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How Do You Economize While Traveling?

This is intended to be a companion piece to how do you save to travel.

The question is how do you spend less in Europe while still getting the vacation you wanted?

My recent experience is all about how to save when traveling as a foursome. But in a couple years there will be just two of us.

We find that it's invariably much cheaper to house four people in an apartment than in a hotel, and the apartment is usually a nicer place to be than a hotel room. The downside is that it's harder to check-in and you generally have to put up a hefty rent deposit in advance and damage deposit on arrival. Also, there is no hotel desk to book things for you, though we've found many owners to be very helpful with local news and recommendations.

It's also vastly cheaper to eat in than out and apartments do that for us.

Austria, Britain, Germany, and others have special family rail fares and we take advantage of those.

We are also willing drive four to six hours to fly out of a city cheaper than Portland. Seattle and Vancouver BC are frequently $200 to $400 per ticket less and park and ride hotels tend to be cheap.

Beyond that we look for good walks, bikes and hikes to balance out the cost of museums. And we look for free museums and sights.

Posted by
11677 posts

Good topic.

Our plan is much like yours---we book apartments as much as possible and cook in rather than dining out. We book train tickets well in advance and take advantage of the discounts. We generally do only one "paid" site per day and otherwise enjoy the free offerings and even just wandering around.

And we use miles to fly.

Posted by
11613 posts

I travel solo almost all the time, so apartments don't offer a comparable cost benefit to hotels, and it's not a vacation if I have to make my own bed.

While traveling, I prioritize. Some days I spend less on food but more on sights, other days vice versa. Or it depends on the destination - Bologna is a good city for food splurges, Roma doesn't have to be. I try to book reservations in advance so I can calculate expenses, and I buy train tickets as far in advance as possible to get a good discount. Sometimes something comes up and the daily budget is blown, but I take long trips, so the excess cost can be absorbed over a number of days/weeks.

Most of my travel is in Italia, which has low museum costs, and many churches which are free (except for treasuries, crypts, etc.).

If I were going to visit a place and did not intend to return, I would not cook for myself for every meal - food is part of culture, and that's part of a good vacation, for me.

Posted by
20597 posts

We try not to compromise too much as it distracts from the trip. When we travel by ourselves, we walk a lot, and try to take advantage of transportation discounts. TI is our friend for finding inexpensive local tours. Generally only two meals a day - the morning breakfast and a very nice evening meal with a very light snack at midday. When traveling with our two sons, we did many cruises since we found cruises to be a cheap and convenient way to see a lot of Europe.

Posted by
3315 posts

As Frank mentioned, on some days we eat a big breakfast, a light snack for lunch, and then a very nice evening meal. Depending on the location and plans for the day, we will sometimes have a very large lunch at noon (less costly than a large dinner) and then a snack in the evening.

Posted by
17642 posts

Like Zoe, I have mostly traveled alone so apartments have not been an economical option; however, for two or more they can be economical so I try to use them whenever possible, when not traveling by myself. However, for only a few day, stocking the kitchen initially is expensive unless you are going to another apartment and can take everything with you.

I stay mostly in small pensions, guest houses, and private homes, which I find on town websites. Staying in chain hotels and places you find on booking websites just increases your costs.

I also find that using public transportation costs half to a third as much as renting a car, particularly if you know how to use regional and advance purchase fares.

I eat at least one sit down meal a day, but I scout out restaurants to find to find the economical ones. Eating local specialties and regional cuisine is often more economical. For instance, in Germany beef is usually more expensive. Pork (Schnitzel) tends to be more common and less expensive.

Posted by
2663 posts

Hi,

I think because of "economizing" we get the vacation we want. We stay in small, family owned and run Gasthof's, Pension's, etc. in the countryside for a fraction of the cost of even a moderate hotel. In Germany and Austria breakfast being included in the room price is the norm. A snack for lunch and dinner at a modest restaurant. Sometimes simply a pizza and a beer is fine. We buy snacks and drinks and such at super markets. We also don't care for big cities or museums.

Posted by
5281 posts

Get old and ask for senior discounts -- we found lots at museums in Austria and Germany. Not so much in Italy, though.
Big lunch, smaller dinner.

Posted by
812 posts

I try to plan for economy like getting train tickets ahead of time to get discounts. My trips don't usually involve locations that are great distances apart and therefore expensive to travel between. I never rent a car (mainly because I am scared to!) I stay in smaller hotels without extra services, so they are usually reasonably priced. I also usually eat cheap lunches, and moderate dinners with maybe one or two splurge dinners. Most of what I like to do is fairly cheap. I usually have several days on my trips where I am just walking and seeing free things and not paying any admission fees, but this is because it is what I like to do. Other than that, I don't try to worry about it too much on my trips. I won't cook in because that would not be a vacation for me. I will pay more for a hotel location that I want. If I want to do something with a high admission or ticket price, I just do it. I am on vacation after all, so I make sure ahead of time that I have saved enough money not to have to worry too much about what I am spending.

