The search for cheap hotel rates can be a confusing subject, especially for those new to traveling. Many businesses rely on tricking customers into thinking they are offering special deals, when in fact these are the same prices you can get anywhere else, and sometimes even higher than you can find in other places. There are some basic strategies you can use to cut through some of this deception, and we’ll discuss a few of them below.
Start by checking the best normal rates you can find in a city
A few of the new aggregator sites do an excellent job at rounding up the best prices they can find for each hotel in a city, and then presenting that as a helpful list with the cheapest places at the top. Kayak is our favorite, and it’s probably the best place to start looking. You won’t find too many sale prices on this site, but you will find the lowest possible price on the internet for hotels in whatever city you are searching.
Check for special sales on other big sites
Some of the travel sites that charge higher commissions on their services are poor choices for airline tickets and car rentals, but occasionally these same sites are able to work out special deals with certain hotels or chains that wind up even cheaper than prices found for those same hotels elsewhere. Check Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia before you book a hotel elsewhere because these sites do have special arrangements that sometimes are the best deals anywhere.
Consider one of the sites that won’t reveal the hotel’s name until you book
Priceline became famous many years ago by offering a ‘reverse auction’ business model whereby a customer decides how much they are willing to pay and then the site tries to find an acceptable hotel (or airline) willing to accept that offer. Many people became frustrated using this system, and Priceline has changed mostly to a conventional booking site in the past few years, but they still do offer this feature and it can be worth trying.
Anecdotal evidence from within the industry says that the majority of people who end up booking this way through Priceline are quite happy with the transaction in the end. Many people fear being stuck at a substandard hotel, or being in a terrible location, but things like this seem to be very rare so trying to get a cheap hotel rate might be worth trying this.
Hotwire has a similar system in place, but they give you a price and almost all the details about a hotel before you book, but they won’t give you the exact name and address until after you are locked in. Again, this system tends to get very high marks from people who use it regularly, and concerns of being stuck in a poorly located or low quality hotel are almost always unfounded.