Consumer Reports: Finding the best hotel deals

May 24, 2012 6:18:01 AM PDT
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.

"Hotels have taken back the night by imposing best-rate guarantees," he said. "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."

"Now if you really want to save and get the rock-bottom drop dead low rate, do what I do," Marks said. "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, Tod booked a room at what turned out to be The James - a high-end hotel in Chicago. The rate was just $133 a night. The best rate the hotel or any other site offered was $234.

And 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 - top-rated Microtel Inn and Suites - 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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