Posted by
6542 posts

Many of our tricks have already been addressed.
We pig out on the free breakfasts, and have been known to carry out a ham and cheese bagel on the breakfast bar in zip lock bags. Then we only buy one meal per day--not necessarily at a fine local restaurant. We're not adverse to eating American fast food or at a Chinese restaurant in Europe.
We also picnic and carry snacks to save on meals.
It does pay to research all trips extensively on Rick Steves and the internet and execute savings plans.

Posted by
960 posts

Be my own travel agent!
Use Public Transport and figure out the cheapest pass/tickets
Pre-Book any train that will save us money and knowing how far out we can book. It is usually 3 months, which means that my planning must start 6 months before the trip to know my dates.
Stay in Apartments
We do not skimp on the experience, if that means booking a walking tour or taking a cab/uber to save our feet for the day ahead, then we spend the money
I learned to be flexible on travel dates as the airfare did change when different dates were chosen.
Rack up points on travel rewards credit cards
Buy the towns museum pass if it makes sense (made sense in Paris and not so much in Rome for us as we had 2 walking tours already paid for which included entry fee)
Look for Buy one get one free entry fees (London has a whole slew of these-must know the rules)
We took mixed nuts and Jerky from home for our daily snacks to take in backpacks...they came in handy.

Posted by
13927 posts

I usually travel solo, so hotels are my biggest expense by far. I do almost all my economizing in the planning phase. That means looking for the best lodgings (with my minimum requirements) at the lowest prices I can find and buying train and budget plane tickets well in advance. Those are my major expenses and where I can save substantially. I travel a lot in low season, which often allows me to get lower air fare and nice hotels and (I think maybe) lower auto rental rates. I have my budget for my next trip - to Spain - in front of me. Hotels are over 50% of it.

Once I'm out of the airport, I want to feel like I'm on vacation (not so easy, since I'm retired). I don't want to cook or clean or take out the trash. I have limited time and I want to make the most of it. So I don't skimp on taxis if they are cheap and I pay extra for a reservation to a sight. I enjoy eating out, but I'm not a big foodie. I do save money by shopping at the supermarket for snacks and drinks and for picnic meals, sometimes lunch on the go, sometimes dinner in my room - in my pj's with my feet up.

Before I leave, I have a budget of daily expenses in mind, based on an average daily amount. I keep track of my spending as I go. If I see I'm exceeding the daily "allowance" I may opt not to eat out. But in the greater scheme of things, if I "blow" the budget by a couple hundred euros and I have a great time, it's worth it. For that reason, I have stopped stressing over things like entrance fees and guided tours. If I spend $4,000 - $5,000 on a trip and then not visit a sight to save $30-40, what's the point of going?

Posted by
2936 posts

I think pre-planning is a key to keeping costs down, particularly where lodging is involved.

When I think about my vacation I try to do it from a "value" perspective rather than an economy perspective. I seek the best value for my objectives. Sometimes, this is a very nice hotel in the heart of Paris. Sometimes it is a cheap camping cabin in the heart of the Alps.
I study several guidebooks and learn what I can about an area. Then I decide what I think are my top items of interest or experiences that I want to have while in that area. My trips always end up being very reasonable on cost and I treat myself to things that matter to me while being frugal on the things that don't.

Posted by
2428 posts

I too travel solo a lot and would agree about the pre planning.recent trip to Prague I managed to get a great deal on a 4 star hotel .It was away from the city centre but close enough for the places I wanted to visit plus it was right beside some great transport links,so big saving there and a 4 star hotel instead of my usual 3 stars.
I also check out public transport anywhere I am going and use that when I can,I am pretty adverse to organised tours and generally prefer to organise things myself but sometimes the deal on these tours or just the organisation of them suits my needs and I will use them.
I don't worry much about the cost of eating when I am travelling ,I seldom eat in higher end places preffering good old fashioned pubs that serve food to the higher end restaurants so I guess I live fairly cheaply when I travel.
I too am not a fan of apartments though I have stayed in serviced apartment in the Canary Isles several times and that really is not much different from a hotel as they are within a complex.
I do give myself a budget for flights and hotels then a separate budget for spending money and generally I make sure I spend the very last of my money just before I board the plane home.

Posted by
831 posts

Same here, good pre-planning is my go to method for keeping costs down while maximizing my experience. There is nothing more expensive than my time and its very expensive to use your time trying to figure out what to do for the day once you are on vacation. I'll even go as far as to plan the times to sit and do nothing because, hey, I'm supposed to be relaxing right :)

I will admit, I only stick to my plan 70% of the time because often I will have a spur of the moment change of heart, but the plan is there for the rest of the time when I can't be bothered to think anymore (vacation remember).

DJ

Posted by
3973 posts

Public transport, big hotel breakfasts, small off-the-main-drag restaurants, buying sandwich supplies in delis or grocery stores, and spending most of our time walking walking walking - stopping off to marvel in the wonderful (and usually free) churches, many of which have great art.

