Find the best hotel deals by price
1. Start by Checking the top deals sections of each of these sites: TripAdvisor, Travelocity, Orbitz, Priceline, Hotels.com, and Hotwire.
2. The cheapest hotel rooms will often have poor locations or few amenities. The trick here is to find a “quality” room that still fits your budget. You can often rank your results by price and go down the list until you see a few that look acceptable according to your preferences. Pick 2-5 hotels that have the lowest prices in this list above that threshold.
3. Once you have narrowed down you hotel list, use the following search to find reviews of each hotel across different websites to compare the qualitative features based on traveller reviews from around the web. (Be sure to enter the name of the hotel as well as the city):
The search above cross-references dozens of travel sites containing hotel ratings and reviews. You can often get a feel for the place by the consensus found in these traveller-generated reviews. Some places are cheap because they provide a good value with no frills; some are cheap because they offer bad service. You should be able to tell the difference after reading some reviews from a few different sources.
4. Pick the hotel that you feel most comfortable with from the list - one that has a good balance between price and positive user reviews.
Find the best hotel deals by Location
1. When location is important - for example if you want to be within walking distance of a convention center or want to be right on the beach - the best option is to start with your location by pulling it up on a map. Two great sites for this are Yahoo Farechase and the new TripAdvisor Maps. Go to each site, look up the city, and zoom the map to your location of choice.
2. TripAdvisor offers a list of the most popular hotels for any given city. The top 20 hotels in this list have the most positive reviews and are usually good bets. See if any of these choices are close to where you want to be staying using the map option.
3. Run a search for each hotel in your list using the following custom review search engine (Be sure to enter the name of the hotel as well as the city):
The search above cross-references dozens of travel sites containing hotel ratings and reviews. The search results you get here should give you a good idea of what people think about this hotel and give you more of a “feel” for what to expect. These sites should also give you an approximate price range for each hotel.
5. Once you find the best rate for your dates, either book it online or call the hotel directly to see if you can negotiate an even better rate.
Bidding for the best hotel deals
If you have the time and patience to bid on your hotel room, are flexible (and don't mind William Shatner's creepy commercials) you can always try Priceline or Hotwire to see if you can underbid the lowest prices you can find online.
Both Priceline and Hotwire give you the ability to put in a bid for specific criteria: area, dates, star rating, and price.
If your bid is accepted, you are obligated to make the reservation, but you will not know the exact hotel beforehand. Some people do not like this part, but if you are comfortable with it and have the time to bid around, check them out:
If you want some guidance with either Priceline or Hotwire, betterbidding.com is a forum that discusses bidding strategies for both of these websites.
Things to Keep in Mind
Some people are never satisfied. When looking at hotel reviews, take them with a grain of salt. If there are only 1 or two reviews, they may have been left there by the hotel owners themselves. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotel (under $1000/night) that has received all positive reviews. Scan through them all and go with your gut instinct.
Book by phone
You can often negotiate a better rate by calling the hotel directly. If the hotel has empty rooms - usually on weekdays or in the offseason - you can often get an additional discount. If the hotel is at or near capacity – on weekends and around events such as conventions - you are better off asking for an upgrade to a suite, or a bonus such as free parking, instead of a discount.
When you are polite and considerate, the desk clerk will be much more receptive than if you are rude or speak with a sense of entitlement. It may be obvious but it’s worth repeating: a smile and a friendly tone will go a long way.
Vacation Rentals, Bed & Breakfasts, and Hostels
You might want to check out sites that search vacation rentals and bed & breakfasts in addition to traditional hotels, especially if you are planning on staying longer than a few days. Vacation rentals and B&B’s have a more “at home” atmosphere and often offer small extras you can’t find at a hotel.
Hostels are also an alternative if you've looking for cheap, basic lodging. Hostels are far more popular in Europe and other parts of the world than in the US. The largest hostel search is run by hostels.com.
If you're looking for airfare deals to your destination, be sure to check out our guide to cheap flights.