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3 Ways to Get a Great Deal on a Hotel

Here are three ways we’ve gotten great deals on hotels:

Option #1: Go Through a Travel Site

If you’re willing to be adventuresome, you can purchase your hotel “blind” through Hotwire or Expedia and get a great deal. You’ll save at least $15 or $20 — often more! — if you’re willing to purchase the hotel room without knowing what hotel you are staying at. You can search by lowest price and star rating to see what prices are for the area you’ll be traveling to. We are typically able to find a three-star hotel for around $50-$60 per night this way.

Unless you don’t mind staying in rather questionable hotels, I wouldn’t suggest getting anything less than a three-star hotel as we’ve learned the hard way that two-star hotels can be hit and miss and one-star hotels should be avoided altogether. (Ask me to tell you the story of the roaches and the guy trying to break into our room in San Antonio at the one-star hotel we stayed at there if you need further proof. Yikes!)

While you can get some great deals this way, you are taking a risk. Sometimes it pays off well, other times, you end up with a less-than-stellar experience. But the savings have been worth it to us in most cases.

If you’re going to purchase your hotel room online, always go through Ebates to get cashback and check RetailMeNot.com for any applicable coupon codes. Do keep in mind that you usually cannot get a refund on hotels reserved online through Hotwire or Expedia so you’ll want to make sure your travel plans are set in stone before purchasing.

If you want to get to pick your hotel before you purchase or be able to get a refund if your travel plans change, I’d recommend going through Orbitz. They have great deals, they show you the price including fees, and they do not charge you if you cancel your reservation. Usually, their prices are a little higher, but it might be worth it to pay a little to know what hotel you’re reserving ahead of time, and to not be charged if you cancel your reservation.

Option #2: Call and Haggle

Jesse loves to do this. He’ll pick out a few hotels he’s interested in having us stay at and then he’ll call them and ask them for the best rate they can give us. We usually can’t get as great of rates as we can reserving the hotel online, but we almost always are able to get at least a 15-20% discount off the price they initially quote us.

Be sure to ask for any applicable discount that might apply to you (AAA membership, AARP, Military, etc.) and call knowing exactly what you’re willing to pay. If they aren’t willing to do it, call the next hotel on your list.

As always, though, be polite and courteous. There’s no need to get irritated at them if they aren’t willing to go down on the price. Many hotels have specific pricing policies and can’t go lower than a certain price point.

Option #3: Walk In and Ask For a Bargain

This is what we did on our road trip last week. It was our first experience and it actually worked out really well. The advantages were that we were able to scope out the hotels and area ahead of time, instead of just relying upon pictures or information on the internet.

While we didn’t get quite as low of a price as we could have by purchasing through Hotwire, since we had to change our travel plans at the last minute due to the tornado in Joplin, it worked out well that we hadn’t reserved hotel rooms online anyway, as we would likely have been out the money.

We both decided on a price we were willing to pay per night and then picked out a few hotels in the area to go into and ask for a deal. Because we were traveling in the middle of the week, most of the hotels were quite empty and seemed more than willing to work with us to give us a discounted price. If we were going somewhere during a busy season, this approach likely wouldn’t have been as successful.

Coming tomorrow: How to Have a Successful Road Trip With Young Children

What are your best tips for getting a great deal on a hotel? Tell us in the comments!

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109 Comments

  • Rae says:

    If you are booking a trip by tomorrow for travel before the end of July, you can use code SAVE25 on Expedia to get $25 off any hotel stay (no minimum) 😀

  • ashley says:

    We called and haggled before our last trip. We also told them that we were willing to give them reviews on several websites in exchange for a deal – it worked!

  • Sarah says:

    I love lastminutetravel.com, you can make reservations way in advance, despite the name!

  • JMP says:

    you can use betterbidding.com to try and get a sense of what hotel you may be getting from hotwire/priceline.

  • Jamie says:

    I recently discovered the Travelocity top-secret hotel deals. I wish I would have known about this sooner! We booked a villa at a 4-star resort in Orlando for $90 per night (2 adults/4 kids)… retail price is $544. I also booked a deluxe king room at another Orlando 4-star premium resort for $56/night. You just can’t beat these deals.

    • Crystal says:

      Want to share more how these work? I’d love to hear!

      • Rae says:

        It looks like a hotwire type thing with maybe a better deal? I’ve never used it but was intrigued by the post 🙂
        http://leisure.travelocity.com/Promotions/0,,TRAVELOCITY%7C5301%7Chotels_main,00.html

      • Jamie says:

        Here’s the linky:
        http://leisure.travelocity.com/Promotions/0,,travelocity|5301|hotels_main,00.html

        You basically just choose the city/date combo you’re interested in… and the site provides a list with star ratings and prices. You won’t learn the name of the hotel until after you book- but, you can get a really good idea by looking at the review ratings. I was skeptical at first, since we wouldn’t know the hotel or room until after booking- but we’ve never been let down. The reviews and ratings have always been spot-on. And if you’re really familiar with a particular city, the hotel/resort choice may be obvious, or at least easy to narrow down. The site also offers other un-blinded great deals.

        • Crystal says:

          Have you checked the deals compared to Expedia and Hotwire? I’m curious if it’s consistently lower? Thanks for the link! I’ll start using this when I’m searching for hotel deals (I always check all the sites before we reserve anything!)