Posted by
4803 posts

My only advice is to choose your economizing wisely so as not to detract from your trip, being penny wise but pound foolish.

Certainly find the best bargain for airfare, picking smaller, cheaper hotels works well, can even enhance your trip, but other elements justify the expense...because that is why you traveled all that way and paid big money to see.

  • So certainly you do not need to see every museum or site, and taking advantage of the free ones are a good way to stretch a dollar, but don't skip important sights to save cost, and don't be afraid to arrange for tours or spring for the audio guide if that would enhance the experience even more.
  • Eating just a "snack" or basic food in an apartment might save bucks, and perfectly fine for a meal here and there, but the thought to go to Italy and not take advantage of the great food, good wine, and the experience of a great restaurant drives me crazy.
  • Staying put in a locale surprisingly saves a bunch of money, having an itinerary of many places means a bunch of transportation costs, generally more for hotels, and more expenses in general. Better to do one place well than many places poorly.

In general, skimping where it does not hamper your experience is great, but do not be afraid to spend the money where it enhances the experience.

Posted by
11153 posts

I was going to write something like what Paul just wrote, but he said it all, and better. I also agree that the most important part of saving money while traveling is planning before traveling. Investigate advance tickets, passes, inexpensive accommodations, and other deals before you leave, so you know what to buy (and not buy) when you get there. It's just as important to know about what does not save money (some of the CIty Passes, for example) as what does.

Posted by
17642 posts

Or don't think that just because you spend more, you are enhancing your experience. When I traveled in Europe on business, they put us in 4 and 5 star hotels. I found these places to be culturally sterile. When I travel on my own dime, I stay in small, family-run pensions, guest houses, and rooms in private homes (Privatzimmer). These places are less expensive, but enhance the cultural experience.

Posted by
1016 posts

I was penny wise and pound foolish the year before last and I wowed NEVER to do that again.

We found a cheaper hotel just on the outskirts of the city and ended up using expensive bus tickets and even more valuable vacation time to get to and fro :-(

And to top it up we had to pay for a locker for our luggage the last day before the train. With a central hotel we could just have left the luggage in the hotel until our train left.

Posted by
17642 posts

l.p.enersen, could you please elaborate on your experience? Where did this happen? How? In fifteen years, I have never experienced what you describe. I will certainly continue to try to find small, economical accommodations rather than waste money on overpriced, big-box hotels.

But, by all means, consider the cost of transportation when selecting accommodations. For instance, for years I stayed in Munich in a hotel outside the inner zone, 20 minutes by S-Bahn from Marienplatz. Two euro more for an all-day transit pass saved me a lot more on the room. Unfortunately, that hotel closed, so last trip I spent more for a room in the inner city. I had to walk to Marienplatz; it took about 20 minutes.

Posted by
403 posts

We do most of the things previously mentioned.
- pre-planning
- buy picnic food when we're on the road. You never know where you'll be when you're hungry.
- stay in apartments and cook many of our meals. It's fun to shop for food in local markets and grocery stores. Some apartments require many extra fees and a returnable damage deposit, but not all. Check and compare.
- stay for several nights in one location and use this as your hub for a couple of days. You can usually get a discount if you stay more than 2 or 3 nights in some locations.
- stay in smaller towns rather than bigger cities. Accommodation and restaurants are less expensive. We do this when our goal is to visit the "region" vs wanting to experience a particular city.
- travel in the off season. Accommodation costs are significantly less.
- use points.
- if you like to have beer and wine, go to the local liquor store and keep some in your room/apartment. It's less expensive that way and it's fun to shop for local selections.
- there's lots of free experiences. Some museums have free days, go for walks, stroll the city, people watch, buy a picnic and find a wonderful spot to enjoy the view.

Posted by
393 posts

When we had to stay in hotels, we stayed outside the city center in larger western hotels. Outside the city center is often only a 20 minute subway, train, or metro ride. This may sound contrary to Europe through the Backdoor philosophy but to our surprise it wasn't. Numerous large western hotels outside the city center were smack dab in the center of regular neighborhoods and we met a lot of very regular people. We were traveling with our 2 elementary school age kids.

