you utilize one of the room and board for help websites you will become engrained in the community, make new friends and experience the location like a local.

Of course there are the fall backs, Hotwire or bidding on Priceline, but some people don’t like rolling the dice on which hotel you will be staying at. I have had good luck and not so good luck with the “pay before you know” sites. 

There is a new entry into the discount hotel sites, Hotel Tonight. Just like Hotwire and Priceline they have negotiated lower rates with the hotels to sell off excess inventory but Hotel Tonight generally works with upscale hotels and for inventory that is available for the current day. So you can’t find out which hotels will be on Hotel Tonight until the day you need a room but you will know exactly which hotel you will be staying in and the prices are really good. This is the perfect site when you get stuck in a city unexpectedly or for the person who doesn’t need to know exactly where you are staying before arriving in the city. It can be fun letting your lodging be a surprise. Hotel Tonight is new to the game and sells through smart phone apps, so they have not proliferated the market like some of the older sites. They cover most large American cities and growing are everyday.

Another new way to find discounted lodging is the “private travel site”. Private travel sites produce the allure of exclusivity and a good bargain. Unlike some of the discount sites like Hotwire and Priceline you know exactly where you will be staying, the accommodations and the price being offered. There are a ton of discount, last minute deals to be found on travel websites but private travel sites generally do not try to include other travel aspects, plane fare or car rental but focus on high end properties that don’t generally sell on the discount sites for fear of cheapening their brand.  The other difference with a private travel site is that you have to “join the club”, most of these sites require that you register and be “accepted” which gives it the aura of exclusivity.

In reality every private travel site that I submitted my email address to was accepted within minutes. After all the name of the game is to fill occupancy and the private travel sites give the high end properties the ability to do this and save face at the same time with the veil of exclusivity.  

The bottom line for the traveler is, can I get a better deal on a private travel site than other places on the internet? The answer is yes, if you are looking for a high end , four or five star resort a private travel site can give you a really good deal. Here are some examples

Jetsetter  –

Half Moon (Montego Bay Jamaica) – a junior suite for $195 per night which showed up on Orbitz as a special 35% off offer for $273 per night.

Cheeca Lodge and Spa (Islamorada Florida Keys) – premier island view suite for $210 per night, Kayak lists the same room for $469 per night.

Sniqueaway – another Tripadvisor site.

The Homestead (Hot Springs Virginia) – Resort room – $99 ($345 on Kayak) Junior suite – $139 ($495 on Kayak)

Tango Mar Beach Club and Resort (Tambor Costa Rica) – Tropical suite or beach front room $115 ($178 on Kayak).

Remember that these high end resorts are trying to fill occupancy so there may be blackout times and the discounts are only offered for a short window. This allows the resort to protect their brand and fill rooms but not expose them to permanent discounting. Some other private travel sites worth checking out include Tablet Hotels, Tripalertz, Vacationist and Voyage Prive’.   

The internet has revolutionized the travel industry, no longer are we subjected to standard hotel rates or using a realtor to help with a vacation rental. The internet also allows you to get feedback from travelers who have experienced the property first hand.  The net result for the traveler is better accommodations or opportunities for a lower price.