Someone asked me recently: What do you look for when you book a hotel? A lot. Of course I check out price and location, like everyone else. Proximity to attractions is super important too. But there are hotel amenities to look for for a frugal hotel stay.
And if you know what to look for in a hotel before you book, you can make sure you’re choosing the hotel with the best value.
Things to look for are things like complementary parking, for example.
If parking is included in the hotel price, that’s great. If it’s not included, it can cost upwards of $50 per night … just to park in the hotel’s lot. If you add that $50 per night upcharge onto your hotel’s base rate, you might find that it’s not really a frugal hotel anymore. And a hotel with a cheaper base rate, but free parking, might actually be a better deal.
You can look for amenities on the hotel’s website. There should be a list. Some hotels don’t list everything, so we’ve sometimes looking at the photos of the hotel rooms on the hotel’s website to determine what’s included. Looking at room photos is how we found out there was a coffee maker in our hotel once because it wasn’t listed anywhere on the website.
Hotel Amenities To Look For For A Frugal Hotel Stay
This list is filled with hotel amenities to look for to get the most out of what you’re paying for the hotel. This list isn’t a list of budget hotel amenities. Some of these amenities are only offered at boutique hotels. But if your choices are a boutique hotel with a ton of extras for a couple dollars more than the budget hotel down the block, choose the boutique hotel.
Complementary continental breakfast
My favorite way to save on vacation is to book a hotel with a complementary continental breakfast. If you go out to breakfast, that can be around $10 a person.
Let’s say you’re booking a hotel room for two, and you’re debating between a few hotel options. Check for complementary breakfast. If one of the hotels has a complementary breakfast, but the rate is a couple dollars more, it’s worth it to pay the extra. As long as it’s less than $20 different, you’re coming out ahead.
That’s also good because you don’t have to leave the hotel to eat. You can just run downstairs to the hotel’s lobby, eat, and be on your way.
If you’re in a city with limited parking, it could be difficult to find a parking spot near a restaurant. Eating at the hotel and not having to deal with finding parking or waiting on lines to be seated are definitely benefits too.
Speaking of breakfast, we found out a really cool hotel waffle maker hack, from someone who worked in a hotel’s kitchen, when we were staying in Fayetteville. So now I always head straight for the hotel waffle maker and make a delicious breakfast in the hotel.
In room coffee maker
Coffeeshop coffee can get so expensive. At home, we make coffee in our coffee pot every day so we don’t have to spend $2 or $3 on coffee at a coffeeshop. But when you’re traveling, you don’t want to pack your coffee maker and a bag of coffee. So, instead, look for a hotel room that has a coffee maker.
The hotel will usually have a single-serving bag or two of regular and decaf waiting for you in the room. If you drink more than a cup or two a day, stop at the front desk on the way back to your room and ask for more. They’re usually more than happy to give you a couple extra packages.
What I really love is when a hotel has coffee in the lobby when you walk in. After a long drive, I always want a hot cup of coffee to sip on while I relax in the room. Coffee in the lobby hits the spot.
Hotel happy hours
The hotel that we stayed at in Washington, DC had a daily complementary happy hour each night in the hotel’s lobby. Actually, it was happy two hours and the hotel gave out free beer, wine, coffee, and tea during that time.
My parents stayed at another of the hotel chain’s properties and the happy hour there also had hot chocolate. If you know me and my love of hot chocolate, you’ll know how bummed I was to have missed out on that happy hour.
If you’re someone who likes to enjoy a drink or two when you go out, hotel happy hours are a great way to pre-game. Plus, the happy hour is included in the cost of your room whether you take part in the happy hour or not, so you might as well plan those free drinks into your day.
Benefits for not using housekeeping
I always say my favorite part about staying in a hotel is that I don’t have to make the bed. So any time I stay at a hotel, I never put up the do not disturb sign. Please, housekeeping, come make my bed.
(And yes, before you even worry, I do tip housekeeping daily for making the bed.)
But there are a lot of hotel chains that offer you perks for not using housekeeping. Some casino hotels will offer you free play, which is free money, so that’s worth it.