Posted by
1878 posts

Here are some ideas:
1. Travel shoulder season, not the height of the tourist season.
2. (Tend to) choose countries to travel in that are good value and/or time visits when exchange rates are favorable. For example next year (if we manage a Europe trip) between Scotland and Ireland, both of which I want to visit eventually, I might lean toward Ireland and save Scotland for later if the exchange rates are where they are now. If I really wanted to go to Norway or Switzerland, I would do it, but if another country that's equally appealing is a lot cheaper, that's the direction I would lean.
3. Plan ahead and book rooms to optimize for value (location, quality, price). Booking train fairs in advance will also save you some money. You have to know which countries this matters the most – we've learned that buying a train ticket in the U.K. the day of travel is a lot more expensive. For train travel within Hungary, I would not worry about it.
4. Take public transit.
5. Travel within a smaller geographical range – plan practical itineraries without a lot of long, expensive, time consuming travel days. (Don't tack on Krakow to a trip to Portugal, for example. This one I have had to learn. In my early days of European travel I did not follow this rule. If you really must combine London/Paris/Rome in one trip, do it but it's going to cost you.
6. Mix things up between expensive large cities and smaller cities/towns. There's great value outside of the big cities, and you get a better sense of what the country is really about.
7. Really take the time to enjoy a sight rather than blasting through in the minimum amount of time to say you've seen it, then rushing off to pay admission at another sight that we'll also blast through. One big sight and one smaller one in a day is plenty for us. We probably spent five hours at the Tower on London on two different visits (2000 and 2013) and the same amount of time at the Alhambra complex in 2005.
8. Slow down and be in the place you're visiting, rather than overindulging in goal-oriented tourism. A lot of times the more memorable experiences are walking around or sitting in a cafe. There are exceptions to this. Knock yourself out in London, Paris, Rome. The sights are that great. One of the reasons I like Budapest so much is that the sights are not that overwhelming and it's the perfect city to just slow down and be there. I am getting better at this over time, but it can still be a challenge.
9. Consider special passes like the Paris Museum pass (do the math though and consider how you'll use it). Germany day tickets on the train (Lander ticket) are a great deal. Free sights in London help to balance out the high price you might be paying for a room.
10. Use miles/points strategically to maximize value. Save up points to stay for free in cities where you will save the most. We stayed five nights for free in a business-class hotel in London right across from Victoria Station in 2013. Likewise with airline miles, which I have used when in between jobs to economize.

This is not to say every decision is driven by wanting to save money – make sure and take the trip you want to take.

Posted by
107 posts

Lots of valuable advice here. You could write a small book using this discussion as a resource.

My first European tour was in 1971 and I rode a bicycle, stayed at youth hostels, ate food bought in markets and stores, and had the very best travel experience of my entire life. I was spending about $4 a day, and almost nothing was pre-planned besides my arrival and departure dates.

In 2012, I traveled solo to Japan and used public transportation, stayed mostly in youth hostels, bought food at 7/11s and other grocery stores and also had a marvelous trip. Thanks to the Inter-Web, all of my travel and lodging was entirely pre-planned, and that's what I'd recommend for today's self-directed traveler.

If you have a flexible schedule, start your travel planning at least six months in advance. You can explore flight options by trying different arrival and departure dates to see which ones give you the lowest price. Once your big flight is booked, you can start looking at inter-city travel options, although many bus and rail lines won't allow you to book more than two months in advance. Budget airlines may also be an option. For example, in May my wife and I traveled inter-city in Spain on Veuling, and the fares were less than we would have paid for a bus.

We usually use TripAdvisor for advance bookings for lodging. We pick a city and the dates we will be there and then sort the hotels and B&Bs by their customer rating. We then look for highly-rated lodging that doesn't cost too much. This was how we found the Ariel House in Dublin and the fine western-style hotels we used recently in Spain. If you want to dig deeper for bargains, you'll need to get some guidebooks and correspond directly with places that don't use the Inter-Web for reservations. (Could be rewarding, but too much work for us.)

Like other commentators, we pack dried, compact food to take with us. Also some candy for quick energy. We walk a lot when we travel so we tend to eat more frequently. Suit yourself, but there's nothing worse than being hungry at 10 p.m in a hotel.

If I'm traveling alone, I will rarely eat at a restaurant, but my wife likes that experience. In the old days this was an easier decision to make because Europe was actually inexpensive. It's not now, and it's hard to find that right combination of price and quality that makes dining out a pleasure. TripAdvisor is also a good resource for finding some options you may enjoy.

One last thought: Be prepared. By that I mean be sure to bring items with you that you may need but which will be difficult to find (or costly) abroad. For example, if I get a cold when traveling, I know what medicine I'll need to deal with my symptoms. I bring it all, ranging from zinc tablets to pure dextromethorphan. Try finding that in Beijing, Nara or Rome.

Posted by
516 posts

Ditto on public transit. We've paid a lot in the past for airport-hotel transfers in the past (i.e., driver waiting at arrivals gate with your name on a sign, driving you to hotel in private car) based on the rationale that after a long flight, tired and weary, we didn't want to navigate public transit, get lost, etc. In retrospect, it was a lot of money.

Posted by
1713 posts

So many tips here that I've unknowingly followed. But bottom line is experience. Took our first trip abroad in 2010 to Sicily/Florence/Rome. Booked hotels on our own, and wanted to make sure they would be comfortable so when choosing online which type of room at a given hotel, I decided what 'level' of comfort was satisfactory and went one step up from that. Yes, we had beautiful rooms, but in the end was more than we needed. Also, at that time the Euro was 1.43 USD--ouch! We booked private transports & tours as well, which were pricey indeed. I just didn't want anything to go awry on our maiden trip, you know?

