For the six years I was traveling nearly full-time I seldom had to pay for any hotel stays. Sure, I was booking Airbnb apartments for months at a time, but when I wanted to travel I was able to stay at hotels on a complementary basis.
I remember planning a Switzerland trip with my girlfriend. The whole time we were wondering how we could afford to spend $150 per night just for accommodation.
Recently I had read a blog post mentioning that bloggers can get hotel stays, local excursions, even products for free. Looking more into it I realized it was totally possible and our free hotel stay adventure began.
Check out my hotel reviews page to see some of the amazing places I was able to stay for free.
In this post I want to share how YOU can start taking advantage of complimentary hotels and other free stuff with your very own blog. Don’t worry – it’s possible to apply this strategy with blogs receiving as little as 10,000 visitors per month.
Be sure to read to the very end where you’ll find the EXACT template I use for reaching out to hotels and other companies.
How to Stay at Hotels for Free Using Your Blog:
- Determine what you’ll offer hotels in exchange for complimentary stays
- Craft your pitch (first email)
- List the hotels you’d like to visit (with relevant contact info)
- Start reaching out to the hotels
- Follow up or contact more properties
- Fulfill your half of the agreement
These are the basic steps to follow to start staying at hotels for free using your blog.
Let’s take a further look into each of these steps and what you need to do to be successful with your pitch.
Step 1 – Determine Your Offer
There isn’t a single hotel interested in a random blog post or some Twitter mentions. Your offer is the main factor that your hotel contacts will look at when considering your pitch.
You don’t even need a lot of social media followers or blog traffic to be successful here. Instead, it’s important to offer the hotel something unique that they will from in the long run.
These hotels are looking for a three main things:
- More bookings
- Increased awareness online and on social media
- Direct website traffic
As a blogger, able to provide these then most hotels will be happy to work with you.
You need to remind yourself that the strategy isn’t about getting YOU free places to stay. It’s about working together with a hotel or property to develop and grow their business as an influencer.
Don’t bother moving on to the next step until you know exactly what you can offer any of the hotels you’re interested in pitching.
Step 2 – Craft Your Pitch (First Email)
Your pitch is going to be the first email you send hotels (unless you’re reaching out for specific contact information).
This email needs to answer most questions that might arise for answering it. It also needs to be professional and directed to the right person.
Emails that are short, sweet, and direct will get the most responses. Immediately let them know what you’re asking for and avoid rambling on about irrelevant information.
The questions you need to answer in your pitch include:
1. Who are you?
Start the email with a quick introduction. State your name, where you’re from, and include a link to your blog.
Don’t include any social media links or blog statistics at this point.
2. What do you want?
The next part of the email needs to immediately jump into what exactly you’re looking for. Lead by mentioning that you’re interested in staying at the hotel and you’re hoping to collaborate with the property.
I like to pose a question at this point asking if the hotel would be interested in working together during my trip.
3. What can you offer?
Immediately after the initial ask it’s the right time to share your offer. This is where you can tell the individual you emailed exactly how the hotel can benefit from giving you a free stay.
You’ll need to have completed this part of the strategy before emailing any properties. Otherwise, you won’t have an offer and no one’s going to be interested in working with you.
For me, I always offered increase online exposure and a minimum of 100 direct unique visits to the hotel website. Social media and YouTube videos were additional offers, not the main focal point of my pitch.
4. Who are you?
Now is the time to explain who you are and what your blog is about. At this point your pitch will likely be accepted or discarded so there’s no point in focusing on this information beforehand.
In a few short sentences describe your blog and your target audience. Include information about your website traffic, where your visitors are coming from, and how your blog is relevant to the hotel.
You can also include information about any social media or YouTube channels that you have. Keep it short and sweet, any interested hotels will reach out if they’re looking for more specific information.
5. Do you have proof?
This part of the email pitch is up for debate. When I first started contacting hotels I never included any proof or links to other reviews/blog posts.
Eventually I would link to relevant blog posts of mine, though i’m not sure if it made a difference.
Avoid including too many links of your collaborations. Three or less seems to be the sweet spot with this outreach strategy.
In my opinion, the hotel will make the decision to work with influencers before considering any emails. For the most part it’s a yes or no before the first word of your email is ever read.
Step 3 – Gathering Hotel Contact Info
At this point I’m ready to start looking for hotels and gathering contact information. Google is the best place to find a list of hotels in the destination you’re visiting.
Try to list as many relevant properties as possible. Don’t focus only on high-end, luxury hotels. EVERY blogger is pitching these places and your success rate won’t be very high.
Instead, look for mid-range or even budget hotels. It’s likely these places could use the help and would benefit more directly from working together with an influencer.
The benefit of reaching out to smaller and locally owned hotels is that you’re more likely to get in touch with a decision maker. You might even get lucky and have the owner responding to emails personally.
