How to save on hotel rooms

June 1, 2012 3:38:21 PM PDT
If you are planning a vacation, you may be in for some sticker shock when it comes to hotel rooms. Rates are up this year, with the average hotel room rate expected to top $100 for one night.

The latest survey of hotels from Consumer Reports found that even with rates going up, you can still find a room that will not bust your budget and if you want an upscale room, there is help there as well.

Finding a nice hotel room at a great rate can take some work. Consumer Reports' Tod Marks says these days a good place to start is with the hotel's website.

Tod Marks with Consumer Reports said, "Hotels have taken back the night by imposing best-rate guarantees. That is, find an advertised price lower anywhere else and we'll match it plus give you a bonus."

So book at the hotel site, then keep looking online for a cheaper rate. It also pays to look for special deals on hotel sites -- like "up to 20 percent off" and "complimentary parking."

Marks explained, "Now if you really want to save and get the rock-bottom, drop-dead low rate, do what I do -- use Hotwire, Priceline's Name Your Own Price program, or use Travelocity's Top Secret Hotels. They don't reveal the name of the hotel until after you've committed to purchasing that room for a given night."

However, it can lead to big bargains! On Hotwire, Marks booked a room at what turned out to be the James -- a high-end hotel in Chicago. The rate -- $133 a night. The best rate the hotel or any other site offered was $234!

While budget hotels are the cheapest place to stay, Consumer Reports says some are no bargain. Its survey of almost 23,000 subscribers found Americas Best Value Inn among the worst. A much better bet is top-rated Microtel Inn and Suitesm where rooms can go for as little as $59.

"They offer decent upkeep, they're clean, and check-in, most of the time, it's a snap," Marks said.

Consumer Reports says if you can't plan ahead and need to book a hotel for the same night, there are ways to save there, too. A free app for smart phones called Hotel Tonight shows deals on hotels in some 30 cities. You can start checking rates at noon in the hotel's time zone.

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