          • Jamie says:

            I have checked out expedia and hotwire, but haven’t booked through them. I really like the rating system on travelocity’s “secret” site- I get a better idea of whether or not the hotel is kid-friendly, how the pool is, activities, etc. than I do on the other sites. Plus, I like that I can specify the number of kids and ages when booking. I have a stepson who lives with his biological mom most of the year. Sometimes we travel with 3 kids, and sometimes we have 4. The travelocity site really does discern which hotels have suites or other accommodations that will allow for 6 of us to stay together, or 5 as the case may be. I’ve searched out the same dates using both 3 and 4 children and have gotten different results.

  • Lindsey says:

    I was able to get a 4 star hotel room for my husband & I for our anniversary, using priceline’s negotiating, for just $60 after taxes and fees! It was amazing. Just be sure you know what you want because they charge you right away and there are no refunds.

    • Crystal says:

      I’d love to know more about Priceline’s Negotiating. I always hear rave reviews of it, but haven’t ever tried it myself since we’ve had success with Orbitz and Hotwire.

      • Noah says:

        I haven’t done priceline for hotels (read my below comment), but I have for rental cars when we fly with great success. 🙂 There is really less risk there, you’re guaranteed a company at the airport (and they’re always major ones because of that) and you already pick the class of car. You just have to remember that you pay taxes and fees on top of your bid price and factor that in.

      • Need A Nap2 says:

        We had a really great experience getting a downtown (close to the airport) hotel in Indianapolis with Priceline (almost 5 years ago though!). But last year when I was looking for a smaller city in MO it didn’t go very well and all of the reasonable price hotels were 2 1/2 stars or under. I think it works better when you’re looking in a bigger area that has nicer hotels.

      • Bethany says:

        We used priceline to book a room for our family vacation in July. I called the hotel after we booked and spoke to the fron desk to see what the rooms go for. We got a $149.00 room for $60.00. When I told him I was compairing the price from the internet he said he could price match, when I told he we paid just $60.00 he seemed suprised and said he would have to ask the manager about that…made me fell like I got a great deal. The price included breakfast, ever better saving!

      • Mary says:

        Try biddingfortravel.com for help on bidding on priceline, individuals post winning bids. Gives an idea of where to start your own bid if the city you want to visit is listed.

        • Tiffany Hogue says:

          I’ve used priceline.com several times using the ‘Name your own Price’ tool and I’ve always been happy with the hotel I get. I got a 4 star Marriott in Indianapolis for $50 on a Sat. night. I got the same hotel (Marriott) in Nashville, TN for $60 a night during a weekend. I highly recommend it. Especially in top cities, you seem to get better deals. I’m staying at the Westin in downtown Columbus, OH in July for $70 on a Sat. night.

  • Meme says:

    Coupons!!! I believe Its through Hotels.com but there are 2 sites that put them out. They typically can be can be found in place like Truck stops Ihops and Dennys and have a green cover and yellow cover respectively both have websites as well but I can’t remember them right now. The problem is you have to wait until you show up at the hotel to see if they are accepting the coupon that day sometimes they will tell you over they phone but they will rarely allow you to make a reservation with it.

  • Noah says:

    I’ve heard horror stories with the “mystery hotel booking” experience. Mainly, that it only guarantees you a room for two. I’ve heard of families of 4 or 5 being forced to purchase a second room when they arrive (at full price) to accomodate everyong. I don’t know how often is really happens, but always has me too worried to try. It’s hard enough to find hotels that allow 5 per room as it is!

    • Need A Nap2 says:

      We’ve had lots of trouble finding ONE room for the 6 of us. I know there are bigger families out there so I’d like to see a post or some comments about accommodations for bigger families.

    • I’ve used the mystery hotel room through Hotwire with great success (sometimes only paying 1/4 of the original price!), but I like Hotwire because you specify up front how many adults and children you are booking for, as well as how many rooms you want, so it’s all on the receipt that you get when you pay.

      As for Orbitz, I’ve heard of people liking them, but I had my worst travel experience EVER with them. They messed up our airline tickets (issued us tickets, but didn’t pay the airline for them, which meant they weren’t valid when we tried to board the plane to get home), but wouldn’t fix them, and tried to make us buy a SECOND set of full-price tickets so we could get home from Australia. The only reason we weren’t stranded was because the airline took pity on us, but Orbitz’s customer service was beyond appalling.

      We love traveling though, so it’s fun to read everybody’s ideas on how to save while traveling!

      • Noah says:

        Kelli – you must only have 2 kids? It only lets me select 2 children via hotwire. I have 3. A lot of hotels are ok with 4 in a room, but 5 in a room is trickier.

        • sara says:

          Kelli, Which airline was it that helped you out? (I like to keep the good ones in mind:)

          For what this tangent is worth, I had a *terrible* experience with Air Togo, and Air France bailed me out. In case any of you have any West Africa travels in mind:) In more remote parts of the world, it’s worth it to pay extra for the larger airline!

          • Air New Zealand was really good to work with. There was actually another airline involved in Sydney, but I can’t remember the name of them. Air New Zealand also let us on, since we had paid Orbitz, and said that even though they hadn’t gotten paid for our ticket and the reservation hadn’t gone through, they would work it out with Orbitz later, and allowed us on the plane. I was shocked and grateful!