Last February into March, we had 17 nights between Paris, Lucerne, Florence & Salerno, and knew for that duration I couldn't spend like a drunken sailor as before, but I believe we had off-season timing in our favor. Bought advance train tickets, saving hundreds, although we would have to travel on those dates and at those times. In Paris, found a pretty small room in a cozy hotel in the 5th for 150 Euro/night which I thought was perfectly suitable. Took the Metro everywhere--10-trip carnets were 15 Euro--a steal. Never dined expensively but ate well--crepe stands, etc. Blew it out one night at an 'underground' Parisien bistro--38 Euro/pp for 4 courses and a 38 Euro bottle of killer Medoc. That was value in my eyes.

In Switzerland, boy oh boy it was hard to downspend--found a hotel across from the train station at 200 CHF/night, only for two nights thank goodness. Dined at the hotel twice--reasonably-priced, and also a department store cafeteria that was about 15 CHF a head, but better than a spread at a high-end Vegas casino--fantastic quality. But longer in Lucerne would've been costly--it is so beautiful, but be prepared to pay the piper. Very glad we saw it, however.

Italy was far more manageable cost-wise. Found an apartment in Florence for under 100 Euro/night, shopped the markets and the Conad grocery for lunches and the following day's breakfasts, dined out in the evening--never intentionally splurged, and did very well in that regard. And down in Salerno it was even better--train or bus to Naples, the Amalfi Coast or Pompei were around 2 Euro, we'd pack a lunch from a café or grocery, and picnic on the train or at our destination. And we stayed at a great B&B for under 75 Euro/night.

All in all, we never felt like we were depriving ourselves of anything. I think that the more days on the road, the cheaper the per day cost will be if you play it the right way.

Posted by
5224 posts

1.) pre plan, research.
2.) use Airbnb for lodgings. Or Priceline if you've been to the area and know what the neighborhoods are like. In 2010 used it for London, got the Marriott regents Park for $95/night. Two double beds, flat screen TV. Block and 1/2 from the Swiss Cottage tube station. A bit out of the way for the first time London visitor but perfect for me and my travel colleague.
3) use public transport, book long distance train travel in advance. Use budget airlines for travel IN Europe but absolutely understand luggage restrictions.
4) eat free breakfasts at your Bnb, hotel, etc.
5) street food, market vendors, or picnic for lunch. I read food blogs before I go researching for cheap eats. I also always have some snacks in my messenger bag.

6.) Walk, walk, walk. Best and cheapest way to explore places.
7.) at my age inquire if there is a senior discount
8.) pack light, wash your own clothes, use debit cards for ATM withdrawals.
9.) half price ticket booth in London
10.) travel off season

Posted by
17642 posts

I like Claudia's approach with a few exceptions.

I've studied the accommodation situation for 15 years now, booking accommodations for some 50 places for 21 weeks in that time. Your best savings come from eschewing internet booking websites. In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, and I suspect other countries as well, almost every town has it's own website. On these websites they have a list of accommodations in the town, complete with links to their websites. On average, a third to a half of the places on the town website, and, for the most part, only the most expensive places, will also be listed on booking websites, like AirBnB, Priceline, Booking, Hotels, HRS, etc. If you want to economize, avoid booking websites. Find the town websites and book directly with those properties.

Posted by
516 posts

ditto...

I use TripAdvisor to research locations, reading the reviews, and look at the photos, but always book directly with the hotel. Whatever deal or savings a booking website might advertise is simply not worth the headaches when something get's screwed up. To many reports on here of how a big booking website wasn't available to help them when they showed up at the hotel and there was something wrong with the reservation, how they couldn't talk to an actual person, or how they refused to compensate or reimburse them for their errors.

Posted by
17642 posts

"I use TripAdvisor to research locations"

That's your big mistake! TripAdvisor and their booking websites only show a fraction of the accommodations available in a particular town, and it's only the most expensive places in that town. So if you use them, you won't find the best deals. If you really want to economize (and that's the title of this thread), use the town websites, not sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking, Hotels, HRs, etc.

Posted by
6138 posts

Lee, there is room even for Tripadvisor in the travel landscape (although I mostly use their Things to Do and restaurants sections rather than hotels). I honestly can't imagine using town sites for everything - if you want to draw a big lasso around a sizable geographic area and find hotels within, looking at each town (assuming you even know all of them) individually is time intensive. There is a beauty to comparison sites (as well as drawbacks) that allow you to look at a bunch of hotels side by side and you can sort by several criteria. Of course it's not perfect and it won't generate the entire universe of possibilities, but it seems much easier in many situations than to look at individual hotel websites one town at a time.

There's a place for town websites (I can be convinced this works well in small towns/villages in Germany) and a place for consolidator sites that derive savings by volume and economies of scale. What if you were looking for a hotel in Los Angeles? I'd rather have a site like booking.com where I can filter by neighborhood than have to look up each subarea individually. Yes, you can save money on Tripadvisor, Booking, Hotwire - it's not an urban legend.

