It's fun to stay in a hotel, but can you go high-end on a budget?
Sipping champagne in your private plunge pool beneath a tropical sky is a situation in which many of us can picture ourselves. Now, zoom in on your face. See that smug grin? That's because you paid less than top dollar.
Despite many Australians looking for ways to save money, research by Kayak shows we still treat ourselves on holiday. In the coming year, 27 per cent of us plan to spend more than $10,000 on travel.
But how do you find the best deals so you can make those 10 gorillas go further?
Some genuinely discounted rates can be found through websites such as Secret Escapes and Luxury Escapes. One five-star Phuket deal on Luxury Escapes, which promised a saving of 75 per cent, wasn't quite that generous (no one pays rack rates, after all), but was still excellent. On a five-night stay in April 2024, it offered a $719 saving on the hotel website's rates, but the Luxury Escapes deal also included massages, daily lunch or dinner, nightly cocktail and one-way airport transfers.
Kayak has launched a new platform called 5-Star Steals. Not only does it find the best prices for luxe digs, but it also informs the more flexible travellers among us where and when in the world they can find the cheapest five-star stays.
Much like airfares, the prices of hotel rooms fluctuate depending on demand, says Expedia managing director Daniel Finch. His best advice is to book in advance.
"That said, if you've left it to the last minute, you may still be in luck," he says. "Hotels may put out last-minute deals if they have higher levels of availability. This is never a guarantee, however, especially for highly sought-after accommodation or during peak periods.
"You might also try booking either airfares, accommodation or car hire at the same time on the Expedia app, which instantly unlocks discounts not available when booking separately."
If you like to live on the edge, apps such as Hotel Tonight often show attractive last-minute rates. One hip hotel on Manhattan's Lower East Side had savings of $224 a night (almost half-price) for four nights from the day we checked. It was also $100 less than the direct price.
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Other cheeky devils like to book a cancellable room at their favourite hotel then watch to see if the price goes down.
For director of marketing at W Melbourne, Beckie Mitchell, regular travellers can also save themselves time and nab deals by pinpointing their favourite hotel brand and joining the loyalty program.
"Corporate travel's back and travel trends are normalising, which is where value propositions come in," she says.
"Rather than a race to the bottom to get the lowest price, savvy customers will see the value in getting a similar price but with more added in."
Even the free loyalty programs offer special rates via member emails and free nights, but stay regularly throughout the year and you'll soon be getting room upgrades, bonus points that can be used at spas and restaurants, and late check-outs. More for nothing? We'll gladly take it.