Everyone wants to hear that one or two apps or websites will always find the best deal on hotel rooms. Sorry. It's just not that easy.
The price of hotel rooms changes daily, often hourly, based on demand. Sometimes one site has the best deal for the hotel you want, and sometimes another.
You can often get the best rate by 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."
Going Online Is a Good Way to Begin
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.
Then check discount sites such as BookIt.com, Hotels.com or Booking.com, plus the named hotels at Hotwire and Priceline (PCLN). If you find a hotel you like, check the hotel website before calling to see if you can find an even better deal directly from the hotel.
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.
Here are 13 tips for getting the best deal on hotel rooms.