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More Options Emerge in Online Accommodations Marketplace

Get a deal on a last-minute vacation rental. Or try an upscale corporate residence. Or have another place to buy hotel accommodations at a discount. Those are three of the newer developments in the fast-moving online hotel and accommodations marketplace. As with any big discount claims, however, never lose sight of the cold war mantra, “Trust but verify.”

PackLate is a new online agency that promotes last-minute deals on vacation rentals. So far, coverage is limited to a few major destination areas—mainly coastal and ski resorts—in Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, Cabo San Lucas, and Costa Rica (the site also lists Santa Fe, New Mexico, but has no listings there). Most listed properties are condos, a few are individual units, but all seem to be part of established resort complexes and professionally managed. {{{SmarterBuddy|align=left}}}When I looked at deals PackLate features in Maui, the Orlando/Disney area, and Cabo San Lucas, prices seemed to be pretty good. A three-bedroom cottage in Orlando, for example, seemed a good deal at $68 per night—the site claims the “usual” rate is $110 to $459—as did a rate of $148 a night for a two-bedroom ocean-side condo in Maui. But comparing rates among vacation rentals is always difficult—you seldom see the exact same units on different sites unless prices are also identical. As always, take any claims of “usual price” and “regular rate” with several large grains of salt.

My take is that PackLate may have zeroed in on an underserved market niche. You generally don’t see much last-minute price action on the larger sites such as Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) or Rentalo. PackLate’s rates seem good enough to keep this agency’s URL on your “favorites” list. But never assume any one agency has an inside track on the best deals in any given location or at any given time. Always check out the giant sites such as VRBO before you book a rental.

Corporate Housing by Owner, another new-to-me online agency, targets a still different segment of the vacation rental market: “corporate” rentals. This term refers to a class of accommodations designed primary as short-term and medium-term rentals for business travelers on extended location assignments, recent transfers still looking for a permanent residence, and such. Accommodations of this type tend to be upscale—in both location and facilities—and range a wide gamut from single-family houses to serviced apartments to lofts. Although the site is aimed at the business market, personal travelers may well find these rentals attractive.

Most of the rentals posted on the site are priced at monthly rates, and a full month is the minimum rental at many. However, some units rent by the week and a few offer daily rates. As the site notes, at least two big destination cities—Chicago and New York—have actually banned rentals of less than a month, but you can find shorter-term apartments in most other major destinations.

Sample rates start at around $1,200 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and run up to much higher rates for deluxe properties. The online information indicates that most of these properties are above average in terms of comfort and features.

If you like the idea of corporate rentals, by all means take a look at Corporate Housing by Owner. Also check out some of the competitive agencies, including Corporate Housing, The Corporate Housing Network, 1st Choice Accommodations, and

If you still prefer conventional hotels, Quikbook has extended its new “secret sales” opaque buying system to include properties in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Washington. Quikbook focuses on relatively upscale hotels; for a much broader choice, stick to Hotwire and Priceline. Whichever agency you prefer, you can find lots of really good hotel deals through the opaque sites—give them a try.

Your Turn

Where do you have the best luck finding good deals on accommodations? Share your thoughts by submitting a comment below!

(Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Hotwire.)

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