Posted by
17642 posts

In all fairness, Agnes, you have not analyzed this subject to the depth that I have.

Example: earlier today, on a different thread, I advised someone to go the the Rosenheim town website for accommodations. After your last post, I took a closer look at the Rosenheim town website's list of accommodations vs Traveladvisor's.

TravelAdvisor shows 13 accommodations "for Rosenheim". One is closed; one is 15 miles away in another town. A third property does not show prices on TripAdvisor, the Rosenheim website, or even their own website.

Of the ten properties remaining on the TripAdvisor site, all ten are also listed on the Rosenheim website. I was really surprised to find that only 4 of the ten are listed on both websites at the same rate. The other six properties are more expensive on TripAdvisor. (I had thought that the TripAdvisor booking websites contractually prevented this.) The average nightly price for a double room listed on the both websites is 101.80€ for TripAdvisor, vs 92.06€ for Rosenheim.

However, there are another 8 properties on the Rosenheim website that are not shown on TripAdvisor. Their average nightly price is 70€.

I ordered the 18 properties shown on the Rosenheim website by the price on that website. Of the six most expensive properties, all six were also shown on TripAdvisor. Of the 12 less expensive properties, only 4 (one third) were also on TripAdvisor.

So, I repeat here, T/A only shows about half of the available properties, and the ones they do show are more expensive. What I hadn't expected is that, of the properties shown on both websites, the price on the Rosenheim website is less than on TripAdvisor.

Rosenheim is only one of a dozen or more towns I've compared with similar resutls.

Posted by
3973 posts

Lee, it had never occurred to me that towns had their own websites! Or if I did know it, I didn't realize there were links to the hotel websites. Thanks for the tip.

Just a note: The only time I've used Trip Advisor with much success was to research hotels in Houston when we were attending a family wedding. I used TA to narrow down the part of town we wanted to be in, then went to the various hotel websites to get the rates and make the reservations. Interestingly, there were two separate websites for Marriot, and the prices for the same hotel were significantly different on the two sites. My sister-in-law booked a room from the other website, and paid almost half again as much as we did, and her room was a single!

Posted by
17642 posts

"... I've used Trip Advisor with much success was to research hotels in Houston ... "

That's in the US. Europe is not like the US. Here, major chains have just about put the independent hotels and motels out of business. You hardly see a non-chain motel anymore, unless it's rooms rent by the hour.

In Europe, however, the major chain hotels are the exception, not the rule. There are so many small, mom 'n pop places, and they operate on a shoestring. Their profit on a room is probably less than the 15% commission that booking website take. What's more, I suspect that Europeans use the town websites more than booking websites, so not being listed on booking websites is not so much of a disadvantage over there.

Posted by
6138 posts

So, I repeat here, T/A only shows about half of the available properties, and the ones they do show are more expensive. What I hadn't expected is that, of the properties shown on both websites, the price on the Rosenheim website is less than on TripAdvisor.

Lee, I truly appreciate the methodical effort you undertook to make your case. The core of the argument really boils down to very mundane nuances. First, I believe you are speaking about this website:
http://www.touristinfo-rosenheim.de/uebernachten/suchen-buchen-rosenheimer-gastgeber.html?no_cache=1#&panel1-3.
While I can speak and understand German, some folks simply won't go to a foreign town website to hunt for hotels (although admittedly Google can easily translate any webpage). Filling out a request form and waiting for someone to get back to you isn't a big deal, but still it's slightly more of a pain. The reason third party sites exist is to make it really easy for people to compare..a single site will also include hotels in nearby towns in one "data grab" so that's two positives right there. Secondly, third party sites have (often) hundreds of reviews from people who stayed in those hotels - reviews are not perfect but they're better than self-selected reviews by the hotel's own websites. I also think you have to be really careful in using "average daily rates" to compare prices across different sites because there is quite a bit of variability in how different sites report prices - some report just the base price and it isn't until you get to the very end of the booking process that you actually see the true cost with all taxes/fees included. So to go back to your Rosenheim examples, I would make sure that it's apples to apples. I too have found cases where the hotel website's own rates are better than a third party's, but I also found lots of examples of the opposite...that's why I check all sources because it just "depends".

There's no argument that booking.com, expedia, hotels.com, etc. do not contain the entire universe of potential hotels for the reason you suggested. But neither do town websites. Smaller, mom-and-pop types of hotels use different advertising channels to get folks to book with them - they many not want to play the commission-based game with third parties especially if their rates are at a low price point that they don't want to inflate them by booking commissions. Where third parties excel is categories of hotels that have enough rooms unfilled that the hotel finds it advantageous to use them to drive traffic and that can afford to offset "loss leader" type rooms with more expensive list price rooms. These types of hotels probably are more likely than not 3-4 star hotels, business hotels, or boutique hotels that may be a different category of hotels than those found on town websites. For folks that prefer these types of hotels, third party websites actually are quite valuable.

