After years where hotel rates have kept going up and up, it looks like the guests may soon start getting the upper hand again. A worldwide recession, airline hassles, and the high price of gas are starting to take their toll. The deals are back in Vegas and that’s a sign of things to come elsewhere. Here are five ways to take advantage of a more competitive climate to score a hotel deal.
Super Metasearch Hotel Sites
In the old days you went to one booking site. Then the metasearch engines such as Kayak.com came along. But some companies figured out that those guys also miss a lot, so they have found a way to combine those results with more from a slew of other sites. I’ve used Booking Wiz a few times to search for hotels, a system where you plug in your info and then you search the eventual actual booking sites one at a time for results from that page.
HotelsCombined makes it slightly easier. You plug in your city, dates, and the number of guests and they pull the results onto one page of theirs for you. After that you can sort by price, star level, or keyword and set a minimum and maximum rate to narrow it down. One click later you’re on a page that lays out the rates for different sites. As with Booking Wiz though, you still have to click over to the eventual booking site on popular sites such as Travelocity and Expedia to see the actual rate. Those companies, and some others like them, don’t release all their data in a feed.
HotelsCombined claims to have the largest database of hotels in the world and with some 30-odd booking sites feeding them results from around the world, they probably do. It’s in nine languages too, in case you need to make plans with those friends in France or Brazil.
Priceline and Hotwire
There are those who love these unsold inventory sites and those who like certainty. I am firmly in the former group, having saved thousands of dollars by using Priceline and Hotwire.com time and again. They work best for chain hotels in the U.S. and Canada, but sometimes you can score a deal elsewhere, as I once did in the Bahamas. Scroll down to the links on my null page to find the message board sites you need to scope out before you start the process. If you do it right you can eliminate some uncertainty and score the best possible price.
If you’re a budget backpacker, skip both the above and go to one of the many sites for booking hostels. Most deal with budget hotels offering private rooms as well. I’m biased toward Hostelbookers.com because they have been an advertiser for a long time, but I am also a customer sometimes because there’s never a booking fee. Nice.
Specialized Local Sites
In this article I wrote a while back on how to find hotels with character, I noted that none of the above are all that much help if you’re looking for small, independent hotels with lots of character. The $40 to $80 places that are scattered all over Asia and Latin America don’t tend to be tied into standardized booking systems. In some cases there’s a good site that covers a multi-country region well (such as TravelFish for Southeast Asia), but more often you’re going to have to crack open a guidebook or search out a local website where someone is doing more than throwing up ads and hotel-generated listings. It can be worth the search though, as the local gems are often half the price of the big chains.
Just Show Up
Once again, those people who can’t deal with uncertainty will get the shakes just thinking about the idea of stepping off a train with no reservations in hand, but thousands of backpackers do it every day with only an occasional misstep. This way you are free to roam and change your schedule on a moment’s notice, or to ditch a place you don’t like after one night and go elsewhere. No hotel ever looks the same in person as it did on the website. Plus it’s amazing how much negotiation power you gain when you’re talking to someone about either plunking down your money or walking out the door.