Updated: 9/26/2022 | How Bloggers and Influencers Can Get FREE or Discounted Hotel Stays
I took my first international trip when I was 18 and have been on a mission to see the rest of the world ever since!
My first trip ever was to Mexico with a church group to help build an orphanage and spend time with the children. There, I learned how to make guacamole and carne asada and were able to help the kids learn and speak English. It’s been one of my favorite experiences ever since. I am a former foster youth, so this experience really hit home for me.
In 2020 during the pandemic, I decided to write travel guides. No one was allowed to travel, so I took this opportunity to write about my experiences both to remember them and offer them to friends, family, and readers as guides on what to do, see, eat and drink in my favorite destinations.
Transforming my blog into a travel blog was one of the best things I’ve ever done because now I could work with hotels, tour companies, and other travel-related partners.
One question I get a lot is how I afford to travel so much. One of the biggest costs of traveling is typically lodging. Below, I’ll share ways you can get free or discounted hotel stays and lodging as a blogger or influencer. I’ve also included other ways to get free to discounted lodging if you aren’t a blogger or influencer but have a tight budget.
How to Pitch and Get Free or Discounted Hotel Stays as a Blogger or Influencer
Here is my process for reaching out and getting free or discounted hotel stays as a blogger and influencer.
#1 Find the Appropriate Hotel Partner
Just like any brand I work with, I try to find hotel partners that resonate with my lifestyle and niche. Most hotels have a set of core features and niches they use to promote their property. Core features and niches are the main points a hotel wants their target audience to hear and remember when staying with them.
Some examples of popular niches for hotels may include:
- solo travelers
- meetings and incentives (also known as MICE)
If you’re trying to figure out how to get a complimentary hotel stay, knowing the type of niches your hotel focuses on can help you find the perfect hotel partner. It also gives you an idea of the type of traveler they are looking to market to. Understanding this will help you fine-tune your pitch and make it more likely that they will want to work with you.
#2 Research and Find the Decision Maker’s Contact Information
When pitching partnerships and collaborations, one of the best ways to ensure you have a chance at collaborating with a hotel is to find the right person to send your pitch to. Pitching to the front desk or reservations department won’t necessarily help you because those roles typically are not authorized to give out free stays or discounted rates.
From my personal experience, many hotels are represented by a Public Relations (PR) agency. Find the agency or representative who handles all media requests for the hotel and send DMs or e-mails to get the appropriate contact info.
Hotels may also have a press or media section where you can find the appropriate contact for the hotel. Some hotels may even have a link for influencers and bloggers to sign-up and work directly with the brand.
Take your time finding the appropriate contact because this will make all the difference when pitching. I also included a pitch template below for you to use. I typically try to reach out 1-2 months in advance to give the decision maker a lot of time to review their budget and look into what is available for media trade.
#2 Ask for Media Rates
First and foremost, I always ask for media rates so that I don’t seem like I am trying to be a freeloader.
Media rates may range anywhere between $25 a night to $150. It really depends on the type of hotel. I try to stay at 3-4 star hotels and have paid around $75 per night in the past.
I also always book a hotel with a generous cancellation policy prior to pitching. That way, if I receive a complimentary stay from the hotel, I can cancel my booking before accruing any penalties.
#2 Know What You Have to Offer
It’s important that you know what you can offer the hotel in exchange for a stay.
Bloggers and travel writers can’t expect to stay for a discounted price without giving something in return. It is best to ask what the hotel needs and negotiate if their requests are beyond what you are comfortable with offering.
I am a photographer and blogger, so I typically offer inclusion in my travel guides, 10 photos for the brand to use as they wish, 1 post, 1 reel and 2-3 stories in exchange for a two-day stay.
#3 Go for Less Expensive Options
As a small travel blogger, I typically reach out to less expensive hotel options that are between 2-4 stars. Going for cheaper hotels increases your chances of successfully getting a trade. This is especially true in popular travel destinations and larger cities where lodging is often expensive.
And if you find a hotel that is a bit more expensive but is aligned with your niche, don’t be afraid to reach out to them too. If you can offer them exactly what they are looking for in return, then that partnership is more valuable than if they were to partner with a blogger who does not fit their customer demographic at all.
#6 Have a Media Kit Ready
A media kit is important and should be included in all your pitches. A media kit outlines your stats, offers some background on your blog or influencer account, and also includes some demographics regarding your audience.
This one pager helps brands get an idea of what you’re about, so be sure to make it concise and intentional.
#7 Follow and Engage on Social Media
Following your hotel prospect online can be super helpful.
#8 Always Over Deliver
When you do a hotel collaboration, partnership or any campaign for that matter, the key to making the brand excited about the partnership and to feel like it was a win is when you OVER DELIVER.
You know how good it feels when you buy something and get something extra, a bonus or more than you bargained for? It’s the same thing for brands and companies when working with influencers.
So if you promised the hotel 2 permanent posts on Instagram and 6 Insta Stories then why not do 3 permanent posts and 10 stories if you have enough content? You’ll not only be able to ensure you proved your worth to the hotel, but also you’ll show that they made the right choice in working with you over someone else.
#9 Show Your Impact with Tracking or Affiliate Links
If you want the hotel to see how valuable influencer and blogger partnerships are, you should ask for affiliate links or tracking links to help hotels see how much traffic you are driving to their business. These links can be added to your Instagram profile or blog.
