Last-minute hotel rates offer savings for flexible travelers

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 28, 2003. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Christine Sarkis, Crowne Plaza, Four Points, Holiday Inn, hotel, Inter-Continental, Luxury Collection, Marriott, Renaissance, Sheraton, Westin, W Hotel.

If you enjoy weekend trips, are flexible about your destination, and want to save money, then last-minute hotel bookings and packages may be for you. Offered through some of the hotel industryís largest groups, as well as through discount travel sites, this type of last-minute deal frequently includes airfare, car rental, meals, or some other kind of gift or perk.

These last-minute deals arenít good for anyone who needs to book a hotel room in a certain city on a certain date, as the locations vary from week to week. If you prefer to book ahead and save, read our feature explaining the ins-and-outs of 21-day advance hotel booking. But for those who want a weekend getaway on short notice, or without the financial strain of full-price hotel, air, or car rental rates, this type of deal can be a perfect fit.

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Major hotel families and Site 59

Many of the larger hotel chains offer last-minute rates that change weekly, and have last-minute webpages that are powered by Site 59, an online weekend vacation specialist. With deals through hotel families that use the Site 59 technology, such as Marriott, Starwood, and InterContinental, you can:

  • Purchase 14 days to three hours before departure.
  • Choose between packages that include air and hotel, or hotel and "more."
  • Depart Thursday through Saturday. Return Sunday through Tuesday.
  • Earn miles on flights.
  • Save up to 60 percent off the regular price.

To find these rates, you can either go to the hotel's website and search for last-minute packages, or you can go to Site59.com. As Site 59 manages the major hotel chains' last-minute packages websites, they have access to all the deals you will see on the individual hotels' pages. However, you are also able to see hotel options from other hotel brands, and can comparison-shop easily to find the best location and price for your weekend getaway.

If you're interested in staying at a specific hotel brand because you want to earn hotel loyalty points, or because you just want the simplicity of considering one brand, go to that hotel's website to search for and purchase your last-minute weekend getaway. But if price, location, and a variety of choices are your main concerns, Site 59 may be more useful, as it shows many hotel brands and features departures from 56 cities. Additionally, SmarterTravel.com members can receive $25 off Site59.com packages.

Major hotel families that offer last-minute packages administered through Site 59 and their brands include:

  • Marriott: The Marriott family of hotels includes Marriott, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, and Renaissance.
  • Starwood: Starwood offers packages at Four Points Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, W, and Westin hotels.
  • InterContinental: The InterContinental family of hotels includes Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, InterContinental, and Staybridge Suites.

Some examples of per person round-trip airfare and two nights' accommodation packages that we found the week we looked in late May include:

  • Boston from New York for $206 per person.
  • New York to Cocoa Beach, FL, from $280 per person
  • Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles for $341 per person
  • New York to San Francisco for $384 per person
  • Seattle from New York for $464 per person
  • Zurich, Switzerland, from New York for $688

Hotels with last-minute room-only rates

Other hotels offer last-minute hotel rates. These rates cover only accommodations. The following hotels have last-minute hotel room specials :

  • InterContinental: Offers Weekend Web Savers rates on hotel accommodations. You can save up to 40 percent off hotel stays for the coming weekend. You can search by location and hotel for stays on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. We found rates for upcoming weekend stays this summer at a Washington, D.C., Holiday Inn for $68 a night, and in a Denver Holiday Inn for $65 a night.
  • The Carlson group hotels: Park Plaza, Country Inn & Suites, and Radisson offer last-minute hotel rates. To book, go to the individual hotel chain's website and enter the desired location and dates. If you are flexible with dates or location, there is also a search function that allows you to search by region. When we looked in mid-June, we found rates for an upcoming weekend from $49 a night at the Country Inn & Suites at Lake Buena Vista in Orlando; $59 a night at the Country Inn & Suites in Phoenix; and $98 a night at the Radisson in La Jolla, CA.
  • The Accor family of hotels: Includes Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis, Motel 6, Red Roof Inns, and Thalassa. The Europe-based group has more than 37,000 hotels in 90 countries. They offer last-minute promotional rates all over the world. The week we checked in early June, we found specials in London for $49 per night, in Brussels for $61 per night, and in Paris for $73 per night.

Other last-minute resources

Hotels themselves aren't the only resource for finding these offers, though. Many discount sites specialize in last-minute deals. Last Minute Hotel Discount.com offers a minimum of 40 percent off the non-discounted rate. Lastminute.com offers steeply discounted last-minute rates for hotels in Europe. SmarterTravel.com also offers a last-minute hotel database, which is updated every Wednesday.

Last-minute deals put weekend adventure on a budget within reach. And with so many hotels and sites now catering to the last-minute crowd, the chances are good that you'll find a deal that takes you to the right place for the right price.

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