Before booking a hotel room, it's very important to understand the nature of rack rates and learn how to beat them. The rack rate is the maximum price charged per room, and in nearly every case, you'll be able to find a better rate. It's always a good idea to compare rates before booking. The first step to finding a good rate (and avoid paying full price) is to set a benchmark by assessing the available deals, which are promotions launched by the hotels themselves that claim to be a reduced rate.
If you've decided to travel at the last minute, check the offerings on LastMinuteTravel.com, as well as hotel-and-car packages on Site59; both online discounters specialize in last-minute travel. You can also read our feature on booking a last-minute hotel for additional saving strategies.
In addition, many large hotel companies regularly offer weekly e-mail or Web specials for last-minute weekend stays. These deals often provide big savings. For a list of the current specials in the U.S. and Canada, search SmarterTravel.com's Last-Minute Web Rates, which are updated weekly. Select the city you want from the drop-down menu to find a hotel room. When you see your search results, click on the hotel name to see the restrictions and booking instructions. Please note that you must make reservations with the hotel directly, not with SmarterTravel.com. Read why we don't sell tickets.
Sales and promotions
You might not always find a great last-minute deal, but don't lose hope. Visit our hotel section to see our current editors' picks of hotel discounts. We've categorized hotel offers by destination, or you can browse all hotel deals. These deals usually are available for longer periods of time and often have fewer restrictions than last-minute rates. In addition, we also offer advice on how you can save by booking in advance. Once you find a rate you feel comfortable with, follow the booking instructions to make a reservation directly from the travel supplier.
Check your memberships (AAA, AARP, Student Advantage, etc.) to see if you qualify for a hotel discount. Many associations offer reduced rates as a member benefit. In addition, you might get an even better nightly rate if you use one of the special discounts for SmarterTravel.com members that we've negotiated with HotelDiscounts.com and Choice Hotels. For example, you might find a rate of $75 for a room at a Comfort Inn, but if you use your SmarterTravel.com/Choice Hotels discount, that rate can be reduced to just $60. Visit our member discounts page for complete details and the booking codes.
You can also visit major hotels' websites for any last-minute or other specials they might post. Convention and Visitors' Bureaus for specific destinations sometimes provide hotel specials (for weekend or midweek stays), as well. Tourisme Montreal, for example, provides a comprehensive list, searchable by budget. To find a CVB website for your destination, go to a search engine like Google and perform a search for your desired location.
Sales can often provide good savings on a hotel stay; however, it's always important to make sure that you're indeed getting the lowest rate that the hotel is offering for the same dates and room category.