Booking.com and Hotwire has worked great for me in the US and on my last trip to Sicily. I looked at various sources to compare pricing (I will book with the hotel if their rate is lowest, I prefer that option if it exists). If you are not convinced, try to look at the city websites for Charleston, SC and Asheville, NC and try to find the best prices on hotels - I doubt it's possible. I tried and reverted back to booking.com and was happy with the result.

By the way, there's a great article somewhat related to this (it talks about products but can be easily applied to lodging listings). I'm in full agreement with it - there's no doubt that e-commerce sites severely distort and manipulate pricing in a way that's different in brick and mortar establishments.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/06/technology/its-discounted-but-is-it-a-deal-how-list-prices-lost-their-meaning.html?action=click&contentCollection=NYT%20Now&module=MostPopularFB&version=Full&region=Marginalia&src=me&pgtype=article

Posted by
6138 posts

Lee, in spite of everything I wrote earlier, I will definitely add town websites to my list of sources to look at when booking hotel rooms in the future in Germany and in Europe (in addition to hotel websites and third party sites). It's a source I haven't seriously considered before and I appreciate you suggesting it. I suspect that it will come in handy in some instances. Third party sites can definitely make one a bit lazy, I will admit to that.

I noticed in retrospect that the town site you posted is quite easy to use (has an English pulldown option too) and the total price is "the total price". But I'm sure that different sites with vary. I did a lot of research on Sicily last year and many town sites were definitely not designed for tourists in mind, so it depends whether the country/region has a robust tourist infrastructure or not, and whether they care to make it user-friendly for non-locals.

Posted by
16729 posts

I, too, am happy to know that many towns have information on accommodations. I'll try to take advantage of that in the future. I agree, though, that having to navigate a foreign-language website and not getting an immediate response about availability are--for me--big negatives, because I usually book my trip as I go, just 24 - 72 hours in advance. I'm usually scrambling and don't have hours to wait.

I had an interesting pricing experience with my first-stop hotel in Rome last year. I booked a tiny but well-located room (with bath, air-conditioned) in Trastevere. I used Venere.com and made the reservation just 4 to 6 weeks in advance. Arrival date was May 25. At 90 euros it was the cheapest single I could find on Venere.com at that time for the (fairly limited) areas of Rome I was considering. There may have been better/cheaper options available, but I don't know Rome well at all and wanted the trip in from the airport to be easy.

I didn't question the price since I expected Rome to be costly. A couple of days into the trip, I decided to add an additional night. Price for the same room: 68 euros. I was pretty stunned at the difference. This was a tiny hotel; probably fewer than 10 rooms. I have no idea whether the second price was a mistake on the part of the person who quoted it to me, the difference between a third-party booking and a direct booking, or somehow related to demand on May 28 vs. May 25. In any event, I count it as a bargain in high-cost Rome. A few other times I spot-checked venere.com rates against direct-book rates and found either no difference or that venere.com was slightly cheaper.

Posted by
11613 posts

Lee is the man for travel in Germany! I listen to his advice when I go there.

However, in defense of booking.com (which I use often for finding hotels in places I have not visited before; my summer trip usually involves 20-25 hotel/B&B reservations), there is a vast price range on that site. True, the hotel pays a commission for the booking, but in return they get an advertising outlet that is widely viewed.

Back in the day, before reservations were almost always needed, I would just look for a "Camere" or "Pensione" sign (in Italy) and spend perhaps an hour finding a place, or get a listing from the TI office. Now, I prefer to know where I am going and how to get there in advance, whether by using booking.com or by looking at town listings (and in Italy, I find that most places in the town listing are also on booking.com).

Posted by
5281 posts

Since airfare is often the single largest cost of my trip (yes, food and lodging are more when you add all the days together) I try to bring down the per-day transportation costs by taking fewer but longer trips. Longer trip also lessens the percentage of your trip that you spend in jet-lag mode.

Posted by
17642 posts

" the hotel pays a commission for the booking, but in return they get an advertising outlet"

I don't really care what the hotel gets "in return". Hotels that use a booking website will almost always be more expensive than those that don't!!!!!

Posted by
17642 posts

BTW, using town websites doesn't always work. For instance, in Munich, Munich tourism has gone over to the dark side and turned their booking service over to a third party, HRS. On the Munich website, there is no list of accommodations with hotel websites shown, so you can only book directly, with HRS booking the properties. Many of the accommodations often cited here, such as Viktualienmarkt, Blauer Bock, Lindner, Münchner Kindl, and even Uhland, are not shown on the Munich website. Hotel Royal is shown, but, whereas the hotel itself offers a standard room, non-refundable reservation, with breakfast, for 89,30€, HRS sells the same non-refundable room, also for 89,30€, but without breakfast, which is 9€/P extra.

