How to Find the Best Hotel Deals

Updated: February 2014

I’ve been traveling the world for 20 years, booking hotels online for 15, and searching for family-friendly hotels for 10. This is everything I know about finding great hotel deals online.

What are the Best Websites for Booking Hotels Online?

  • – The best for last minute deals.
  • – Great for Europe and North America. One of the largest collections of hotels of any booking site. Helpful reviews from confirmed guests.
  • – Specializes in Southeast Asia.

What is the Best Way to Save Money on Hotels?

  • Start your hotel search as early as you can. The longer stretch of time you have to search the better deal you’ll likely find. Often, early bookers get the best rooms too.
  • If your dates can be flexible then compare different date ranges for the best rates. Hotels can fill up for a big convention or big event. Busy and expensive one weekend. Empty and cheap the next.
  • Flip-flop weekends and weekdays. Hotels target different types of travelers which will have very different weekday and weekend routines. Hotels that have a large business clientele can be very quiet (with large discounts) on weekends. Hotels that see more leisure tourists will be packed on weekends but cheaper on weekdays.
  • Think upgrade: book the least expensive room through a booking website then contact the hotel directly to inform them of special requirements or enquire about any available upgrades – if the hotel is quiet they’ll often be free or for a nominal charge.

When is the Best Time to Book Hotels?

Here’s a huge generalization that works pretty well for most situations: For hotels that have a business clientele the last week to 10 days will get you the best deals. For hotels and resorts that have tourists as their primary guests then booking 2 months to 6 months prior to your stay is likely the best.

Why? Business travelers are much more likely to arrange and make last minute (or last week) travel plans. A month before a given date, a hotel in the financial district of London might not have many bookings but will not start discounting those rooms yet. It will still expect to make a lot of bookings in the week or two before that time frame.

Often it’s not just about the price. Early booking will get you the best rooms at a similar price to the less coveted rooms. E.g. A huge family room that is only a little more than a cramped double room.

A hotel in Cancun, Phuket, or Bali that has a lot of openings in a month will start to worry. Most of its guests should have already booked those rooms so the hotel will start to aggressively discount those rooms.

What Day of the Week Has the Best Hotel Deals?

It depends what type of hotel you’re booking.

Business hotels will offer bigger discounts on the weekends (when business clients are at home). Budget hotels will have empty rooms (and discounts) through the week because the people that stay there (weekend shoppers, concert goers, university students) come on there weekends and return home Sunday night.

Why Do Hotels Use Booking Sites Like HotelsCombined or

Here’s where it gets tricky for hotels. Yes, they want to fill some of those rooms. Even if a guest is only paying half the rack-rate it’s still a lot more than zero. At the same time hotels do not want to establish the practice of rewarding guests that wait the longest to book. Then everyone will book last minute expecting (and probably getting) discounted rates.

Hotels offer those rooms to hotel consolidators so that the price discounts don’t reflect directly on the hotel itself. A hotel guest that learns from another guest that they got a 50% discount by booking through would probably shrug their shoulders and try to remember the name of the website. But if that same guest learned that their friend simply booked through the hotel’s website and got a vastly cheaper rate, they’re likely to be upset and displeased with the inconsistent way the hotel charges customers.

As well, when guests book through 3rd party websites they often book other travel options (travel insurance, airfares, rental cars). These serve to obscure the true cost of the hotel room so a direct comparison to the rate another guest paid can’t easily be made.

What’s Included and Are There Extra Fees?

When you’re comparing different rates from different websites be sure to check what’s included in the quoted price. Are there extra fees and taxes?

Extra costs could include an of the following:

  • City, State, and Country taxes
  • City, State, and Country surcharges and other fees
  • Booking service fees (often disguised as hotel charges)
  • Hotel energy surcharge
  • Hotel resort fee
  • Spa or swimming pool fee
  • Phone or internet availability fee
  • Short stay surcharge or room cleaning fee
  • Parking
  • Credit card surcharge

Clearly it’s not easy to compare 2 rates with all these extras to consider. Taxes and booking fees are the biggest ones so if you’re feeling overwhelmed focus on those and you should be fine.

If you’re staying at a big resort it might be wise to check the hotel’s official website to look for extra fees that may be applied (e.g. a charge for using the spa).