        • Oh, I could see that. I think I have done 5 people in the room, but it’s been a long time, so that may have changed. I haven’t had to put more than 3 people in a room in awhile.

  • Christine says:

    Two words: Drury Hotels!!! We love the Drury hotels. By using internet special codes on their web-site we are usually able to get a pretty good deal for our family of 4. With Drury I factor in all that we are saving even if we spend just a bit more than the hotel next door. 1. Their breakfasts are wonderful: sausage, eggs, biscuits & gravy, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, cereal, etc and 2. the evening hot “snacks” are our supper. Chilli dogs, salad, baked potatoes, chips/salsa, veggies with dip, popcorn, soda and 3 alcholic beverages each evening per adult. This way the only meal we end up paying for on vacation is lunch. I have also found that if we book Friday & Saturday night they will usually send us an e-mail to book sunday night at a huge discount as well. And don’t forget about 1 hour free long distance and free wi-fi. Oh, and the pool (my kids favorite part) they would spend the entire vacation swimming if we let them. We love the Drury hotels!!!!

    • Crystal says:

      After everyone raved about Drury hotels on my Facebook Page, I’m totally checking them out next time around. Our Holiday Inn Express had both breakfast and dinner this time and it saved us a lot of money. Thanks for the tips on how to get a deal there!

      • Brandy says:

        Drury Inn is nice. The breakfast, kickback, and soft drinks were a great bonus for us with small children. The food was good and it allowed us to go get our food maybe while the kids slept in or napped. This way we didn’t have to get them out, spend alot of time eating some where, etc. We like to go out to eat while on vacation, but with young children it is sometimes more difficult. Also, I found the staff to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. The price point is consistent with other hotels in that range and when you add the cost and time of the food….I think it is a good value.

        However, my ONLY complaint with Drury Inn is it’s pet friendly. Unlike other pet friendly hotels, they do not designate specific rooms for this. Therefore, if you are not a pet person or you have someone who is highly allergic, you may be staying in a room that was just visited by someone with a dog. They take extra care to disinfect those rooms, but it may or may not be enough in my opinion. On our stay, someone brought their dog down in the commons area near where the food was being served for breakfast. This may bother some folks and not others, but be advised it is pet friendly.

        • Rachel says:

          Thanks for the heads up! I am extremely allergic and was looking into them for our upcoming travel. This will save me a bunch of time researching.

          • Brandy says:

            I had actually asked the front desk if the pet policy was their policy or corporate wide. She said that it was a company policy and that all of their hotels allow pets. She did mention that they go through extra measures to clean the rooms, but if you are like me….walking up and down the halls with pets or even in commons area is too much for my allergies.

  • We travel for business and receive Hotel Rewards. Also, if we fly we have found that it is often less expensive for us to park & spend the night at a hotel near an airport then it is to park at in long term parking at the airport plus we earn extra rewards future travel.

    After several business trips we cash in the rewards for personal / family trips to help stretch our family vacation budget.

  • Emma K says:

    My tips that I learned recently…
    1. Check Rest Areas or Visitors Centers for Hotel Coupons. There are monthly/bimonthly coupon books that come out. Some cover a specific state and some cover several states. You can compare amenities and prices.

    2. We bought several great hotel deals through Groupon & Living Social. We knew what cities we would be traveling through and I would check those cities deals and then purchase through Swagbucks.

    3. Ask for discounts. When I was teaching I would ask if they had educator discounts. Some hotels would give us a discount and some would not. But we are military now and get pretty good rates, or some hotels would say they were “upgrading” our room for being military.

    • Crystal says:

      I want to try Groupon for our next trip. I didn’t get organized enough this time to start looking at deals six months in advance — will definitely do that next time!

      • Brandy says:

        Me, too. We took a last minute trip out of town this weekend, and when I searched online I had just missed some good groupons in the area for things we were doing. We have a plan to pick out a couple of possible destinations for our next road trip and sign up for groupons in those cities. Then, watch them regularly to see what kind of bargains we can find.

        • kimberly says:

          how exactly does Groupon work? I am planning a trip to Orlando/Daytona Beach in late July if I can save enough to go. Any help would be appreciated.

  • karen says:

    If you have a Sam’s Club membership, you can use the code “SAMS” on LaQuinta’s website (www.lq.com) for a great discount – we have found that you can usually get a fairly good discount, depending if you are travelling close to a holiday or weekend.

  • MomOfTwoPreciousGirls says:

    You are doing this a week late for me, but I’m definitely learning from all of u bc I had to book a hotel for a couple of the days we are visiting family and I used most of the tips here!

    Today I started at hotels.com and found a room that would work for us for $99/night. I went to look for coupon codes and decided to not only search under hotels.com, but also the actual hotel name. I ended up at the actual hotel site and bc I was booking 3 days in advance I got a rate of $79/night and I went through ebates for 1% back AND used my QT rewards debit card for another .25% cash back!

