Staying at hotels is something that most of us enjoy. There is nothing quite like fleeing the confines and routine of home and escaping to a world of comfort. From heated indoor pools at the foot of alluring ski slopes to in-house clubbing experiences on exotic islands, hotels provide a chance to escape the responsibilities of everyday life and a base from which we can explore the world’s most fascinating places.
While all that luxury comes at a price, there are easy ways to cut the costs of hotel stays and get a long more hotel for your francs. Check out these 11 simple tips for cheaper hotel stays by moneyland.ch before making your next booking.
1. Surf anonymously to avoid dynamic pricing
Money-hungry travel merchants have always considered Switzerland to be an endless source of easy-to-con customers, and big data has opened up a new age of dynamic rip-offs. By tracking your location and following your online interests using cookies, travel merchants are able to show you the price which harvested data tells them you are willing to pay. If you live in Switzerland (lots of disposable income), visit a lot of online stores (shopaholic) and frequently look at travel deals (dying for a vacation), you are a prime candidate for high hotel prices.
Use one browser to look for deals and another to make bookings (if you book online). Ideally, use an anonymous browser like Tor to prevent hotel booking sites from tracking your location and online interests. You can read more about this in the moneyland.ch guide to protecting yourself from dynamic pricing.
2. Book directly with hotels
After finding the right hotel, consider contacting the hotel directly and asking them for a quote. Chances are, you may get a better deal booking directly with the hotel rather than through a travel agent or travel website.
Travel websites take a commission (typically 5%) on every hotel booking made through them. That means the actual price charged by the hotel may be 5% lower than what you see on travel portals. This isn’t always the case, as agents sometimes cut special deals with hotels, but for longer stays especially, the potential savings can well be worth a quick email or phone call.
3. Take advantage of membership discounts
When staying at hotels in Switzerland, membership discounts can be one of your best friends. Your health insurance provider and bank are the first places to look for special discounts for hotel stays in Switzerland. Auto club memberships (TCS and ACS, for example) are another good source of hotel discounts. While deals are often limited to specific hotels, it isn’t uncommon to find generous discounts for entire hotel groups.
The Hotelcard can be a useful savings tool if you frequently travel within Switzerland and southern Germany. This card entitles you to half-price stays at over 700 hotels. You pay an annual fee of 99 francs, which is discounted for members of many alumni associations and employees of some companies. The no-annual-fee Travel Cash prepaid card from Swiss Bankers doubles as a Hotelcard. It entitles you to the same benefits as the Hotelcard when you use it to make bookings via the Hotelcard website.
Other membership-based organizations which offer hotel discounts include labor unions, professional associations, neighborhood associations and special-interest groups.
4. Look out for special deals
Aside from deals and discounts you might receive from your insurance, bank or memberships, there are hundreds of limited deals floating around out there. Online deal-hunting services (like Deindeal) are convenient for tracking hotel deals, and travel offers by budget retailers (like Denner and Aldi) and travel agencies (like L’Tur, Kuoni or TUI) are also worth checking out.
5. Ask about cash deals
When you pay for a hotel booking using a credit card, a percentage of the money you pay goes to pay for interchange fees, payment network fees and other credit card charges. Because of this, some hotels and travel websites charge you a markup when you pay via credit card. Other sites and hotels do not charge a markup but factor the costs into the price. Either way, you are the one paying for the credit card service.
Before using a credit card to pay for accommodation, ask the hotel if they offer a discount for cash or debit card payments. Even if a hotel requires credit card information as a backup for incidental expenses, they may still be just as happy to give you a cash deal – especially if you are willing to pay up front at the start of your visit.
6. Don’t pay for services you won’t use
Concierge services, page boys, conference facilities, ironing services and shoe polishers might make sense on a high-profile business trip, but you won’t likely use them on a holiday. Likewise, if you plan to spend the bulk of your time carving powder on ski slopes or exploring nightlife, you may not have much time for wellness treatments and other luxuries. Each extra star on a hotel will generally add significantly to the price you pay.
Ask yourself what services will actually add value to your hotel stay and look for offers to match. In many cases, you can knock a star of your hotel expectations without impacting the services you actually use.
7. Check foreign booking sites
Travel websites targeting Swiss customers tend to charge higher prices than those targeting less affluent markets. If you plan to book your hotel stays online and pay using a credit card anyway, there are few benefits to limiting yourself to Swiss travel booking websites. A number of “Swiss” travel websites (with the “.ch” domain) are not operated by registered Swiss companies anyway, and therefore do not fall under Swiss consumer protection laws.
By making use of anonymous surfing, you can often enjoy the lower prices charged to residents of other countries. While some foreign travel websites require may not complete bookings or accept payments if your billing address is outside of the country they service, there are many which do not have location-based restrictions. Find more applicable tips in the moneyland.ch guide to getting cheap flights.
8. Look out for foreign transaction fees when paying by credit card
Using a credit card to pay for online hotel bookings can be convenient, and on some websites it is your only option for online bookings payment. However, unless you book hotels through a Swiss travel agency or portal, you will have to consider the cost of your credit card’s foreign transaction fees. The same applies when you use a credit card to pay on location at hotels outside of Switzerland. You can find out more about foreign transaction fees here.
9. Don’t forget to claim your airline miles
If you are a member of a frequent flyer program, make sure that you collect the miles due when you stay at eligible hotels. Many frequent flyer programs have hotel partnerships, and the miles-earning rate for hotel stays can be generous. For example, Miles & More members earn at least 1000 miles per night for stays at thousands of hotels worldwide (Accor, Radisson, Marriott, Hilton, Swissôtel, Holiday Inn, Kempinski and many more) when they book through Miles & More.
Earning miles may not directly slash the cost of your hotel stay, but you can redeem those miles towards flights or future hotel stays, which can save you money. Find out more in the moneyland.ch guide to airline miles.
10. Check into non-refundable deals
The standard price quoted by hotels often includes a surcharge which covers the risk of your cancelling the booking and claiming a refund. If you are completely sure that you will make the booking, or if you will pay using a credit card with trip cancellation or trip interruption insurance that also covers unexpected hotel cancellations, go ahead and ask the hotel if they offer a lower price for non-refundable bookings. Some hotel-booking websites provide this option as well.
11. Don’t forget hotel loyalty programs
It’s easy to write off hotel loyalty programs as a waste of time, but if you find yourself staying at chain hotels on a regular basis, you may want to reconsider. Hotels in the Accor group, for example, are common in Switzerland and around the world, and LeClub loyalty program members can benefit from discounts of up 30% on hotel stays. Winter sport fans will appreciate the fact that Swiss hotel group Sunstar offers loyalty program members discounts of between 5% and 20% depending on your level of membership (Sunstar offers a 10% discount to members of the German Sorat hotel group loyalty program as well).
Other money-saving perks which come with certain hotel loyalty programs include free breakfasts, room upgrades or free internet access. Aside from LeClub, international hotel loyalty programs include HHonors (Hilton), Marriott rewards, IHG rewards club (Holiday Inn), Kempinski Discovery and Club Carlson (Radisson Blu).