Other than Google websites like Booking.com and TripAdvisor will highlight the best places to stay for every budget. This also gives the opportunity to read reviews and find the perfect places that mesh well with your blog.
Personally, I only use Google searches to find places to stay. Other websites are good for smaller towns but generally everybody is on Google.
There’s a strategy I’ve seen online to find places using the keywords “all opinions are my own”. This isn’t something I recommend doing as it’s likely these hotels get pitched A LOT from this search query.
You’ll have better luck contacting places that haven’t worked with any bloggers or don’t work with them very often.
How many hotels should you find?
How many hotels you should contact depends on the destinations you’re visiting.
Smaller towns might only have 10 or 20 hotels and other properties you could contact. Bigger cities, like New York and London, will have hundreds of properties you could contact.
Before sending any emails it’s a good idea to have a list of 10+ places for each destination.
Step 4 – Reaching Out to Hotels
You’re now ready to start contacting your favorite hotels!
There are dozens of email outreach tools that you can use to automatically send out email pitches.
Avoid ALL of these when you’re starting out. It’s possible to make one mistake that could follow through to all your outreach emails ruining your chances at securing any free stays.
Templates are great and can save you time but always verify the contents of the email before clicking send.
Hopefully you’ve already put a short email using the information mentioned above. If not, check out the template that I use at the bottom of this post.
Don’t forget to include a subject line and verify that you’re sending the email to the right person. Any mistakes here are deal-breakers.
Pro tip – send your emails Sunday night or Monday morning depending on your time zone. People are more receptive to emails earlier in the week and are more likely to follow up with you. A Friday afternoon email might as well have never been sent.
Depending on your pitch you’ll start hearing back from hotels within a few days. If you don’t hear back, don’t worry, many places can take one or two weeks to go over your pitch and come back with an offer.
Step 5 – Follow Up/Contact More Properties
I’m hoping that at this point you’ve heard back from some hotels already. If so, that’s great!
Your next step should be to reply as soon as possible. Verify your travel dates or provide the hotel with any additional information they’re looking for.
Consider asking them to send you a booking invoice or verification so that you don’t have to worry about your stay before your departure.
If you haven’t heard back from any hotels it’s still not the time to worry.
A significant amount of my complimentary stays were received from follow up emails. The staff checking the emails are busy and don’t always have the time to respond or forward your email to the right person.
There’s nothing wrong with a gentle follow up reminding the hotel that you emailed them and wondering if they’ve had a chance to consider your offer.
This is why it’s ideal to give yourself as much time as possible. On the off-chance you didn’t get any positive replies at all you’ll still have enough time to keep reaching out to hotels.
In some cases, depending on the travel season, you might not have any luck at all. This strategy definitely works best during the low and shoulder seasons, though I’ve had great luck in the summer as well.
The worst case scenario is that you have to book something on your own. Not really a big deal, is it?
Step 6 – Fulfill Your Half of the Agreement
From the first email, to checking out, to fulfilling your half of the agreement you want to be as professional as possible throughout the entire process. If your blog and personal brand that you’re representing to this hotel and to your online audience.
Depending on what your offer was, start working on it as soon as you check out. Of course, during your stay you’re going to want to be taking photos and meeting with the right people.
Some hotels will have specific requests based on their offer. Always fulfill his requests and present yourself as a professional.
After leaving, consider sending a thank-you email to the person you were in contact with. Continue to keep them updated with your status on the offer and any interesting future developments related to your partnership.
Once you’ve completed your part of the agreement, send it to the hotel and highlight the current results. Ask them to share your content online and check if they’d be interested in linking to your travel blog or hotel review.
This isn’t a one-sided partnership. It’s a collaboration where both parties should benefit.
When should you start contacting hotels?
It’s best to start your outreach a minimum of one month before your travel dates. This gives properties time to consider your offer and discuss anything mentioned in your email.
Personally, I would start reaching out two to three months before my travel dates. The longer you wait the more issues you’re going to run into for room availability and competition from other bloggers.
How do you find the right hotel email?
Finding the right person to email, or sometimes any email at all, is the hardest part of getting complimentary hotel stays.
A surprising number of websites don’t have any contact information at all apart from a contact form. The majority might only have a contact form and a phone number.
To find emails, I recommend using the free email finder tool called Hunter. You can check out their website here and start using it right away.
With this tool you can input a website and it will give you all of the related emails to that URL. It’s super helpful for finding hotel contact info for your outreach pitches.
What’s the best time of year to pitch properties?
During the summer most hotels in popular destinations are running at close to 100% occupancy. At these times they likely won’t be interested in collaborating with bloggers unless they’re popular or relevant. to the hotel.
For the best chances at securing free stays I recommend traveling from September to April. There are less travelers and other bloggers traveling at this point so you’re more likely to land a collaboration.