Looking for hotel bargains at Delaware beaches? See where and when to stay and best rates

A summer vacation at the beach on a budget can be difficult, but here are tips on how to save money on hotels and motels.

Usually, rates depend on how far away from the beach you stay, when you go on vacation, and if you only need a bare-bones place to rest your head or if you want a more luxurious room and amenities like a pool.

Rehoboth Beach's boardwalk is shown on Memorial Day weekend in 2022.Rehoboth Beach's boardwalk is shown on Memorial Day weekend in 2022.

Rehoboth Beach’s boardwalk is shown on Memorial Day weekend in 2022.

For this story, we searched national travel websites for hotel prices at the Delaware beaches from June to September for under $200 per night including taxes and fees and found some starting as low as $84.

But we also learned that the national websites may not include some real gems — smaller, locally-owned hotels that you can book directly by website or phone.

See money-saving tips first and keep reading for the actual lowest rates during the summer and the best time to splurge on a usually higher-priced hotel.

Tip 1: Best times for low rates during the summer

Regardless of the hotel, the main way to save money is to choose a time when demand is lower including the month but also the day of the week.

“A lot of times the weekends are booked, but you can get a great rate weekdays,” said Jadine Pilotti, owner since 2019 of the Ocean Glass Inn in Rehoboth.

That means Sunday night to Thursday nights.

As far as the months with lower rates, June and September usually are cheaper than July and August, but the last week in August has some great prices, too.

Pilotti said most summer rates follow the school calendar. When school is out, rates are higher because that’s the most popular time for family vacations. Plus, college students and many people vacationing without kids like the warmer weather, the buzz of activity and more people to see. Since some schools and colleges start at the end of August, that can be a cheaper time to visit.

Another benefit of a late September vacation is that parking fees aren’t charged after Sept. 15 in Rehoboth or Dewey.

One drawback is that some restaurants or attractions may be closed after Labor Day. For example, Funland on the boardwalk is closed Sept. 3 and 4, and the final operating day of the season is Sept. 8. Also, lifeguards may be in short supply on some beaches after Labor Day.

Want to know a secret? Pilotti offered this tip that could save flexible travelers money any time of year if they’re within driving distance of the beach.

“Come down for the day but pack clothes for an overnight visit. Around two or three o’clock in the afternoon, start checking hotels to see if they have any vacancies. Many will discount the rooms around that time,” she said.

If you can’t find a room in your price range, just drive home.

This can also work if you’re already on vacation, having a great time and want to extend your stay another night.

Tip 2: Where to stay

Think about what you’ll be spending the most time doing during your stay. Are you going to be out and about, hardly in the room? Maybe a bare bones motel is all you need.

If you’re going to spend more time shopping at the outlets or golfing, maybe you don’t need a hotel near the ocean. For example, one of the lowest-priced motels in our search, the Sea Esta II, is miles west of the beaches but close to golf courses. Other hotels are within walking distance to the outlets.

If you want to be on the beach most of your vacation but can’t afford a room close by, you could use the Rehoboth park and ride lot and take the bus to the beach. Parking is free at the lot, and the bus fares are $2 one-way per person, $4 for a daily pass and $16 for a seven-day pass. The bus drops you off at the boardwalk.

Thousands braved the chilly Atlantic Ocean in February for the annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware at Rehoboth Beach.Thousands braved the chilly Atlantic Ocean in February for the annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware at Rehoboth Beach.

Thousands braved the chilly Atlantic Ocean in February for the annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics Delaware at Rehoboth Beach.

Check the hotel’s address on a map to see where it’s is actually located. The address may be “Rehoboth Beach,” but is it near the beach and boardwalk, near the outlets on Route 1 or closer to Dewey Beach?

Tip 3: There’s more than one place to find hotels

While national travel websites are a great way to compare different hotels, some smaller, locally owned hotels may not be on those sites.

Pilotti said the rates on the national websites may not be better than what you get if you book reservations directly with the hotel.

As of March 26, Pilotti’s Ocean Glass Inn this summer has rooms for as low as $199 excluding taxes on some nights Sunday to Thursday throughout June. In September, rates are as low as $220 excluding taxes. But you can find a $224 rate select nights in July and August.

Among the places to find smaller hotels are the websites for the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce and “The Quiet Resorts” website for Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island.

One hotel on the Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber website, the Adams Ocean Front Resort in Dewey, lists prices for weekdays from June 7 to 13 from $199 excluding taxes and fees, weekdays June 14 to Aug. 31 from $329 and weekdays Sept. 1 to 30 from $169.

Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth-Dewey Chamber of Commerce, said the local websites also are a great way to see schedules of events and activities, maybe some freebies that can save you money. Examples include free concerts at the beach bandstands and free activities for kids at the libraries.

More: Delaware Seashore State Park guide: 5 things to do, admission, eats and more

Tip 4: Don’t wait

While you may get lucky and score a last-minute deal, for the most part, hotels and motels fill their summer reservations early.

Even when we started our research for this story on March 25, many of the listings said only one or two rooms were left at that price.

Tip 5: Are refunds or schedule changes possible?

To make sure you don’t lose money before you even go on vacation, check if the hotel offers refunds for cancellations or date changes and how much notice you have to give.

Some deals specifically say “non-refundable” but will allow you to reschedule for another date, although maybe not at the same price.

