How to find a good hotel to rent by the month
Unless in quick transit, I rarely ask for hotel room rates by the night, but I ask for them by the week or month. I now know that I have a lot more bargaining clout when haggling for the price of a room — I am often offering to pay for accommodation for 30+ nights rather than one — and I have found that I can often land spots in good hotels for a similar price as in a poor one. In point, as always, when I enter a hotel I do so with the intention of talking my way into a good price, but now I have thirty times the power as I once did.
Note: Keep in mind that I am solely talking about the budget class of hotels here — the overall cheap ones — not the mid-range or luxury classes. But even within the budget class there is often a vast disparity when it comes to quality.
I have noticed a pattern when going through the rounds of landing hotel rooms by the week or month: the nicer, better managed hotels seem to be vastly more willing to give me a good price than the lower grade and deserted roach hotels.
This seems to go against the grain of logic, but living in luxury for less money than a flop house has been my new anthem as I travel the world with my small family. As I look back on this past year of travel through seven countries I realize that we have been able to score high quality accommodation at low prices at each stop.
In the past 12 months of travel, I paid roughly $2158 for accommodation — around $180 per month, or $6 per night.
Although these figures include the two and a half months in Guatemala where my wife and I worked in exchange for our room and board, I must nod my head and give myself a pat on the back, for we truly lived within our means in terms of accommodation expenses this year. But a smile comes to my face when I think of the quality of hotel we are able to land for this rather minimal wad of cash. I am not shy to admit it, but this past year saw me bedding down for more nights in truly nice hotels than in all my previous years of travel combined.
I owe this to a new accommodation strategy:
We shoot high and barter low, rather than shooting low and staying there. We look for good accommodation first — places that I never would have thought of walking into two years ago on the assumption that they would cost too much — and then worry about how we are going to get it for a price we can afford later.
It is my impression that there is a certain misconception in travel that implies that the dingiest and most rundown budget hotels will be cheaper than the nicer and cleaner ones. This would make sense logically, for who would pay more money to stay in a worse place? Why wouldn’t a hotel set prices in accordance to supply and demand? Shouldn’t a crap hotel with very little demand attempt to raise this figure by lowering the price?
But the way most hotels are run is anything but logical.
In my travels, I found that the management of a well run hotel is often more willing to work out a good price with me than a poorly managed one. In point, when I look for hotels I search out the ones that appear to be run by a management with a clear idea of modern business theory:
A butt in a bed paying a lower than advertised price per night for 30 days is better than an empty bed and no money at all.
I cannot overstate how many times I have walked into truly putrid hotels that appeared to not have had a guest in ages just to be quoted a price far above that of a nearby thriving, clean, and well provisioned hotel. After having this happen I often leave these places with a scoff, unsure if the people managing the place are stupid or if they think I am. But, in the end, there is often a reason why some businesses thrive and others don’t, and there is often no need to look farther than the people behind the manager’s desk.
Business is rarely the product of happenstance, a good business often ends up that way due to the people managing it. There is often a reason why a shitty hotel is shitty and a nice hotel is nice, and this reason leads directly back to the owner. Nice budget hotels are sometimes run by good business people, and good business people tend to know that a hotel room filled for a lesser price will net them more money than an empty room. For some reason, many flop houses on the planet don’t seem to get this logic –as they seem to think that if someone is stupid enough to walk into their crappy hotel that they are stupid enough to pay a higher price. Or perhaps of these run down hotels are so cash strapped that they try to get as much money as they can out of each guests, or perhaps they know that a single guests paying 200 pesos is just as good as 4 guests paying 50 (and you only need to do a quarter of the work!), or perhaps they are really just stupid.
Either way, I’ve found that it is the better managed and nicer budget hotels who tend to be more willing to work with me on a good price for a longer term stay.
How to tell a nice hotel
When I enter a hotel I first look for little problems, I look for things that could be easily and cheaply fixed. I look for things like broken windows, busted door handles, loose electrical wires. Most of all I look to make sure the place is clean. It truly does not take much effort to keep a place clean, and this is a clear sign of how the hotel is run. If I see crap everywhere and find a hotel in disarray then I start to question whether the management will have the foresight to want to keep me around.
In point, it only takes minimal daily effort to make sure a hotel is free of little problems, and if the management is not capable of completing quick, easy, and cheap tasks then I can not be confident that they will be capable of more difficult ones: such as making sure the electricity and plumbing works or realize that if they give me a good price that I will give them money for weeks on end.
Travel tip: shoot high when looking for budget accommodation by the month — look first for hotels that are clean, lively, well run, well provisioned, and thriving — and then deal low with the price. Don’t let a fancy exterior, clean floors, and nice rooms throw you off the scent of finding good and cheap accommodation. It takes good management to run a good hotel, and good management often understands the value of filling beds.
When looking for accommodation by the month, it has been my experience that I can live as a budget travel king for the same price as it would cost to live as a pauper.
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