Posted by
262 posts

I book refundable rate room at my second choice hotel in advance for the dates of my travel and continue to monitor the rates as my travel dates approach. Oftentimes the rates do change. In Europe especially, if there is a particular hotel where I would like to stay but the rates are higher than I had hoped, two days before my trip, I telephone the hotel where I would like to stay and explain that I would enjoy their hotel and would they consider matching or coming close to the hotel where I currently have a reservation. If they have availability, they will sometimes work with you. Be sure to ask for an email confirmation of your new reservation if this is done by telephone. Review the cancellation policy of your backup hotel so you are within that cancellation without penalty window.

For air travel, I key in my desired dates of travel in the app Hopper. I get price alerts and book when I see my desired rates or when I see prices rising. I rarely book air travel more than a month in advance unless it is peak season as I've seen prices drop frequently. Google flights is very good for planning if you are on a fixed travel schedule.

Posted by
6542 posts

I go to a website like Booking.com and filter the rooms from lowest to highest in price. Then I look for low priced properties that have substantially higher customer ratings than the others. I've never been disappointed.

If there's an area I want to stay in, I'll pull up the neighborhood or city on Google Maps. I'll magnify the image with a couple of "+" clicks, and up pop hotel icons--often lower priced properties. I can go on the icon and go to that hotel's direct website. They're often not on the big public websites. This is a great place to find a room.

Posted by
17642 posts

Does anyone know if Google Maps charges a fee to hotels to be shown on their maps.

Posted by
17642 posts

It looks to me like a business has to apply to be shown on a Google map, but they don't have to pay a fee, which means that they are shown for your benefit. Note that Google Maps usually shows contact information, i.e. URLs, so you can contact the property yourself.

Posted by
4 posts

Perhaps the best way to economize while travelling is to take the time before you leave to find the cheapest possible flights, hotels and transportation before you leave. Personally, I have found that travel sites like Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity etc. all provide great discount offers in certain situations. Similarly, you can usually find special rates for Avis, Hertz and Budget if you know what you're looking for.

You can simply Google coupon codes or try visiting the below site which has a focus on travel offers and coupons.
http://retailcodes.com

Good luck!!

Posted by
23 posts

I am surprised no one has mentioned exchanging homes! We have found this to be a great way to save on costs if staying in one area!

Posted by
516 posts

You can pick which things you can budget on and other things that you absolutely can't compromise on. For me, I'm very particular about the airline I fly, but not so picky about food/restaurants.

Posted by
16761 posts

I have set up listing details for a new business with Google Maps and there's no fee involved; you just have to convince them that you're the owner. But think of all those businesses that Google identifies without having much detail attached and they ask, "Is this your business?". Many hotels with an identifiable street presence probably get on without any participation on their part.

Posted by
230 posts

My upcoming fall trip is only my second to Europe and as a single traveler its hard to economize on lodging. I economize on transportation. For example, i decided to keep my 12 year old 'no monthly payments' car and go to Italy instead. 😊

Posted by
13927 posts

Well said, north!

Amy, I tried a house (apartment) swap once using homeexchange.com and although I had 16 wonderful days in Paris, I'm not sure it was worth it. The flat I got was somewhat misrepresented and not at all comfortable. And the woman who had my flat obviously had not read the website's rules and had no regard for other people's things (and not much for her own, for that matter).

As for booking directly with hotels, I find that most hotels (not the ones affiliated with chains) link you from their own websites to an booking website that charges them a fee, so the prices and terms are similar or identical to those of a site like booking.com. In fact, I've had better prices and/or terms with booking.com on occasion. The only way I've found to get a somewhat better deal is to contact the hotel directly by email or phone.

Posted by
1500 posts

Actually a business may find itself listed on Google maps with no idea it occurred. Same thing with Facebook. At my last job I spent an inordinate amount of time "claiming" all the locations and pages that these helpful companies had set up and allowed anyone to edit It was a pain!

Posted by
17642 posts

" I find that most hotels ... link you from their own websites to an booking website that charges them a fee, so the prices and terms are similar or identical to those of a site like booking.com."

Most hotels? Maybe most hotels that you have looked at. I find that there is a whole other group of hotels (at least as numerous) that are not associated with ANY booking websites so they can't link you to the booking website.

Posted by
24 posts

Eating in a nice restaurant is a treat! Dinners are usually more expensive but going for brunch or lunch is cheaper.You get the same wonderfully prepared food, service, view, and ambiance just eating a little earlier.

To address "Exchanging Homes." This will only work if you live in a location where others want to travel. Also, you need to prepare your home more, before others stay over. For instance, take your jewelry to a relative or put in a safe deposit box, spic-n-span clean your place, figure out what to do with the cat, etc.. So, I find hotels and rental units easier to work. I live somewhere that is not high on anybody's travel list. Cows, anyone?

Posted by
694 posts

We fly out of Canada instead of the US which saves us a lot of money. Last year it saved $800 on our roundtrip airfare.
We rent apartments which saves money on food expenses & also gives us a lot more room (and a balcony). We feel like we live in the city while we are there.
We use transportation cards (Oyster or Navigo Decouvette) whenever possible.
We use passes for museums.
We share dinners and lunches most of the time.