When you’re on vacation, you want to

relax—not worry about how much your hotel accommodations will cost you.

After reading about how to find great airfare deals

in TravelMuse’s previous Travel Tips column, read below for how you can

save money while you sleep so you can spend more of your vacation money

on fun.

  1. Book off-season or for slow periods during the week, and be flexible with dates.

    If your destination is a top spot for weekend traffic, go during the

    week. Popular family travel summer spots slow down significantly after

    Labor Day. You can usually find deals for Europe in winter (except for

    the holidays or popular ski destinations) and for the Caribbean and

    Mexico during summer months.

  2. Book online.

    Most aggregate travel sites have partnerships with suppliers that are

    linked in to tens of thousands of hotels around the globe. Some sites,

    such as TravelMuse, offer a best rate guarantee. You’ll get a wide

    variety of choices, and can find discounts of up to 50 percent off

    regular rates, or more.

  3. Snag lodging away from the city center, or look for small, local independent chains.

    Bed and breakfasts offer personalized service and accommodations,

    usually at lower rates than centrally located hotels. Smaller chains

    often provide safe, clean accommodations, and have lower rates because

    they don’t advertise. One colleague recently found a little-known hotel

    with a high user rating in Berlin for a mere 42 euros per night, 48

    including breakfast.

  4. Use points. Sign

    up for credit card, airline and hotel reward programs, especially if

    any are partnered, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your points can

    add up. Some airline reward programs even let you use air miles for

    hotel stays.

  5. Take advantage of European discounts and equal euro-to-dollar offers.

    European hotels are trying to lure U.S. tourists back by offering deep

    discounts, and in some cases, allowing guests to pay euro or British

    pound rates in U.S. dollars, for a 1-to-1 exchange rate.

  6. On a related note: Follow the economy.

    If European hoteliers are offering discounts because U.S. tourism is

    down, odds are the same holds true for domestic properties. Because of

    all the media play on people either cutting back on their vacations or

    staying home, hotels are offering last-minute summer deals in an effort

    to fill rooms and make their sales quotas. Look for rate discounts, gas

    card offers, even reimbursement for newly added luggage fees.

  7. Look for hotels that let kids stay for free and eat for free or at reduced rates. You’ll save a bundle on food costs per child.

  8. Don’t ignore the little perks.

    Free breakfast on its own may not sound like much, but when you add to

    that free parking, free pizza and soda, free movies and coupons off

    admission to nearby attractions—sometimes valued at 25 or 50 percent

    off—you’ll see big savings.

  9. Request a room with a kitchen, or consider condo or apartment rentals.

    Preparing our own meals can significantly reduce your overall vacation

    costs. Also, apartment rentals are often located away from tourist

    hotspots—also known as tourist traps—so you’ll have a more authentic

    cultural experience. Web sites like Great Rentals, Home Away and Viviun are good places to start your search.

  10. All-inclusive resorts and cruises, and packages are in. Packages

    that cover airfare, lodging and food at the get-go take away the

    headache of budgeting once you get there. Mexico and the Caribbean have

    many popular all-inclusive resorts, which are great for families

    looking to save. Just make sure you check the fine print for any extras

    not covered. Basic air and lodging packages can also offer huge savings

    while still allowing dining and entertainment flexibility.

  11. Check out national tourism Web sites.

    You can find deals on lodging, dining and entertainment tickets offered

    through your host city’s or country’s tourism association.

  12. Housing swaps.

    An option for those looking for super cheap (even free, in some cases)

    lodging options, families literally swap houses for a week, two

    weeks—whatever the agreed-upon timeframe—and each benefit from the

    experience. Some online housing swap organizers charge a nominal fee

    for using their database to find suitable arrangements. Here are a few

    to get you started: Intervac, Home Base Holidays, Home Exchange and ExchangeHomes.com.

  13. Network.

    Don’t have a friend who lives in Tuscany? Well, it just so happens your

    friend’s sister’s host family from her study abroad college days

    does—and they love visitors. You never know who you are connected to,

    so ask around!

Additional reporting by Donna M. Airoldi.