A resort we stayed at on Hilton Head Island offered us a $5 credit for the hotel’s sundry store if we skipped housekeeping. And a hotel we stayed at in Charleston offered us 250 loyalty points if we didn’t have our room cleaned.
Those little perks can add up … unless you’re like me and always appreciate when someone else makes the bed.
If you’re on vacation, your trip can get expensive. Dining out, sightseeing, transportation, it all costs money. If you book a hotel with a pool, you can spend an entire afternoon there. For free.
Swimming at the pool is a great way to save some money by not going out. Be sure to check the rules at the pool because some will let you bring food down and have tables ready for you. So you can plan lunch by the pool, which is fun.
Plus, if you don’t have a pool at home, swimming in one at a hotel is such a treat.
I generally don’t book a hotel with a stove. Those are great, but I really don’t want to cook when I’m on vacation. I already cook at home enough. On vacation, I want to take a vacation from cooking.
But, if you would rather cook at the hotel than eat out because it does save you some money, look for a hotel that has a dishwasher in the room.
Those hotel rooms usually also have cabinets full of plates, cups, bowls, and silverware. Plus pots, pans, and cooking utensils too.
If you use the plates and other items the room provides, that means you don’t have to pack or purchase your own disposable plates and silverware. That saves you a couple dollars too. It also means you don’t have to fill half your suitcase with pots and pans to use to cook.
Luckily, these rooms also provide dishwashing liquid and dish towels, so all you need to bring or buy are ingredients.
Parking can be so expensive in hotels in big cities. Those cities just don’t have the room for large parking lots, so hotels end up charging a lot of money for parking. Which is ridiculous if you ask me. But I’m not a hotel heiress, so what do I know?
I’ve been charged over $40 a day for parking at a boutique hotel. That hotel had a lot of other perks, and the location was absolutely perfect for what we wanted, so the parking fee wasn’t a deal breaker.
But, if you’re debating between two hotels, and one is a little more but offers complementary parking, go with that one.
Complementary Shuttle Service
One of the perks some hotels offer is a complementary shuttle service to and from the hotel. There are a lot of complementary Las Vegas shuttles for hotel guests, which will bring you between casino properties.
Stand alone hotels outside of Las Vegas will offer similar shuttles, but instead of going between casinos, the hotel shuttles go between the hotel and the airport. Many resorts will have a similar option.
That’s great if you’re not renting a car during your stay. You don’t have to pay a taxi or ride share fee, and, if you book this ahead of time (which most hotels will do), you don’t have to worry about finding a taxi or ride share to get to the airport on time.
Planning a vacation on a budget?
If you’re planning a vacation on a budget, you might need to save on more than just the hotel. Don’t worry. We’re here to help. Check out our other frugal travel posts to help you save on your next trip.
- How To Travel On A Budget
- 10 Money Saving Tips For When You’re Traveling
- How To Save Money On Snacks For Road Trips
- 3 Ways To Save On Vacations With A Hotel’s Complementary Breakfast
What hotel amenities do you look for for a frugal hotel stay? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
Thursday 15th of October 2020
Thank you for sharing all these beautiful amenities. I have worked with 5 star hotel in Uganda and it provides all that and I also plan on booking a hotel which provides such. And It's always awesome appreciating people who help you during your vacation
drugstore diva lisa
Thursday 15th of October 2020
Yes! Definitely appreciate (and tip) everyone at the hotel/resort who helps you, from the valet to the bellhop to the housekeepers. They all work so hard to give you such a great trip.
Friday 15th of November 2019
Yes! The swimming pool is our bet. Whenever we book a hotel, we look fora pool. The kids are disappointed if there's no pool.
Monday 11th of November 2019
This is all good to keep in mind when I'm booking my next vacation. Thanks!
Katie Walsh Beck
Saturday 9th of November 2019
The breakfast and the pool are both huge for us on vacation stays! And when looking for fun on a budget these are all musts!
Thursday 7th of November 2019
I always try to look for accommodation on budget! I loved this text, can't wait for my next trip. Thanks for these useful tips. :)