Most websites have search options for the following specifics:

  • Swimming Pool (Indoor and Outdoor)
  • Spa
  • Fitness Center
  • Kitchenettes
  • Wi-fi
  • Parking
  • Location (and vicinity of the airport).
  • Airport Shuttle
  • Non-Smoking Rooms
  • Rooms or Facilities for Disabled Guests

Be sure to use these if you’re looking for a hotel with special features or characteristics as in my experience they’re accurate.

A final tip, is to check whether breakfast is included. When you arrive at the hotel you can even ask (with a tone of voice that expects that it is included). It’s often of little cost to the hotel to serve another buffet breakfast but this can be a huge savings for you especially over the course of a week or extended stay.

The Essentials for Finding and Booking Hotels Online:

This is the cheat sheet for booking hotels online.

  • Imporant! – Like airfares, hotel prices go down and go up. Unlike airfares, you can (usually) cancel hotel bookings and book a different hotel – or book the same hotel through a different website. So if you see a decent deal book it. And then keep looking for a better deal.
  • Important! – Verify directly with the hotel after booking through an online booking website (e.g. This is easy to do and well worth it. Occasionally, you’ll get an even better room than if you hadn’t contacted them. For example, if you send an email saying something like this, “I had just wanted to confirm my booking with your hotel. We’re a family of 5 so really need this to go smoothly. Thanks.” At the very least it lets the staff know you’ll need a bigger room. Maybe it won’t change anything but occasionally some of the time it will.
  • Important! – If you belong to a hotel loyalty program and want to get points by booking directly through the hotel you can still benefit by using 3rd party hotel websites. Simply look for deals for your chosen hotel then phone the hotel and state exactly the deal you found online. They’ll often offer you the same price on the same room.  (Though not always, as sometimes they have sold these hotel rooms as a block and are not looking to discount the remaining rooms they still have booking access to.)
  • Print your confirmation email (or have easy access to it on your phone) to show at reception. 9 times out of 10 you won’t need it but on occasion the hotel might not have received the reservation info and the confirmation will help.
  • If you’ve already decided on the datess of your hotel stay then you’re starting from a disadvantage. Sometimes you have to travel on specific dates but if you can swing it, try to book hotels before you’ve settled on your dates.
  • Check multiple sites before you book: the hotel’s website and at least 2 hotel booking sites.
  • If you’re looking for a specific hotel and see that it’s full on the nights you need then be sure to check a second or third website as this can simply mean that the first websites’ allocation of rooms has sold out, not that the entire hotel is booked full.
  • If possible contact hotels directly to ask for deals or enquire about special offers. This is a pain and it’s become less and less effective as the online deals have become so competitive but it’s still worth a try. It can be especially effective if you’re staying for a week or more. Hotel booking sites won’t be able to offer special deals based on length of stay.
  • The biggest risk with reserving through a hotel booking site isn’t that you’ll be scammed out of your money by an illegitimate business (all of the websites that I list in here are reputable) but that they will overbook your hotel and you’ll get an email a few weeks before your stay saying that your room is not available. This is very rare, but it does happen. Contacting hotels directly after you book (I’m mentioning this twice since it’s so important) makes this scenario much less likely.
  • If you book a non-refundable hotel (read the fine-print) you will never be able to cancel so be certain before you reserve it.
  • The more particulars matter to you (e.g. special room requests, king or queen sized bed, bathtub, space for cot) the less well booking sites will suit you. That said, many sites are very good at passing along your specific requests when you book, so be sure to include any necessary needs or preferences when you place the booking (there’s usually a form when you can add extra information).
  • For budget hotels it’s often better to book directly with the hotel. Usually they won’t be listed in the hotel booking sites anyways.
  • and are travel websites that accept PayPal – if that’s important for you.
  • If booking an apartment or family run B&B through a site (e.g. Venere) don’t assume that the same apartment will be payable using a credit card. Confusing I know. The initial credit card is used to reserve the room with Venere, but when you arrive (and need to pay) the owner might only accept cash.

What are The Best Hotel Websites for the most most popular destinations?

Here are direct links for some of my favorite places:

Hotels in Europe

Hotels in Asia

Hotels in the USA, Canada, and Mexico

Travel with Kids in San Francisco.

Looking for Hotels?