  • Kitty says:

    When traveling by car stop in the rest area closest to where you want to stay and get free hotel coupons in those newspaper boxes. Best deals out there. Especially when it is for only one night. You can also then drive into the town check them out before you book. If you then ask for the AAA discount sometimes you get it sometimes you don’t. Never hurts to ask. The later you are after dark- sometimes they are willing to give an additional discount. Off season traveling is the best for rates for sure!

  • Susan T says:

    I’ve done lots of priceline hotels and we usually get 5 star, resort level which is higher or 3 star. I don’t go below 3 star. We have paid 60, 80 etc. per night. I use the sites biddingfortravel.com which has the best advice on how to do free rebids and all of the strategies involved- the advice really changed my bidding so much. Betterbidding.com also has some info. Priceline is always a little cheaper than hotwire but you get a little more info on the room from hotwire. We once did a 2 star in New England for the October holiday weekend as everything was packed. It turned out to be a Days Inn that was super cheap and would never do a 2 star again- again there are lots of stories to tell about that place! The 3 and 4 stars have been Marriotts, Hilton’s etc. so we end up at very nice hotels for very little money. We even plan our trips from Calif to the midwest so that we can stay in larger cities and do priceline- there aren’t as many opportunities to do it in smaller cities. The nicer hotels we have got have always treated us well- they sometimes will call your reservation a “prepaid reservation” they never seem to say out loud that you have used priceline and we have always received nice rooms and have not had any issues. You do have to keep what you get but by using the sites I listed above- people post what they have got so you have an idea what hotels you might get.

  • Whitney says:

    I know this won’t apply to everyone, but just in case, I’ll mention it anyway 🙂

    Be sure to call relatives who may have reward points racked up with certain hotels. I was holding off on booking a hotel room for this summer because the lowest price I could find would have cost us $400 at Best Western. I called my Mom and asked if she by chance had reward points to spare at Best Western…. she told me she didn’t, but she had 40k points at the Marriott that I could use that she has had for years and never plans to use.

    I called the Marriott and our whole trip for 5 nights is costing us only $100! Score! So… moral of the story, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

    • Sandi says:

      I do surveys on e-rewards and trade the rewards I earn for Priority Club Points (Holiday Inn family hotels). I also use My Coke Rewards to buy Priority Club Points. We are usually able to get at least 2 nights a year free by using our points.

  • Melissa Belle says:

    Just this month my husband and I did Priceline negotiate your own price. Got a 3 star hotel in Bellevue, WA for $35 a night!! We were totally joking around when we entered that price, but we were accepted and it ended up being a very nice hotel!

  • Laura says:

    I highly recommend Priceline…by naming my price I got a 4 star hotel in Chicago fo $80!

  • Randi says:

    You dont have to bid on Expedia or priceline blind. Check out betterbidding.com to see what others have bid and won. Also, they can help you ID hotels before bidding on hotwire.

  • Keiva says:

    You can do name yur own price by priceline but there is a system to get the best deals and it does take a lot of work, but most of the time it is worth it. W generally get a 4star for around $60/night w/breakfast and a pool!

  • stephanie says:

    I joined “mypoints” & you can get deals on travel & earn gc through them for added bonus.

  • I am so with you on staying in a 3 star or better hotel. When we travel, the hotel is something I’m not always willing to compromise on. I want a clean hotel, with a decent pool for the kids, and a free breakfast. I can’t wait for the post on the road trip with children. I have mine on that topic scheduled to post next week while we are at Disney. I also have a three part series next week on tips for Disney and making the most of your vacation there. The picture of your kiddos in front of the aquarium in this post is absolutely darling.

  • #3 happened to us this past weekend at our homeschool convention. We were already getting the special rate for the convention. We mentioned that it was my husband’s birthday (they’ve noticed in years past) and were offered a HUGE upgrade for $20. Now I know we didn’t save more money, but it did save our sanity with 4 daughters, a full king suite, full living and dining room, 2 fridges, 3 balconies , an atrium view and excellent service. I couldn’t have found a nicer gift for my husband. A beautiful suite. Never stayed in one of those.

    In years past we’ve received for free an atrium view, robes, larger corner rooms, and champagne. We really enjoy our stays at this hotel.

  • Carrie says:

    I recently had a problem where I had to try and cancel a Hotwire reservation, so I did some research. Here’s what I learned:
    1) Both Hotwire and Priceline have been known to make exceptions for weather. In the cases I read about, they let people out of reservations when winter’s blizzard making it impossible for them to get there.
    2) It is possible to get an exception just because you made a mistake, but it’s not easy. For me, what finally worked was (on the hotel clerk’s suggestion) asking the Hotwire agent to call the hotel. Hotwire was saying it was up to the hotel whether to allow a cancellation, and the hotel was saying it was up to Hotwire. They put me on hold, talked to the person for 2 minutes, and then cancelled my reservation, no fee or anything. However, this may be on my record as a one-time thing!

  • Brandy@Team Chandler says:

    Oh man. We have we took a long weekend out of town during Memorial day. While I was able to save quite a bit by finding deals and coupons….I completely forgot about ebates.

  • Mel says:

    We’re planning a trip to D.C. and want a hotel that is within walking distance (with 3 kids) of a Metro line. Any ideas on how to find something like that that’s reasonably priced? A lot of these mystery hotel deals won’t tell you the location until you’ve purchased them.

