Making Travel Stretch When Booking Hotels

We've all heard the term "making your dollar stretch." With the state of economies around the world in the last few years, the term has been used more than ever. Dollar menus, dollar stores, dollar happy hours. We want our money to go just a little further. Well, I want to talk about making your travels stretch. Maybe instead of just one trip this summer, shooting for two. Or maybe instead of an in-state vacation, hopping on a plane and jumping across the pond. I LOVE planning and booking trips. It's a process for me and I have different tricks and tips that I've learned over time, often because of the mistakes I've made. Today, I share some of the tools I've used when booking hotels, which I hope stretches your trips this summer.

Priceline's Name Your Own Price. Let me just be upfront: If you like things to be a certain way, wear matching clothes 24/7/365, and must have free WiFi, then naming your own price probably isn't for you. You can name your own price, but you can't name your own hotel. You may get the general location of where you want to be, but that's by no means a guarantee. However, naming your own price can save you a lot of money. For example, I recently used it in Jacksonville, Florida and got a riverfront Hyatt Regency hotel for $60, which would typically have been more than double that. However, I also did a little research first, using a website called BetterBidding. With BetterBidding, you can browse by city and see which hotels travelers have gotten and how much their bid was. I had a general idea of where my hotel would be if my price was accepted.

Groupon. It's amazing how much notoriety Groupon has received in such a short period of time. While Groupon is geared toward where you live, consider subscribing to multiple cities if you'll be traveling soon. If you're a wine connoisseur and want to travel to San Francisco soon, sign up for San Francisco weeks or even months in advance and you'll surely find a wine deal in your inbox. Be careful, as this can get addictive. I've talked to many people who now have a spreadsheet to manage all their Groupons. Don't expect many major hotels featured on Groupon, but you'll see smaller boutique hotels and inns from time to time.

LivingSocial. LivingSocial is my favorite of the deal sites, although the concept isn't much different from Groupon. Travelers will appreciate the weekend escapes, which features several different destinations with steeply discounted deals for escapes that typically range from two to five nights. The biggest deal I saw this week was for a five-night resort stay in Hawaii with daily breakfast for two at 61% off.

HomeRun. In all honesty, I just need a digital Rolodex for these types of websites. I had never heard of HomeRun until I was contacted by them a few days ago. HomeRun is along the same lines of LivingSocial and Groupon, but has more of a social aspect. Also, some of their deals aren't destination-specific, such as this week's major travel deal, meaning it can be used around the world. This week's travel deal was such a hit before, that they're running it again for this week only. The deal is a $100 Travelocity hotel gift card for $50, allowing travelers to use it at over 55,000 hotels worldwide. Five vouchers may be purchased per person and the gift card must be used by the end of the year.

I've used all of these tools in one way or the other. Do your research, play with these and similar tools, and find out what works for you. Maybe it'll allow for some extra travel time this summer that you otherwise hadn't planned on. Ultimately, try to plan ahead as much as possible. Whether booking flights, hotels, or rental cars, this is one of your best ways to save money. Many online travel agencies offer last-minute travel deals, but it's typically not the same if you were booking your travel months in advance.

Per my ethic responsibilities, I was given a Travelocity hotel gift card from HomeRun.