I get asked all the time: “How can I find a good hotel deal?” Besides going the low-end route and booking into a bug-riddled dump, there’s often no easy way to do this. It’s all a complex matrix of trading off quality for price. Obviously you want the best possible for the lowest price. Since I spend well over 100 nights a year in hotels – from grim to great – I aim for the ideal combination of great rate and great room.

The truth is that finding a good deal takes some work. Here’s the steps I take – often with something diverting on TV or in a frosty mug – followed by listings of useful websites.


Hit the Mainstream. Large general reservations sites (or online travel agencies, OTAs) to get a feel of pricing for your destination. If low-end places are coming up for $200, then you might check further and see if your plans coincide with ultra-peak season or some special event. Generally however, I don’t stick with the big sites for my booking as I can do far better elsewhere. (And note: the “preferred picks” or whatever moniker is being used on sites like Travelocity and Expedia are usually dull-as-dirt chains.)


Hotels.com – a front for Expedia


Travelocity US

Try Kayak. It searches the bigs sites, obscure sites and corporate sites. Results are combined and links take you to various sites. But for whatever reason, Kayak often misses the best deals. I find it mostly useful for, again, getting the lay of the land and in learning about new wholesale sites (see belowxxx).


SideStep.com – uses the same search engine as Kayak

Check it out, man. You should have a good idea about where you want to stay in town and what hotels might be in your budget. Narrow your search by checking out these places with a good guidebook and through various online blogs and posts (entering “Hotel <name> Sucks” in Google usually brings up a lot of unvarnished comment).

And TripAdvisor? I have very mixed feelings. I regularly check it but I don’t trust it. Too many of the opinions for splendid independent properties I know are both delightful and quirky get slammed in TripAdvisor reviews by the kind of suburban dullards who want every hotel to be a Hampton Inn. Conversely, the reviews often don’t pick up vital details. I stayed at an independent and quirky hotel in San Juan that got glowing TripAdvisor reviews because no one  knew that many of the rooms were windowless bunkers akin to something you’d expect a bureaucrat to be sheltering in during a Cold War nuclear alert.

Lonely Planet’s website has a hotels & hostels section (disclaimer: I write for it) that has good descriptions of places worldwide. The downside is that it’s not terribly useful for actually booking a room.

igougo.com – the TripAdvisor competitor owned by Travelocity

hotels.lonelyplanet.com – good descriptions of hotels plus weblinks

TripAdvisor.com – owned by Expedia

I can get it wholesale! The goal of every hotel is 100% occupancy all the time.There’s as many room rates as there are airfares and when push comes to shove, a hotel will often cut deals with wholesaler websites to unload unsold rooms. After all, you might get liquored up on $10 drinks out of the minibar and then make $100 call home from the rapacious bedside phone.

I’ve used all of the following sites and this is the most common way I book rooms. A few caveats: Each site only works with certain hotels and there will be a mix of prices, some amazing and some ordinary. All you can do is search a few. Also, you may turn up some deals here for places that bear careful vetting under Step 3. Clapped out tourist traps for the groups are common. And read the booking details carefully. Some sell you the room for a non-refundable price when you reserve.

asiarooms.com – good worldwide



HotelClub.net – owned by Orbitz


hrs.com – good for Europe

LateRooms.com – actually books up to a year out

octopustravel.com – good for Asia


WHL.travel – Asia & Europe

Check with the Hotel. Many places have internet specials you will only find on the hotel website. Sometimes even the rack rate (especially at smaller places) is cheaper than what you find at the booking sites, due to commissions. If I’ve determined I really like the place, I often drop them an email asking for any deals and confirming details such as late arrival, wifi in the rooms etc.

The biggest challenge to dealing with a small hotel directly can be finding its website. Chains are no problem, but Googling the name often just results in pages of links to reservation sites and not the actual hotel. Again, guidebooks can help, as can the LP site, and online press reports like the good city coverage in the travel section of the New York Times.

And some oddballs. The following sites have all been useful at one time or another.

www.united.com – the website of the airline has a hotel-only reservation area that is served by one of the wholesalers, I’ve found some good deals here. Other US airlines may also offer deals, or good packages.

www.vacationsfrbo.com – Vacation Rentals by Owner, for a week or longer, this is often my favorite way to stay: real apartments in the centre of cities

www.wotif.com – a unique site that shows prices for selected properties for each of the next 28 days, I’ve had amazing deals here although not so many of late

Finally, I had an amazing deal at lakeside hotel in Luzern, Switzerland through the local tourist office website. It had an offer to entice Americans with their worthless dollars.

Got your own strategies? Favorite sites? Comments? Write me.







How to Find Hotel Deals

© 2011 Ryan Ver Berkmoes