Most of the deals on Expedia say you need to give two days notice to make a change.

Tip 6: Add the taxes and fees

Lots of times, the basic hotel rate looks great, but be sure to look at taxes and fees which can add $20, $30 or more to the price.

Most of the deals on the national travel site include up to 11% in “taxes and fees.”

Everhart said all hotels and motels in Sussex County collect an 8% room tax. The state keeps 5%. The remainder is divided with 1% designated for beach replenishment, 1% to the Delaware Tourism Office to promote the area, and the final 1% is a 55/45 split between the town or city and Southern Delaware Tourism for marketing and promotion.

“Tourism brings in lots of revenue, but we’ve got to have good beaches and good marketing,” Everhart said.

Results: How much do prices differ on national travel websites?

In our search for hotels and motels in Delaware near the beaches, we looked at Hotels.com and Expedia.com.

Most sites offer different discounts on different days and better deals if you’re a registered visitor. Expedia’s website says, “Sign in for extra savings.”

Other than that, we didn’t find many differences.

For example, we compared Expedia and Hotels.com on three weekends: June 21 to 22, July 19 to 20 and Aug. 23 to 24, for hotels under $200 per night including taxes and fees, and the deals were identical. Both had the same hotels and prices.

For all other weekends in June through September, we only used Expedia for this story. We started our search March 25, so these deals might not be available as of the story’s publication date.

Because most people have more time for a vacation on weekends, we confined our search to Friday and Saturday nights. But weekday rates from Sunday night to Thursday night are usually cheaper.

Often, there’s a minimum requirement of a two-night stay if you want a Friday or Saturday night; you can’t just stay one of those nights.

If a hotel or motel isn’t listed for a certain date in this story, it might not mean the price is over $200. It might mean there’s no vacancy on those dates as of the time of our search, or that the hotel is not on Expedia.com.

Where can I stay summer weekends for under $200 per night?

Here are the results from Expedia from June to September for hotels and motels at the Delaware beaches under $200 per night including taxes and fees as of March 25:

June 7-8

Rodeway Inn and Suites, 19540-A Coastal Hwy, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $109

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, 19540 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $147

Sea Esta Motel II, 100 Rudder Road, Millsboro (Long Neck area), with taxes/fees $155

Anchorage Motel, 18809 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $172

Summer Place Hotel, 30 Olive Ave., Rehoboth, $175 with taxes and fees $194

June 14-15

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $133

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $155

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, with taxes/fees $168

June 21-22

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $155

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, with taxes/fees $189

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $198

June 28-29

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $155

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, with taxes/fees $189

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $198

Aug. 2-3

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $98. Note: This is an unusual deal. No other hotels were under $200 Aug. 2 to 3, and the other Rodeway rooms listed for these dates started at $238.

Aug. 23-24

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, with taxes/fees $189

Summer Place Hotel, with taxes/fees $194

Aug. 30-31 (Labor Day weekend)

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $109

Econo Lodge Inn & Suites, with taxes/fees $157

Anchorage Motel, with taxes/fees $172

Sept. 6-7

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $84

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $109

Anchorage Motel, with taxes/fees $132

Hotel Wave, 36012 Airport Road, Rehoboth Beach, with taxes/fees $144

The Dunes, 20902 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, with taxes/fees $176

Summer Place Hotel, with taxes/fees $194

Sept. 13-14

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $84

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $120

Hotel Wave, with taxes/fees $128

Anchorage Motel, with taxes/fees $132

The Dunes, 20902 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $139

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, 36619 Tanger Blvd., Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $184

Summer Place Hotel, with taxes/fees $194

Sept. 20-21

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $84

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $98

Anchorage Motel, with taxes/fee $121

Hotel Wave, with taxes/fees $128

The Dunes, with taxes/fees $139

Atlantic Oceanside, 1700 Coastal Highway, Dewey, with taxes/fees $188

Beach House, 1710 Coastal Highway, Dewey, with taxes/fees $188

Summer Place Hotel, with taxes/fees $194

Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, 20891 Coastal Hwy, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $198

Sept. 27-28

Sea Esta Motel II, with taxes/fees $84

Rodeway Inn and Suites, with taxes/fees $98

Anchorage Motel, with taxes/fees $121

The Dunes, with taxes/fees $139

Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, with taxes/fees $172

Hotel Wave, with taxes/fees $183

Summer Place Hotel, with taxes/fees $194

What’s the cheapest summer weekend to splurge on a higher-priced hotel?

From June to September, the weekend of Sept. 20 to 21 had the most hotels with prices under $300 per night including taxes and fees on Expedia, a total of 25 places.

This could be the bargain time to stay at a usually higher-priced hotel, including these from $250 to $299 per night:

Brighton Suites Hotel, 34 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $250

Hampton Inn, 18826 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $250

Cambria Hotel, 17222 Hood Road, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $269

The Breakers Hotel & Suites, 105 2nd St., Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $289

Avid Hotels, 30266 Commerce Drive, Millsboro, with taxes/fees $291

Hyatt House, 17254 Five Points Square, Lewes, with taxes/fees $299

Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 18438 Kates Lane, Rehoboth, with taxes/fees $299

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Mariott, 19113 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, with taxes/fees $299.

Reporter Ben Mace covers real estate, development and business stories. Reach him at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Need hotel bargains at the Delaware beaches? See tips on where to stay

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