    • Katie says:

      A few years ago, we stayed in DC at a hotel just two minutes from the Metro. The price, if I remember correctly was around $70, which was excellent for DC. (It was also late summer which was peak season, and we were in town for a large convention.) I think the reason the hotel was less expensive than others is that we stayed in the outskirts of the city…almost at the end of the Metro line. It was MUCH cheaper than any of the hotels closer than DC, and on the Metro, still didn’t take much time or trouble at all to get into the downtown area.

      My parents, who we went with, made the reservation. My dad always will check the price with AAA discount, then will ask the clerk if they can go any lower. Most of the time they do, although they sometimes have to check with the manager!

      I was always scared to do that, but I have started to ask for a cheaper rate as well. Just last fall, we took a group from our church to a hotel for a retreat. The hotel rates listed in the convention brochure were $30 higher than last years, which were great then. I asked them to give us the rate from last year and had to go through the manager, but he honored that request. For 8 rooms, it saved our church TONS of money! When we were checking out, a couple of other pastors behind me did a double take when they heard our rates compared to theirs!

    • Heather says:

      I would be happy to help you with your DC planning. My husband has an office outside of DC so we travel there quite often. There are many great family friendly affordable hotels near a Metro line – check out places such as Crystal City, Chevy Chase, Silver Spring, and Alexandria. We found that staying right in DC was not only more expensive but there really weren’t a lot of kid friendly eating options for dinner. By staying just outside the city in one of the neighborhoods I mentioned, you not only save a lot of money on lodging but there are many more family friendly and affordable places to eat. Personally we have stayed in the Embassy Suites in Crystal City, Chevy Chase, and Alexandria. Also we have stayed in the Hampton Inn at Silver Spring and the Hampton Inn in Crystal City. You couls also check out Vienna – Tyson’s Corner VA – you would have to drive two or three miles to the Metro but the hotel prices can be even cheaper. We have stayed at the Embassy Suites in Vienna. A bonus to Vienna – if you want to visit the new Air & Space by the airport it’s fairly close to this hotel and no Metro line takes you to that newer Smithsonian.

    • Michele says:

      Mel,

      I live in the DC area so feel free to ask me any questions. If you are willing to stay in Northern Virginia (or Maryland), the rates will be lower. Some hotels also have a shuttle to the Metro if you want to try that. Most of the hotels are very expensive during the week and are much cheaper on the weekend. The Marriott Courtyard Dunn Loring is right next to a Metro Stop. The Marriott Residence Inn Arlington Rosslyn is another I can think of off the top of my head that is within walking distance of a Metro. There are also a few hotels in downtown Bethesda Maryland that are walking distance to Metro Stops. If you have a specific question, free free to ask.

    • John Wilson says:

      DC is tricky. On Hotwire, the Arlington and Alexandria places go far west away from any Metro Line, as do most suburban ones. So you often have to stick inside the city. To figure out what hotel Hotwire is offering, try going to tripadvisor.com, and searching in the same area with the same number of stars, and look for a hotel with similar amenities and a similar % recommended. That usually works, but be suspicious when hotels claim to be very close to the Metro. Map it yourself. Then use priceline to try to underbid Hotwire.

      Note that DC hotels are very cheap on Fri/Sat/Sun, that’s when you can get great deals. (I got the 4-star Omni Shoreham for $80 on Priceline over a weekend June 10-13, and Hotwire had what I suspected was the 4-star Palomar for $91.) But the weekday deals are much worse, so go for a weekend or if you’re willing to move around, try separating your search into the weekend and weekday ones.

      Another good option is airbnb.com, where you can find private homes available to rent a room (or an entire apartment). Look for places that have lots of good reviews, and they’ll give you a sense of how kid-friendly the spaces are.

      Another tip for DC: Buy a Charm card online from the DC metro website a couple weeks in advance. This works exactly the same as the Smarttrip ($5), but the Baltimore Charm card is only $2.50. You get Metro discounts and free/reduced transfers on the buses and the DC Circulator (which is a $1 bus that’s a great way to get around some areas of DC).

      • Lynn says:

        I have heard wonderful things about the Omni Shoreham – of course, about the cookies. Is it as child friendly as it sounds, I am always nervous about reviews since it is often the opinion of extremely happy or extremely UNhappy? Can you provide your opinion?

        • Noah says:

          That one is $460/night for my dates! Yikes!

          • Lynn says:

            Wow! That is high – we live in VA, so we often are able to get “last minute” weekend deals. It’s great because once we get there, the things to see are basically free. There is a Residence Inn actually in DC (only about 1/2 mile to the Smithsonian I think) that I have heard pretty good things about. I am not sure when you are going but they have weekend rates as low as $169/night, don’t know if that is all the time, but I believe it also includes breakfast, the “dinner” social heavy appetizers and then of course a kitchenette in the room. Even if the hotel is a bit more, it might save you on expensive DC meals. Might be worth checking into?

          • Noah says:

            Lynn – that RI is 459 for a room that fits 5. For a max occupancy of 4 it’s still 332! I think summer rates are just high, unfortunately. I think I found a couple of options for 95-115 a night. We don’t spend the difference in cost in food, so not worth it. My biggest problem is that I had a good option booked long ago, but then we had to move our dates and it covers 2 weekdays (instead of thurs-sun like we were originally planning), so that makes rates higher. Plus I’m less than a month out.

