Travel Apps: Lodging

We love to travel. But with 2 adults and 4 kids, we usually have to book 2 rooms. According to Statista, the average daily rate (ADR) of hotels in the United States was 128.94 U.S. dollars as of February 2019.

And that’s $2 up from last year! Every month and every year rates go up and it gets more and more expensive for a family of our size to stick to a budget while traveling, let alone go on vacation.

But over the years, we’ve gotten a bit smarter about how we do vacations and lodging is one of the things we try to figure out and get out of the way first! And yes, price is always something we’re trying to get as low as possible but there are also a few things that make my vacations more pleasant:

  1. A Kitchen – having a kitchen saves SO MUCH MONEY. As a family of 6, we often spend over $100 on a meal out. But if I’m able to prepare things in our lodgings and keep snacks around, I’m saving a ton of money.
  2. Laundry – I think only a mother can appreciate on-site laundry. You can pack less (save on baggage fees) and go home with clean clothes, cutting your work down at the end of your vacation.
  3. No neighbors, mile-long walks to the pool, and lots of entertainment – I have kids. They’re noisy. They get bored every 5 minutes. But with our own lodgings, they can walk straight out to the pool where I can closely supervise them. They can also nap easily when life just tuckers them out. A house usually has more than 1 TV so they can do their own thing. And I’m not going to get any complaints from people who are only separated from us by a wall.
  4. Location – with all the options available, I can choose to stay ocean-side, right next to a theme park, or deep in the forest. I get to craft our own experience!

So I’m showing you some of the tricks and apps we use to ensure that we get the best lodging possible (within our budget) for the best price possible.


Airbnb is just one of the few vacation rental apps we like. Like most vacation rental apps, it allows you to contact your host. It makes all the difference in the world to be able to communicate with the home-owner to ensure that you’re getting the best deal on the best location. You can search by date, city, rental type, or put in all 3 if you’re planning a specific vacation.

It’s super simple, too! I put in my destination, my dates, and my number of guests (that’s usually a lot!). You can also select other ‘non-negotiables’ like wifi, self check-in, and price range. And you could totally stop here. Already I’ve found a 2 -bedroom condo for $259 a night. When I search for the same dates and 2 rooms, I’m given an average nightly room cost of $200, making staying in a hotel $4,400 instead of the $2,849 I’d spend through Airbnb. I’m already saving $1,551!

But to get the absolute best price, I usually find the rental I want, and then reach out directly to the owner.

You Can Negotiate the Price of an Airbnb

If you’re looking to get the best price, I suggest messaging the host or homeowner. This doesn’t always work if you’re booking at the height of tourist season, but it’s totally worth a shot! A homeowner has the option to send you a “special offer.”

But first, you’ve got to send them a message with specific dates in mind. Simply click “Message host” and put in your stay dates.

If you click “Request to Book,” you will likely get approved for the listed price. If you do “Message host” you could get “pre-approved” but not have to pay yet! I’ve found success with this when:

  1. We’re planning to stay a week or more
  2. We are booking more last minute (within a week or two)

Booking for Groups

And if you are booking for a group of more than 4, I definitely think this is the way to go. Your rental that sleeps 16 may be $500 a night but split between 4 families, that’s only $125 a night! So much money is saved!

Check For Weekly and Monthly Discounts

It’s important to check for these types of discounts because a 7-night stay may end up costing less than a 6-night stay if the homeowner offers a weekly discount!

Make Sure You’re Staying in the Exact Area You Want

Airbnb does not list exact addresses of properties for safety reasons, I get it. But your host will most likely tell you if you ask. If you do want to get a better feel for the area, you can message your host and ask them for more details. This isn’t about demanding where they are, but more about letting them know what your concerns are:

  • location to the attraction (if going to someplace like Disneyworld)
  • noise level at night
  • Safety (some neighborhoods have both good and bad areas)

Letting your host know that you want to get a feel for the area and learn more about what’s available is a great way to make them feel at ease and give you the address.