I often try to ask for discount codes that my readers can use or an affiliate link so that I get a small kickback from the hotels I am promoting.
#10 Remember to Say THANK YOU
Once your partnership is complete, it’s time to thank the hotel for your time!
A simple thank you leaves a positive lasting impression on the hotel brand and may even open up more opportunities for you to promote their sister properties and brands.
I typically try to write a thank you note in a separate e-mail to my partners and ask them to invite me to any other opportunities they may see fitting.
Complimentary Hotel Stay E-mail Template
SUBJECT: Blogger Opportunities with [HOTEL NAME] x Schimiggy
Hello [BRAND] Team,
My name is [YOUR FULL NAME] and I am a blogger at Schimiggy, a US-based fashion and travel-focused blog. I write travel guides featuring the best things to do, see, eat and drink in the cities that I visit.
I would love to collaborate with you and support you with your marketing efforts. I typically write up reviews on my blog for hotel brands and tour companies. Each review is SEO optimized and drives conversions to your business.
I’d like to cover the experience on social media and in my travel guides. I am also a photographer and you can see some of my photography here www.unsplash.com/schimiggy I was wondering if you offered any blogger rates or exchange opportunities. I can offer photography, write ups on my blog, along with social media posts.
Here are samples of past partners so that you know what type of content we’d love to create with you.
- Blog Post #1
- Blog Post #2
- Blog Post #3
Our site gets over ##,### visits each month, and I have a #.##% average conversion rate. I’ve attached my media kit for you to review.
Would this be something you’re interested in? I am also interested in any affiliate and referral programs you may have. I would love to work with you!
Thanks in advance for your consideration. Talk to you soon!
Other Ways to Get Free or Discounted Hotels and Lodging
#1 Use Couchsurfing
Couchsurfing is an awesome way to meet new friends and request free lodging from other members.
It costs a monthly fee to be a member, but the value you get from Couchsurfing far outweighs what it costs to be a member.
For a long time, I hosted Couchsurfers in my guest room in Seattle, Washington. Years would pass before I would reach out and ask if they could host me and 95% of the time could accommodate my stay. I’ve been able to stay with friends I made through Couchsurfing in Switzerland, Amsterdam, Salzburg, Arizona, Mumbai, and more!
#2 Use Friends and Family Discounts
My brother works at Marriott and I am able to use their employee discount! Friends and Family discounts are less generous but it’s still better than nothing.
If you want to travel more, you may want to try to get a job with an airline or hotel brand that offers flights and hotel stays worldwide.
#3 Sign Up for Curacity
Curacity is a hotel exchange program for bloggers and influencers. Hotel rates typically range anywhere between $40-$75 and most stays are 1-2 days. You book available hotels and wait for the hotel partners to confirm your reservations.
I was able to book a two-day stay at Hotel Nikko for only $50 per night (typically $220 per night)! My deliverables include two in-feed posts which included one post and one reel. I also over delivered by mentioning my stay in my San Francisco Travel Guide and listing the hotel as a recommended place to stay.
#4 Use Hotwire
Hotwire is my FAVORITE way to save on hotels. Hotwire allows you to book hotels at a fraction of the cost. You won’t know hat hotel you’ve booked until after you’ve booked. I’ve been able to do reverse image searching to determine what hotel I’ll be booking.
I was able to book the Novotel Hotel in Paris for 1/3 of the cost. It was insane because I also booked last minute and the hotel has an amazing city view and was very close to the Eiffel Tower.
Read my whole guide on how to use Hotwire and book your next stay for cheap.
#5 Use Corporate Discounts
My partner worked at Amazon and was able to book hotels and car rentals using their corporate rate. This is awesome because we would sometimes save around 20% which is better than nothing.
You typically would need a corporate code to input when booking your hotel or car and provide proof of employment such as a badge or paystub when retrieving your reservation.
#5 Accumulate and Use Travel Credit Card Points
My partner and I are point hackers. We accumulate points and use them on our hotel stays and flights.
One time, I was able to book a flight from MIA to SCL for only 38,000 points. That saved me over $450 by booking with points through my Chase Sapphire Reserve travel credit card.
We were also able to book a two-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver for only 15,000 points per night using American Express points transferred to Hyatt. The cost to book the hotel that weekend was over $900 CAD per night, so we save a lot of money and got to stay in a nice hotel that was centrally located to everything.
The travel credit cards I recommend include:
- Chase Sapphire Reserve
- Chase Sapphire Preferred
- American Express Platinum
- American Express Gold
- Citi Prestige
#8 Ask for a Free Upgrade or Experience
If I can’t get a free hotel stay, I always ask if they could offer a free meal or tours and experiences while I am staying at their property. Many brands are open to giving me either in exchange for social posts and photos.
And when booking, I always mention that we’re celebrating an anniversary (even though we aren’t). Many hotels will often offer something special for you and your guest to celebrate your special day.
We’ve received macarons and a bottle of bubbly from the W Hotel in Santiago, Chile and a hot tub session with complimentary drinks from Huilo Huilo in Chile. Many hotels won’t do anything, so don’t expect something each time, but it doesn’t hurt to try!
We hope these tips were helpful. Remember that even though you send the perfect pitch, it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a hotel stay. Always be thankful for the partnerships you successfully make because you never know what opportunities may open up for you in the future.
And for those who are not bloggers or influencers, some of these tips may also pertain to you. So give it a try and let me know if it works for you!
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If you're a brand and want to work with us, please visit this page to get in touch.