A guide to the best family hotels


  1. What site would you recommend for London? Are these sites you mention trustworthy, have you used them, can you cancel? Thanks!

    • For the best deals use this link: London Hotels

      (Or read this article I wrote on cheap hotels in London.)

      Yes, I trust all of these sites. That’s not to say they’re perfect but they are all legitimate companies that have been around for a while. I know that feeling you’re talking about though. I’ve booked with several different sites in Southeast Asia that were small and that were unknown to me and after you click the submit button you’re hoping it’s not a big scam. I’ve never had any bad luck with hotel booking sites however – even the small ones. I don’t think they’d be around long (or get any traffic) if they were scam sites. Of the ones I’ve listed above you’ll occasionally read a complaint about them on a travel forum or some other site but you have to remember how many hotels they book every day so you’re bound to have some complaints.

      The best advice I can give is after you book, call or email the hotel directly to ensure that they’ve got the booking and the correct details.

      For most of these sites, yes, you can cancel without any penalty but the details are in the fine print and can be different for each hotel even through the same website. So check the terms of cancellation for each individual booking. Many of the sites have a “best price” feature that they offer because most guests don’t bother to check back to see if rates have dropped. So if you take the trouble you can often get another discount over the original amount.

  2. Going to New York and need to book last minute. Could you recommend a website for late bookings? What are your thoughts on AirBnB?

  3. Going to Hong Kong. I usually book very early but have not been able to find good rates on the hotels I usually stay. Is this a busy year for Hong Kong?

    • Hong Kong just keeps getting busier and busier. It’s a very popular for mainland Chinese and as they get wealthier they travel, shop (and stay in hotels) more. Book early and in the future try to plan your trips (if possible) with Chinese holidays. Here’s a link to get started: hotels in Hong Kong.

      I hope that helps.

  4. Will be in Seattle in late June. Should I book now or wait to get last minute rates? Someone told me that June is a great time for good deals as the summer tourists haven’t arrived yet. Does this apply to SEattle?

    • There’s a grain of truth to that, June is not as crazy busy as July and August but it’s still very busy! Book as early as possible (check here: Seattle hotels). Good luck.

  5. Planning a eurail trip around Europe. Any advice for finding cheap hotels? Thanks for your time. (Will probably go to Amsterdam, France, Italy, and Barcelona)

    • A good trick for saving money with a Eurail pass is to book overnight train rides. It saves you the expense of a hotel for the night – and is really fun.

      Another one is to (depending on the type of Eurail pass you have) stay on the outskirts of a city, then early morning trip into the city, maybe stay 1 night, and then a late night departure the next evening to another smaller (and cheaper) town on your way to the next country.

      I probably wouldn’t book too much in advance for this type of trip. The more flexibility you have the funner a trip like this often is. And if you’ve booked all your hotels in advance then, of course, it’s hard to wake up in the morning and say, “Hey, what country should I take the train to today?”

      Have fun and good luck.

  6. Are pre-reservations necessary for traveling through Thailand? We will visit Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Koh Samui, and Phuket (maybe). If I don’t book what will we do if there are no rooms? Does this happen often?

    • I would make arrangements for a hotel for the first night or 2 in each destination but then hunt around for hotels once you’ve been in each spot for a few days. It’s a great way to find deals (and see the hotel you’ll be staying in). Though it’s getting harder and harder to beat the discounts you find online. All these hotel booking sites are so competitive it’s hard to beat them, but probably worth trying. is a great site for hotels in Thailand. It features guest reviews that are way more credible than the Tripadvisor ones. You have to have booked through the sie to be able to write a review, which isn’t foolproof – a hotel could still “book” through the site itself and then write the review but at least it’s some sort of check.

      For direct links use these: Bangkok hotels, Chiang Mai hotels, Phuket hotels, and Koh Samui.

      Good luck.

  7. When should I book hotels for Santorini? Planning a trip for the summer. Would also like to visit other islands if they are easy to get to. But not if they involve long ferry rides. Do ferries in Greece have sleeper units?

    • I would book as early as possible for July and August. You need not book in advance for October through May. June and September are a toss-up.

      Getting to other islands is easy from Santorini as it has lots of ferry connections. Yes, there are overnight ferries with sleeping cabins. But not to every island. To Athens and Rhodes for sure. But that might be it. The rest of the islands are too close to allow for a sleeper-ferry.

