Finding a reasonably priced hotel room is not necessarily a slam dunk in the Internet age. Can you get the best deal if you use websites that specialize in discounted room rates, or are there similar – perhaps even better – deals on hotel companies’ sites?

The answers are "yes" and "yes," depending on your needs. As Henry Harteveldt, travel analyst for Atmosphere Research, explains, “Sometimes discounts come at a very dear price. You have to be careful.”

For example, although Priceline’s “name your own price” policy can provide discounts of up to 60%, the company doesn’t tell you the name of your hotel until after you book it, which might place you somewhere you don't want to be. If getting points in your hotel loyalty program is important to you, you might not get them if you book on some discount sites. And discount sites’ rates can have other strings attached: Rates can be nonrefundable, or you might not be able to change the specifics of your reservation, which can be a problem if your travel plans change at the last minute.

According to Harteveldt, hotel sites frequently offer more – and sometimes even more lavish – discounts than hotel-discount websites. Hotels' own discounts can include weekend promotional packages with discounted rooms, special discounts for loyalty-program members and discounts available only to members of AAA or AARP.

If you choose to deal with a hotel directly rather than with a discount hotel-room site, try calling its reservations department when you are planning your trip and request the lowest rate that can be canceled with no penalty, suggests Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University. He advises calling again right before you arrive to check for a cheaper rate, also cancellable with no penalty. If you then end up finding a lower rate online, you can cancel the reservation made directly with the hotel at no cost to you.

Best Sites for Discounted Hotel Rates

In addition to hotel companies’ websites, here are some sites offering discounted hotel rates that are worth exploring:, established in 1998, today connects you to rooms in more than 300,000 hotels in 170 countries. Its largest discounts, up to 60% off retail rates, are through its “name your own price” policy. However, you can only specify the destination and neighborhood where you want to stay and your travel dates. If you want a hotel that’s identified, you have to choose the “express deals” feature, which provides discounts up to 55% off retail rates. For both types of bookings, reservations cannot be canceled, changed or transferred, and refunds are not permitted., a German company now controlled by Expedia, an online travel agency, lets users compare rates at more than 700,000 hotels worldwide featured on over 200 booking sites. Trivago claims its users save an average of 35% on room rates; users make reservations directly on the booking site.Trivago also provides hotel reviews from booking sites. is based in Amsterdam and owned by Priceline. It offers accommodations at more than 500,000 properties in 205 countries – everything from small, family-run bed-and-breakfasts to executive apartments and five-star luxury hotels. Many rates found on this site do not impose cancellation penalties; in addition, payment is often not required before travel., based in Singapore and also owned by Priceline, offers rates at hundreds of thousands of hotels, exclusive promotions and hotel reviews by its customers. Another plus: The company gives customers points for every booking made, worth 4% to 7% of the reservation’s price; points can be redeemed to reduce the cost of a future booking or saved to pay for an entire stay. One reason to check out Agoda, according to Harteveldt: Sometimes hotels give non-U.S. booking sites different, even lower rates to sell than they give to U.S. booking sites., established last year, lets users bid on rooms at independent boutique hotels in U.S. destinations including New York; New Orleans; San Francisco; Chicago; Los Angeles; Boston; San Diego; Seattle; Miami; Phoenix; Anaheim, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Telluride, Colo.; and Portland, Ore. The site’s bidding system collects unique pricing data at the time of the user’s search – information that can help the user obtain the rate desired.

Hotel Tonight offers an app that lets travelers book hotel stays of up to five nights at the last minute. Starting at 9 a.m. daily, hotels represented by Hotel Tonight release whichever rooms are not booked at rates that have been significantly discounted. Hotel Tonight currently works with hotels in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica and 12 European countries. Properties range from what Hotel Tonight describes as “crashpad” to “luxe.” Bookings are nonrefundable.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of how or where you book your hotel room, Hanson advises defining your mission before you search sites: Looking for the very cheapest rate dictates one type of research. Having flexibility as a factor dictates another. Also important, according to Harteveldt, is carefully reading all the terms of whichever rates you are considering so there are no surprises once you book.

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    West Coast Vacation Destinations on a Budget

    Learn about three easily overlooked West Coast gems that offer the budget-conscious vacationer a great deal without compromising on quality.
  2. Budgeting

    Drawbacks Of Travel Reward Programs

    These nearly universal loyalty programs can have handy perks, but they're not a free ride.
  3. Savings

    11 Ways to Save on Hotel Costs

    One of the biggest expenses when traveling is lodging. According to the latest data from the Hotel Price Index from, U.S. travelers spent about an average of $174 per night on hotels ...
  4. Savings

    6 Ways To Avoid Paying For Hotel Wi-Fi

    Use these tips to get free Internet access when you're on vacation.
  5. Credit & Loans

    Best Frequent Flyer Credit Cards For (Almost) Free Travel

    Worried about how you’re going to afford your next plane ticket? We’ll show you the best credit cards for racking up frequent flyer miles.
  6. Personal Finance

    Navigating The Hotel Star System

    Three stars, four stars, gold star, who star? Sometimes the hotel star system can seem as wacky as a Dr. Seuss book.
  7. Personal Finance

    Oil Prices Are Down, Airfares Aren't. What's Up?

    Oil is down to $30 a barrel. But consumers are still hit with fuel surcharges on airline tickets.
  8. Budgeting

    Bespoke Post Review: Is It Worth It?

    Find out if Bespoke Post, the fast-growing, e-commerce subscription service for men's lifestyle and grooming products, is worth all of the hype in this review.
  9. Stock Analysis

    3 Predictions for Amazon in 2016 (AMZN)

    Learn the top three predictions for Amazon in 2016 as the company comes off an exceptional year in terms of revenue and expands into new markets.
  10. Personal Finance

    5 Places Where Your Travel Dollar Goes Furthest

    The dollar is pretty strong right now, but where is it strongest? Canada? South Africa? Europe? Here are five places to travel to right now on a budget.
  1. Why are most airplane tickets nonrefundable?

    Airplane tickets are generally nonrefundable, because the majority of tickets sold are discount tickets. In exchange for ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Is QVC publicly traded? (QVCA, QVCB)

    QVC, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corporation. It is attributed to the QVC Group tracking stock, ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How often do financial advisors have to travel?

    The frequency with which a financial advisor needs to travel varies according to numerous factors, such as the size and location ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How can I invest in electronic retailing (e-tailing)? (AMZN, W)

    Electronic retail is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy. Every year, more people are choosing to purchase ... Read Full Answer >>
Hot Definitions
  1. Presidential Election Cycle (Theory)

    A theory developed by Yale Hirsch that states that U.S. stock markets are weakest in the year following the election of a ...
  2. Super Bowl Indicator

    An indicator based on the belief that a Super Bowl win for a team from the old AFL (AFC division) foretells a decline in ...
  3. Flight To Quality

    The action of investors moving their capital away from riskier investments to the safest possible investment vehicles. This ...
  4. Discouraged Worker

    A person who is eligible for employment and is able to work, but is currently unemployed and has not attempted to find employment ...
  5. Ponzimonium

    After Bernard Madoff's $65 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, many new (smaller-scale) Ponzi schemers became exposed. Ponzimonium ...
  6. Quarterly Earnings Report

    A quarterly filing made by public companies to report their performance. Included in earnings reports are items such as net ...
Trading Center