What everyone wants to hear is that there are one or two apps or websites that will always find you the best deal on hotel rooms.
Sorry. It’s just not that easy.
What worked for last month’s business trip to Chicago may not work for this summer’s family vacation to Disney World – or even this month’s return trip to Chicago.
The reason for this lack of consistency is hotels are always in flux. The price of hotel rooms changes daily, often times hourly, based on demand. Sometimes one site has the best deal for the hotel you want, and sometimes another site does. You can often get the best rate by going old school and picking up the phone or just showing up.
“This drives techo-babble people crazy,” says Tim Leffel, author of “Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune” and editor of Hotel Scoop, a lodging review website. “They think you should be able to find the best prices on the Internet, but that’s not always the case.”
The Internet, however, is a good place to start. The first thing you want to research is location. If you’re visiting New York City, you probably want to stay in Manhattan. Before you can look for hotels, you need to know which neighborhoods you’re willing to consider and how you’ll get from those neighborhoods to the places you’re going to visit. After all, a lot of $30 taxi rides will quickly eat up any savings on lodging.
Start with the big names in the industry:BestWeekendVacations.Com, Travelocity, Expedia or Orbitz. If you’re looking for a broader picture, Leffel likes websites that gather price quotes from a variety of search engines, such as Kayak or Trivago. From these aggregators, you’ll get a sense of hotel prices at the time you plan to travel.
If you’d happily stay at any number of hotels in a specific neighborhood, consider bidding on rooms at Hotwire or Priceline. Both sites offer big discounts if you’re willing to buy a room without knowing which hotel you’ll be staying in. You can narrow your selection by neighborhood and by star rating, but sometimes the neighborhood boundary is pretty big.
Not only is there no magic website, but there’s no magic time to book to get the best price. Often, you can get the best deal at the very last minute. But this is not going to work in a popular location at a busy time. For those deals, you’ll do better booking earlier.