    • Noah says:

      I’m trying to find the same thing right now! The Days Inn Alexandria South (not the other one in Alexandria, the one on Richmond Road) is supposed to be decent. I can get a room there for $98/night non-refudnable. But, technically they only allow 4 people…so there you go! I also am finding decent rates at the Raddision near Largo, MD. 111/night refundable or 99 non refundable. No breakfast, though. I’m also trying to haggle with some vacation rentals for a bargain. Look at vrbo.com and homeaway.com.

  • Brandy@Team Chandler says:

    I didn’t have good luck with option 3 one year. We wanted to stop halfway to our destination to get a room, but failed to think about it being a holiday weekend. Reasonable hotels were booked at every exit we tried….we ended up arriving at our destination at 5 am. Ooopss. Luckily we were able to check in at 10 am.

  • Ami Montgomery says:

    Wasn’t the Tulsa Aquarim so much fun! We went about two years ago and stayed at that hotel right next to the aquarium..talk about a good deal we got, a rain storm blew through, lightening hit the transformer in the back knocking out power to the hotel and causing a fire(it was maintained at the transformer pole, not the hotel itself)..everyone else chose to leave..we weren’t familar to the area so we choose to stay but asked for the room to be comped for the next stay or not charge us for the room that night..they gave us the room free of charge!.. 🙂

    We took video of it and our kids still talk about that trip! Hope you all had a good time!

  • Julie says:

    I booked a 3-star in TN last year online through Hotwire.com, and arrived at the hotel only to find less-than-stellar conditions. Seriously, it was nasty, and I was slightly angry at the the hotel’s misleading rating and pictures online. I refused to stay there, even if it was at a financial loss to me. But, before accepting a total loss, I called Hotwire’s customer service desk to ask if they would book a room for me elsewhere. I figured that way they would not be out the money, but I would get a decent hotel. The customer service rep. actually gladly refunded my money without me having to book another room through them.

    I just wanted to encourage your readers that, even if you arrive at a deceptively rated hotel, the online booking services really do want happy customers. Hopefully my experience wasn’t an anomaly!

    Also, I can’t say enough good things about booking through Priceline.com. I have never had any trouble with them, and I’ve used their website a ton over the past 7-8 years. I stayed at the Buckhead in Atlanta for $85 once, and it is super-luxe! I had booked rooms for the leadership at the bank where I worked, and these rooms were going for $300+, a night!

  • We almost always use priceline for our hotel stays these days the only thing is that you cannot cancel or reschedule your reservation.

    I start by looking at their regular rates to see what hotels in that area cost on average, that way I can make an informed bid. Also, you can only make the same bid once per day on priceline. So if it gets rejected, you have to select another city(or suburb) or another star level to be able to bid again or wait till the next day. I then bid 40% of the regular rate and depending on the time of the year, whether it’s peak vacationing season, you can pay 40% of the regular rate per night after taxes and fees. Since they have a relatively flat fee, it’s better to book stays that are at least two days and more, otherwise the fees eat into your savings.

    We’ve gotten 4 star hotels with a $35 per night bid in Atlanta & Orlando & on the outskirts of DC, all of those worked out very well. I would not recommend selecting anything lower than a 3 star hotel, because like Crystal mentioned above, it’s hit or miss. Even if you have to stay on the outskirts of the city, I find that to be better than getting a lower star hotel right in the city.

    After my bid gets accepted, I always go on the hotel’s site to see what their regular rates are, to compare how much I’ve saved. One time we needed a place for a night and I used priceline for a two star hotel, we ended up paying more than what we would have paid the hotel directly.

    Even when we traveled to New York we stayed in Newark and rode the train into the city, using priceline we were able to get a 3-star hotel with a $40 bid (I hated that particular hotel but we were able to do other fun things in New York with the money not spent there).

    They also have “vacation packages” that are steeply discounted, so you may be able to get your hotel stay included for less than the airfare you’d find on other booking sites. The catch with this is that there are no refunds or cancellations. Once you purchase the vacation, you lose it if you don’t show up, you cannot reschedule. So if there’s the slightest chance that your dates aren’t “set in stone” then this probably may not be a good idea. We lost so much money booking a vacation like this lol, so I learned the hard way. If everything is set for your trip, it may be worth exploring. Plus priceline in on ebates.

  • Dee says:

    Hotels.com has a promo going giving away gas cards or a Kindle + 30% discount between Memorial Day and Labor Day. How many nights you stay and how much you spend, determines the gift you receive. I booked a hotel for business in Dallas for three nights and am getting a $50 gas card + UPromise cash + 30% discount + credit card miles. Lately, Hotels.com seems to have the best prices and you get a free night after you have stayed 10 nights (equivalent to the average price for those 10 nights).

    I travel a lot and used to get great deals on Priceline. I don’t seem to get those deals consistently anymore.

    My other advice is to compare prices on several sites for the same hotel. Kayak.com does it for you. Make sure to read the user reviews on all of those sites.

