Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.

yes it's possible to save this much money when you know how to find cheap hotel rates
Our max price for a room is usually $100; though we typically pay a lot less.
Photo by 
Alexander Mils on Unsplash

Do You Skip Vacations Because Hotels Cost Too Much? 
Before I continue on with more posts on the highlights of our last sun-seeking road trip, for you armchair travelers or wanna be more frugal travelers, we’ve learned a thing or two about saving money on our travel . . . Our last trip was 2 weeks and 2800 miles long, a heckuva lotta fun and cost us less than $1200 for everything.

If money is the main issue keeping you from traveling, then our budget travel tips on how to find cheap hotel rates might interest you.

It’s a good idea to search in private mode by putting “p” then hitting TAB before searching.
Some places will raise their prices when they can tell you’re shopping around.

1. Pull Out Your Maps
Let’s say you have two weeks for your road trip with some miles to cover. In our case, our trip totaled 2800 miles over two weeks. We knew 

  • where we were starting from.
  • the furthest point before we were going to turn around and head back.
  • a few of the stops we wanted to make along the way, such as the series of California redwood parks in Northern California. 
  • about how far we wanted to drive before resting our weary heads. In our case, over 300 miles is a long day of driving and doesn’t allow for the time we want for exploring. We also prefer to avoid driving after dark, though we will if we have to. 
This Google Maps location-sensitive motel search showed us the best rates in our area,
which motels they were and how they were rated.
We zoomed in for more detail. Usually, this will give us the address and phone number to call.
Because the address wasn’t given, I pulled this from a Google search on the name.
This is from a booking agency, not the motel. I try to avoid booking agencies and would be more inclined to drive to the motel than call the booking agency.

2. Planning: Location Location Location

  • staying in the poshest place is your preference, this tip is not for you. 
  • being the closest to a major tourist attraction is critical, again, you need to be willing to pay the price for this. 
  • on the other hand, your goal is to grab some zzzs and give your wallet a rest too, then learn to love the wallflower spots. 

Mid-sized to smaller towns are more likely to offer better rates than the main draws. For example, if Boise, Idaho is the major metro near where you might want to stop for the day, look at the nearest small to midsized towns outside of it, like Meridian. Good chance there’s a significant difference in prices and a shorter hop off and on the freeway if all you’re doing is stopping for the night. In this endeavor, Google Maps is our go-to resource. We will often do this by considering where we’ll have wifi close to our destination, pulling over, checking our options and making some query calls. I try to avoid going through booking agencies as they sometimes tack on extra fees. Instead, I try to call the individual hotels first for availability and to see if they will match the Google Maps price if I book directly with them.

Sunscapes don’t have to bust your budget.
Photo by 
Katie Harp on Unsplash

3. Flexibility is Key
Flexibility we find one of the keys to getting the best hotel price. Flexibility means we don’t care 

But . . .

I will not stay in any room that I can tell was used to smoke in
Photo by 
Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

4. Know Your Non-Negotiables
As low as our standards may sometimes sink, there are some non-negotiables which we rarely break. 

  • I will never stay in a room that stinks, whether it’s from cigarette smoke, pot, mildew or anything else. That is inviolate. 
  • I will refuse to stay in any room that is a smoking room and nothing will get back to the front desk with key in hand any faster than a nonsmoking room that I can smell smoke residue in. 
  • The room should be quiet, clean, safe and able to screen out exterior light for a good sleep (though we’ve settled for less on any of these on rare occasion). 
  • There is also a definite limit how far out our way we’re willing to go for a room whose only purpose is to sleep.
You are not going to get this without paying for it (i.e, not in a budget motel).
Something drinkable and a decent bite, however, is worth a few extra bucks.
Photo by 
Austin Wade on Unsplash

5. Consider the Value of ExtrasIf there’s a small difference in room rates, does the higher one include complimentary breakfast? 

  • If the breakfast consists of more than a bad cup of coffee with powdered creamer and cold cereal, is that enough to be worth it? Maybe yes. 
  • While we don’t ask whether there is a microwave, coffeemaker,  refrigerator/freezer or table, we appreciate those rooms that offer them. Many of our meals in the room and on the road come from a grocery store. After a long day on the road, it’s nice to be able to kick back and throw something in the microwave for dinner, refrigerate our perishables and ice a water bottle overnight to keep them cold for the next day’s in our car’s icebox. 
  • Bonus points go to rooms with comfortable chairs or couches and fast wifi.
Part of the ugliest motel room we’ve ever stayed in.

6. Ratings, Worth a Look
If all other criteria are close enough to not offer much of a difference,  the prices are close, the location equidistant from your goal, ratings are worth looking at. If there’s a lot of ratings and a hotel is rated spectacularly bad, with comments about surly services and Volkswagon Beetle sized roaches, then even if it’s by far the cheapest, we will give it a miss. However after Yelp chastised me for using photos of a room I stayed in to illustrate a point about the room decor in my review, I take ratings with at least a little grain of salt.

Discounts:  it doesn’t hurt to ask. Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

7. Ask About Discounts
Even if the rate is already good, it doesn’t hurt to ask if there are any additional discounts. Senior, military, AAA are a few that may be offered. If you don’t get any, the only thing you’re risking is mildly offending the proprietor. It’s likely you’re not the first or the last person to ask; the question is to be expected, so don’t feel bad about asking. 

The Chimney Tree on the Avenue of the Giants.
One of the fun free stops recommended by Sonia at the Redwood Inn, Crescent City California.

8. Bonus: Affordable Hotel Offer Affordable Travel Tips
Asking the front desk folks what to do based on your interests can help you find cool spots you would’ve missed and make wiser choices on where you do stop when there’s more choices than time. We’ve found this especially useful for deciding which trails to take and which visitor centers to check out and which grocery stores are best for a meal we can eat in our room. 

We paid ~$60 for this classic hotel in Memphis May 2019. We happily gave them an excellent review.

9. Share the Love (Or Shout the Warning)
It’s nice to share the best and worst with other travelers. It’s good travel karma to do your part to reward the best proprietors and help them keep their business healthy while helping travelers make better choices. When I’ve found particularly outstanding service, I’ve asked where the proprietor would most like their review, then reviewed it there. Otherwise, Google Maps, Trip Advisor, and Yelp  (even if they did chastise me) are some good options. While you’re at it, feel free to share this post! Your frugal traveler tips are welcome, too! Please share in comments.

One of our road trip sun club budget stays in New Zealand, at Rotata, a thermal resort.

10. Other Options
Hotels are not our only options for cheap sleeps. We are blessed with generous friends, relatives and hosts (and we generally try offer some hospitality in return by taking them out, cooking them a meal or by doing something else that they appreciate), hostels (especially internationally),  AirBnB, camping and even “sun clubs” are great options. For advance planning, there’s also house-sitting, which is what we’re doing now that we’re back from our road trip.

A recent Portland area house-sit with Trusted House-sitters.

Location Location
This is a recent retrospective from our sunscape February 16-28 2020. We’ve since returned to the Portland-Vancouver Washington area for a series of house-sits*. We’ve been doing them since mid-November as house-sitting gets us off the boat (which is moored nearby) and out from under the gloom of covered moorage during the already darkest days of winter. It also cleared the way for tackling some boat projects that don’t meld well with living aboard. 

Meanwhile, we’re still sussing out what, when and where our next adventures will be. More on that as it evolves.

*my affiliate link and a 25% membership discount to Trusted House-sitters, those house-sits we’re doing other than for friends.