10 ways to save money on a London hotel stay
Or other cities, for that matter …
With hotel prices going through the roof it’s harder than ever to find somewhere affordable to stay but over the years I’ve learned how to cut the price of my trips to London without settling for grotty hotels or far flung locations
Frustratingly there’s now so much demand for accommodation there aren’t the last minute bargains there once were and even booking ahead doesn’t save you as much as it once did. Even chain hotels like Premier Inn and Hilton Express are routinely charging over £175 a night and this week I spotted the Holiday inn Express was charging over £300 for a room the following day.
Personally I find it hard to book too far ahead anyway. Plans change, there are always family emergencies or sudden strikes, as we know to our cost, not to mention the dreaded Covid but as a friend who also books hotels in London regularly says, you can always make a flexi booking.
It can still be expensive though so try out the following hacks.
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Check out a booking site such as booking.com. Because I’ve used them over the years I now qualify for a ‘genius’ discount which is usually around 10-15%. They also offer free cancellation on some advance bookings which enables you to swap if a better option comes up or if the price drops. But they don’t include some of the big hotel chains such as Premier Inn and Travelodge.
Even then when you find a room check what the price would be with the hotel direct - it might well be cheaper. In fact pick up the phone, quote them the price on the booking site and see if they can offer you a better deal or even a better room. I recently negotiated a great rate for a second night with the hotel I’m staying in this week by asking them if I could stay in the same room for an extra night, saving myself £40 in the process.
Become a regular. If you’re travelling for work keep patronising the same hotel (so long as it’s reasonably affordable) and see if they’ll give you a corporate rate. One hotel I have been staying in regularly did that for me though their rates have gone up so much and the availability is so limited now that even that is too expensive most of the time. Loyalty card schemes such as Tesco Clubcard may also get you a discount. They have deals with Best Western and Mercure, for example, though the reductions on the room rates aren’t huge.
If you’re travelling on your own settle for a single room. No I don’t like single beds either but they can still be a bargain. This week I’ve managed to get one in central London for £95.
If you can juggle your commitments, a Sunday or Monday night tends to be cheaper than midweek or a weekend though you can find good rates in the City on a Saturday sometimes. It’s also best to avoid major events like the Chelsea Flower Show or London Fashion Week - or at least be more flexible about your location. (That obviously applies to other cities that have conventions too.)
If you’re prepared to take it to the wire leave it until the afternoon of your intended stay when you could well pick up a bargain due to a last minute cancellation.
Find a hotel near a station or a tube, especially if you have luggage to carry. You could save yourself the cost of a late night taxi.
Never book breakfast unless it’s included. With a few notable exceptions hotel breakfasts aren’t great. If you do decide to have it in the hotel you can save money by just ordering the extras rather than the main dishes on the menu e.g. toast and an egg rather than a full fry-up. Or, better still, walk round the corner and find a small café where the coffee’s likely to be better too!
Similarly, don’t have dinner in the hotel unless it has a destination restaurant or isn’t in a residential neighbourhood. If there’s nowhere decent nearby nip into a supermarket and buy a couple of salads. (That particularly applies to airport hotels.)
If you don’t carry your own water bottle buy your water in a local supermarket or corner shop, never in the hotel. I bought a 1.5 litre bottle at a local Tesco last night for 70p. Even W H Smith routinely sells 500ml for twice that. The same applies to wine or anything else in the minibar. Bring your own booze!
Do share your top tips for saving money when you travel!