    One of the best travel forums I’ve found is FlyerTalk.com. They can steer you toward the best discounts, rewards programs, anything travel related. My youngest daughter goes to Japan this fall for her junior year of college. DH and I are trying to get as many miles as we can to fly her back and forth at least twice (if not thrice) and for us to fly business class + hotels when we visit. From the advice at FlyerTalk, we just got 350,000 airline miles in the last 2 months between the two of us. Our other 4 adult kids are getting their miles so they can come with us to visit their sister.

  • Julie says:

    If you’re using Hotwire, Priceline, etc. (which we have had mostly a great experience with), don’t forget to go through Ebates first to get a kickback. I use Hotwire when I need to know more specifically what amenities the room comes with. With Priceline, it’s not as certain what I’m getting. But I have gotten to stay in 3+ star hotels near Gatlinburg and Atlanta for around $50 per night using Priceline.

  • Michelle says:

    Priceline!!!!! It’s all my husband and I use! We have never gotten a “yuck” hotel either. We’ve gotten rooms in columbus, Oh for as low as $35 a night. We just recently went to Gatlinburg and we got a hotel for $50 a night. When I was checking in somebody called to check the rates and I heard the clerk tell the customer $139. Wow! I can’t imagine paying that much! That was at a Fairfield Inn and Suites.

  • Katie says:

    We have used pricelines negotiating at least 25 times. I have only been disappointed once. It was 3 star hotel in downtown Minneapolis and the room was so small we could hardly fit my sons pack-n-play. It was awful!

    We have also learned t0 go with the 2 1/2 star rooms because those hotels usually have a free breakfast. We have stayed in many 3 star rooms, but those hotels are so nice they don’t offer free breakfast (doubletrees, hiltons, ect.) I figure the free breakfast saves us about $30.

  • Rachal says:

    We love priceline! We usually get 50-75% off, sometimes more. A few weeks ago, we bought a room at a four star hotel, for $39. On Expedia it was priced at $120. Woo-hoo!

  • Mel says:

    If any of you have the Entertainment book, you may want to check into deals through them. I’ve had great success with them. I have the local book and I can use it to book hotels nationwide. It’s definately worth a try!

  • Heather says:

    If visiting a big city like New York, San Francisco, or Washington DC you can almost always score great rooms on the weekends for half the price or more over what they charge during the week. The reason – business travelers. Those rooms that are filled with business people during the week sit empty on the weekend and they want to fill them up. Chains such as Homewood Suites (which cater to business people but are GREAT for families since they include kitchens, breakfast each morning, and suite style rooms) are usually 50% of more cheaper for a Friday and Saturday night stay.

    I also think it can pay you to stick with on chain and become a member of their loyalty reward program. Book direct through the chain’s website – check often for special and web only discount rates. (often beats what you find on Expedia and Priceline – where you can’t earn points from your stay and you are often given the least desirable rooms) Those points add up to free nights and they almost always give hotel loyal guests special perks such as room upgrades if available, free newspapers in the morning, free wireless connection …………

  • Maine Mummy says:

    You might also get a further discount if you let them know you’ll be mentioning the experience on a high traffic blog.

    • Crystal says:

      I’ve never tried that one since I don’t typically do reviews in exchange for discounts. Have you tried it? I’d love to hear how it went for you!

      • Maine Mummy says:

        My blog isn’t high traffic enough to do it but I think I would try. You talk enough about how to pick a hotel that throwing in a few lines about the one you did pick seems like a fair exchange. I’ve received books and games to review gratis before but never something like that.

  • Julie says:

    Make sure you review your stay w/trip advisor (tripadvisor.com). Hotel managers, most of the time, read these reviews so they make improvements and sometimes offer the reviewer rewards to visit their hotel again.

    • Heather says:

      I will agree with writing reviews on http://www.tripadvisor.com. One, because managers DO read the reviews and they thrive to make their property a better place. Also, if you mention an employees name who made your stay memorable or assisted you that made you or your family feel special any way – most of the time those employees will get a bonus for it. Which then makes the employees feel better about their job they are doing knowing they are doing it right.
      I work at a 5 diamond resort in San Antonio, TX and we thrive off of tripadvisor and the reviews that we receive! It makes us feel good!

  • Michelle says:

    Our best hotel experience ever was at a Residence Inn by Marriot. We had grabbed one of those hotel coupon booklets at a rest stop and it had a pretty good deal. I think it was around $60 for a night. We called and they didn’t do reservations ahead of time for the coupon offer. My husband went in and showed them the coupon. They realized he was in the military and we got the military discount instead. It cost us $45 for the night. The room was like an apartment with a kitchenette and dining area, a living room, bedroom and bathroom, it had all the extras and was decorated nicely and it was comfortable like being in a home. They also had a cook out that night with hamburgers, hot dogs, brauts and sides. We didn’t have to pay anything for dinner, plus it was social time with others that were staying there. They had several activity rooms with different things for kids to do. It was quite wonderful! It was at the end of our trip, so this was a nice way to relax when we were all getting tired and ready to be home soon. We haven’t stayed at a Residence Inn since then, but it was a great experience.

    We also used http://www.vrbo.com when we went to Hawaii about 5 yrs ago. We were able to stay in a fully furnished condo. It had a kitchen with everything needed to cook meals and a washer and dryer, plus all the things you need for going to the beach (beach towels, beach chairs, ice chest, snorkel gear). We paid about $350 for a 9 nights! http://www.vrbo.com has plenty of condos and homes that are privately owned and the owners are looking to rent out their property to those on vacation. We rented from the owner of the condo and it was a great experience. It was a home because it was their home, much better than a hotel and it cost us less than a hotel would be in Hawaii. We were right on the beach too!

