Last spring we took a 9 day trip. We had 6 hotel nights and spent less than $100 on lodging. Sound too good to be true?

Here’s how we saved money on hotels and made affordable travel possible for our family…

First, let me start by saying this wasn’t magic or a scam. We used our resources. Not only did we plan well by taking advantage of every savings opportunity, we also went a little out of our comfort zone.

And by that I mean, would it have been easier to spend more money on hotel nights? Absolutely.

But was it worth stretching ourselves to save money? For sure!

Our first savings started on the first night of travel. We got a late start on a long road trip. Typically we’d break this particular drive in half and spend an evening in a hotel. However, in an effort to accomplish this trip on a tight budget we made a different choice. We found a Starbucks and enjoyed some late night caffeine in order to complete the drive overnight.

The first two nights of this story our family spent at a relative’s house. While you might consider this “cheating” for the purpose of this post, I would challenge you to build vacations around friends and family.

It’s a great way to travel affordably! And, of course, a lot of fun too.

The third night of our trip is the only one we actually paid cash for- hence the $100. We stayed at a hotel just down the street from the Atlanta airport. It wasn’t the swankiest, but it also wasn’t the worst.

Often you can find great last minute deals on hotels surrounding airports! Knowing there’d be a million to choose from, we waited until we were literally sitting in the parking lot to book it. This also allows you to preview the hotel before committing.

Nights #4 and 5 were spent at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. And paid for by my husband’s company. He had to be in Vegas for a meeting, so with the hotel already covered, our whole family decided to tag along.

I do realize we are incredibly fortunate that Brent has to occasionally travel for work, and that we’re able to be with him on some of the trips. It’s not a luxury everyone can take advantage of, but it is something to consider if you have the opportunity!

Although this post is all about hotel savings, it’s worth mentioning that this was also the trip where my children flew for free on Frontier Airlines.

Talk about saving money on travel- first hotels, then airfare!

Night #6 was a toss up, right up until the very last minute. Our first option (that we actually booked and then cancelled) was to stay in an extremely luxurious hotel in a great location for a lot of hotel points. Though free, we still considered this a big splurge. We use our Marriott Bonvoy points cautiously and maximize their value.

At the last minute we found another Marriott property 25 miles away that looked nice. It offered tons of family amenities and a totally different experience than our first option. It would have been a tough decision, but the second option used a fraction of the points. So in the end, we chose plan B to save our points.

Night #7 (that sort of rolls into the final night) is where things get fun.

We intentionally booked a red eye back to Atlanta. This gave us an entire day of travel without having to pay for another hotel that night. Keep in mind my kids were flying for free, so it was a REALLY affordable “lodging” option to sleep on the plane! (Although the only person who actually slept on the plane was my 7-year old son.)

When we landed in Atlanta we were all exhausted, but it was only 7AM. We’d already booked a Marriott for that night (#8) using a free certificate (all cardholders earn 1-2 free certificates each year.)

Typically check-in wouldn’t be until 4. So feeling a little silly, I called the hotel and explained that our family had just gotten off of a red-eye and we had a reservation for that evening. I asked if there were any way for us to check into the room early? Like immediately?

I couldn’t believe my luck when they not only accommodated my request, but upgraded our room!

We ended up taking a 5 hour nap, and then enjoying the final day of our trip exploring Atlanta. It was really funny, as we returned to our room late that evening it was hard to remember that it was technically just our first night staying there!

Of course, not all of our trips work out this way. Many times we end up paying for more hotel nights.

Here are a few simple rules we try to follow when considering our lodging options:

  1. If we are just looking for a place to sleep for a night along a road trip route, we try to keep our hotel cost under $100 or between 10K-15K points.
  2. We splurge for hotels if we will be spending considerable time there or if location is everything.
  3. Always consider any hidden fees. Often hotels in big cities have a parking fee. And occasionally hotels have a resort fee. The Bonvoy App does a nice job disclosing these fees, but you have to look for them.
  4. Unless there is a very specific reason not to, we almost always book our hotels at the last minute and often feel like we catch deals doing it that way.
  5. We are incredibly brand loyal. As I mentioned, we accrue Marriott Bonvoy points and it really helps us travel more affordably.
  6. Our family books the most affordable room at the hotel, and then we ask for an upgrade at check in. It’s amazing how often the hotel is able to accommodate us!
  7. If at all possible, we stay in hotels with free breakfasts.

Have you found a way to cut down costs on hotel nights when you travel? Please leave a comment and share your tips!

For more ways to save money when you travel, check out:

Don’t Blow Your Entire Vacation Budget on Food

Secrets To Saving Money At The Gas Pump

Rental Car Deal = Last Minute Change of Plans

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