• • •

Cross-check Your Intended Rental on Other Sites

2 times out of 10 you will be able to find your rental for a lower price on another rental app. Owners typically list with more than one and they cater to different audiences. And while it may be hard to search for the exact property, you can enter in the same search criteria and often times, they give them the same listing title! Here are just a few of the other sites we like to book with:


Love this site and it’s the one we’ve made our last two vacation rentals through. It tends to be a bit more professional than Airbnb as it started as a site for corporate rentals for traveling employees. And we tend to find “nicer” homes through VRBO. Again, I think it’s because it’s used by a more upscale clientele.


This is another great option for home rentals. You can choose a rental from over 2 million homes in more than 190 countries and HomeAway has the perfect whole home waiting —no matter your destination, occasion or budget. No bedroom rentals here! Just a whole house waiting for you 🙂

This is not my first choice but it can be a useful app! This app has a mix of everything – hostels, apartments, hotels – and usually at pretty good prices. Again, not my first choice but worth checking for best pricing and alternate options!

If Last Minute Booking Is Your Thing…


HotelTonight gives you last-minute discounts on empty hotel rooms. It’s super easy to use, and it doesn’t take long to reserve a room. You can search by city or attraction, or on the map, and then check out the reviews and photos from other travelers. It also has 24/7 customer support. When I’m stuck in a place and need a last-minute room, this is the app I use.


Another last-minute hotel-booking app is One:Night, which lists its same-day offers starting at 3 p.m. It offers rooms at properties in 10 U.S. cities, as well as London. The app’s interface is easy to use, and it has plenty of photos.


This app has access to more than 200,000 properties around the world (but it offers more UK hotels than anyone else). You can book the day of, or up to a year in advance.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

And that’s it! Those are my travel secrets! Follow these tips and save on your group travel – but don’t forget to splurge every once in a while when it’s just you and bae and stay at a 5-star hotel with room service and a killer view!

Xx Tara

P.S. if you book something, let me know! I’m always looking for my next destination!

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  1. We booked with the same VRBO that we stayed last summer in Kahuku, HI, on Oahu and she gave us a discount for staying again. Owners are usually really willing to work with you.

    1. Yes! Once you build the relationship and are good guests, it’s awesome for the next time you want to stay!

  2. We have a large family of 10, which makes traveling a little tricky. We always had to get 3 rooms when staying in hotels. We finally got smart and rented a cabin through another site just like Airbnb for our Christmas Lake Tahoe vacation and I’m telling you it was a game changer! I will never rent a hotel again after vacationing in a whole house instead of hotel rooms. I literally did laundry daily and it helped so much! I loved coming home and not having anything to wash! Plus you can’t beat the privacy!

  3. Just booked a hotel for $97 a night in London on the HotelTonight app!! Thank you for the recommendation!! I seriously love your suggestions and reviews!!

  4. Hi! We’re planning on a trip to Mexico stat with 2 kiddos. No clue what resort to stay at, etc. First time out of the states. Help! Cancun bound

    1. You just want to make sure you stay in hotel row and your biggest decision will be to stay in an all-inclusive or an airbnb/vrbo. But lots of great places to stay!

  5. Hi Tara, thx for the great tips!! Great list!. I have a question: recently in the news there have been some unfortunate stories of Airbnb owners cancelling at the last minute leaving travellers stranded. I’ve used AirBnb a few times to great results but reading this has made me rethink this, especially for longer term trips. Any tips here? Or am I just being scared for no reason?

    1. I think it’s smart to be cautious! You’ll have two options if your host cancels last minute (sometimes for very legitimate reasons): Transfer your payment to a new Airbnb reservation; or Get a full refund. A lot of times Airbnb will offer an additional % to help you rebook. My tip is to look for properties that are “Super Hosts”. Earning a “superhost” badge isn’t easy. To make the list hosts have to:

      Completed at least 10 trips
      Maintain a 50 percent review rate or higher
      Maintain a 90 percent response rate or higher
      Zero cancellations, with exceptions made for those that fall under Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances policy
      Received a 5-star review at least 80 percent of the time (To chance to maintaining a 4.8 overall rating from July 2018)

      So for a host to tick all those boxes, it would put them in an elite category. Also, get to know your host (I always recommend messaging them). And read reviews about your property before you book! Hosts who cancel automatically get a negative review put on their account. Hope this helps!


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