  • Cassy says:

    I used Expedia before my trip to Atlanta and ended up with a room in the Hyatt Regency downtown for $60 a night! I was pleasantly surprised, because I was really nervous paying for a room at an unknown hotel!

  • Jessica says:

    I also love using Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” for hotel deals!! You don’t know before hand which exact hotel you’ll be staying at, but you can dictate which area/region of the city you want to stay in and what star hotel you want to stay at. What I usually do is scope out the hotels on the various discount websites before I make a bid. I look at where they are located within the city I’m staying in (so I can get a good idea about where I want to stay, and which areas have the nicer hotels), read the user reviews, and look at what the average price of the hotels are. I agree with Crystal, I wouldn’t go for less than a 3 star hotel, since you can get those, and better for a 2 star rate anyway. Then I’ll go to priceline and name my own price. That way I know that I’ll be getting a pretty nice hotel no matter which hotel I end up with. It’s worked really well so far, my husband and I stayed at a Hyatt once for less than $100/night (I think it was actually closer to $75/night, but can’t remember exactly). I do agree with one previous poster though, if you have kids, it might be better to stay in one of the hotels with the free continental breakfast to save even more, since a lot of the fancier hotels don’t offer free breakfast. I just love priceline for hotels- the name your own price option is the way to go!!

  • Jodie says:

    We have had lots of success with priceline over the years. In fact one year we got a 4 star hotel in Chicago that was less per night than their parking fee was per night! I have noticed in the last year or so that their deals aren’t quite as good, so they are not always our “go-to” site any longer.

    We also love travelzoo.com for awesome hotel and all-around vacation deals.

  • Christine says:

    Remember to check the prices in nearby towns as well as the town you’re interested in staying in. Sometimes a town 20 min down the road is just as good and half the price. Our family is driving down the west coast in a couple weeks and have looked at staying in Ventura instead of Santa Barbara. The cost is about $50 less/night.

  • Clivey10 says:

    When you call to reserve, sometimes it can help to tell them why you are there. My husband does summer jobs at colleges all over, and often has to stay overnight. When he tells them that he is working at the college, he gets a great discount. Also, my parents do this when visiting my sister at school. Often hotels have discounts associated with different attractions too.

  • SillySimple says:

    I always like to check if the hotel has reports of bed bugs online before booking (this is especially true of hotels in big cities and on the east coast). I prefer to know the name of the hotel and do research before committing.

    I like to call the hotel directly to make a reservation. They often offer similar rates to those available on third party websites (travelocity, expedia, orbits, random.com). The benefit of this path is that you are working with the hotel directly, and can resolve issues/changes without the interference a third party (who in my experience just makes things more difficult and expensive).

    In the past I have booked through third party websites and had the following happen:
    a) At check in an additional 10-20$ per night resort fee is added to the room
    b) I thought I was getting a 2 double bed non smoking room, but ended up in a single queen bed smoking room.
    c) Made a change to my hotel reservation that was in accordance with the stated website policy, however both my new reservation and old reservation were canceled, my credit card was double billed (even though both reservations were canceled), and my husband and I spent a combined 10 hours on the phone the day before my vacation resolving the issue and disputing credit card charges… not fun!

  • Chandra says:

    Oh wow! This came at the perfect time for me! We are trying to plan an anniversary trip to Arlinton, Texas. We have been discussing how to get the best prices. We want to be close to the Rangers Stadium. I am almost a bit overwhelmed by all the suggestions, but we are’t going for 3 weeks yet, so I guess I have time to try different things out! Thank you for all the suggestion.

    Anyone in that area, would love to hear of fun and inexpensive things to do while we are there!! 🙂

  • Maggie says:

    I totally agree about not going below a three star–we’ve occasionally done 2.5 stars and they’ve all been excellent, but we’ve also had pretty bad luck with lower star rated hotels. We’ve gotten AMAZING deals doing the negotiator on priceline–most of the time we’ve gotten a three star for around $50 (and sometimes less) per night. A few months ago, we had to go out of town and ended up with a fantastic three star hotel for 38 bucks from priceline. The trick is to look at the star ratings in the area you want to stay in before you go over to negotiate your own price–usually this will give you a pretty good idea of which hotel you’ll end up with when you bid (you choose the star rating and area of town and then bid on a rate). We’ve done this every time we’ve gone out of town in the last two years and have gotten really fantastic hotels at really great prices. It’s definitely worth checking out.

  • Heather says:

    I was just looking at the swagbucks website and there is a $25 giftcard for a hotel from Travelocity for 349 Swagbucks. The only problem I saw with it was that you have to book through travelocityincentives.com instead of the regular website and it will only lt you book for up to 4 people. We have three kids so it doesn’t work but, if you have two it looks like they have the same hotels as their regular website.

  • Julie says:

    Expedia is offering $25 off a 1-night hotel stay through today 6/1 (put SAVE25 on the discount code line). I just reserved a room for my son’s college orientation at a Super 8 for $31 today! 🙂

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