  8. This is helpful. Would you advise booking hotels in Goa before I arrive? I’m a single female traveler and not sure how that will go? Still sorting out which beach to stay at? Have you been? Thanks bunches.

    • I’ve been to India 3 times and love it there. I assume you’ll be arriving in Delhi or Mumbai first. If so I would book a hotel room for your first night or 2 there. Arriving in India for the first time is culture shock in the extreme so have a confirmed place can sure help.

      As for Goa, if you’re planning on staying at a beach town in a 2 or 3 star hotel (which is what I recommend) then you shouldn’t need to book in advance. Just show up and you’ll find a good place at a ridiculously cheap price. If you were planning on a resort or 4 or 5 star hotel then I would use Agoda or hotelscombined to book something as they’ll have far better rates than the hotels will offer themselves.

      My favorite beach towns are Benaulim and Palolem. Both have some great restaurants, a nice beach, and cool vibe.

      Good luck.

  9. Will London hotels be expensive for the Olympics. I’m assuming yes, but maybe there are laws against raising prices? Should I book those soon? Like others, thank you for your time.

    • They have definitely increased (and I don’t believe there are any laws prohibiting rate increases). Some newspapers have said prices have risen more than 400%. My personal belief is that hotels have overshot with their expectations of tourist numbers. I’m predicting some good last minute deals before the London Olympics. I would wait and see what is available about 2 months prior to Olympics. If they’re still high you might have to bite the bullet. Also look for private accommodations through

  10. Looking for info on Turkey. Any websites I should check out?

  11. We’re going on vacation in Cancun this summer. When would you start looking for hotels? When would you book? Thanks.

    • I’d start looking in April and book as soon as you find a good deal. What’s a good deal? Well, you’ll get a feel for it as you start to research the hotel scene there. In general for a resort destination like Cancun I would expect 2 to 3 months in advance would have the best deals. But if it’s a slow season then you could have the best rates right at the last minute. Waiting could be risky though.

  12. In San Francisco would you stay in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco or somewhere else? When’s the best time to visit?

    • Staying in San Francisco is the way to go. Berkeley and Oakland are great but most of the top notch attraction are all in San Francisco. The best time to visit is June or September. The weather is the nicest but the high season crowds haven’t arrived yet. February and March can be good times too as it’s often very quiet then but you can still get some decent weather.

  13. Any tips for Japan with 2 young kids (1 and 4)? Tokyo overnight first and last nights, 2 nights in hakone, 4 nights kyoto.. thanks!

    • Your 4 year old will likely love the train museum in Kyoto. Definitely get to a Japanese bath house. Be ready for lots of walking and up and down subway stairs.

  14. You discuss the best way to get cheap air fares and the best way to get great hotel deals, but you don’t discuss the pros and cons of booking these together. Do you think people should not book flights and hotels together to get the best deals?

    • That’s a great point Rosemarie. Thanks for asking about that. I know you can get some very good deals when you book flight and hotel together. I never book this way as I usually travel on a more independent and flexible itinerary. It’s all in the details so you just have to sort through them and compare prices. I would think that canceling a booked hotel when purchased in a flight/hotel combo might well be more difficult.

      • David,

        That’s a good point I didn’t think of–about canceling a booked hotel when purchased in a flight/hotel combo. Thanks for pointing that out. I will think about that when planning a long stay at a destination.



  15. Hi David,
    Would you have any suggestions for a web site for booking hotels (3 or 4 star) Santiago, Chile. I would travel from India in June end and it is an appprox 36 hours journey via Sao Paulo. So a good pre-booked room would be really mandatory to crash-in. The stay would be for 10-12 nights.

  16. Hi David,

    I’m taking a trip to China for a month from June – July. I booked a hotel in Beijing off of Expedia and after reading your article it made me pretty skeptical. Is Expedia reputable for Asian hotels? Also, I was planning on taking a train from Beijing to different parts of China before hitting Hong Kong. I’m hoping to sleep on the train – what are your thoughts on that? Finally, I have no accommodation in Hong Kong and I will be there in July so do you think I need to book early?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Vincent. I would have full confidence in your Expedia booking. I’m sure your reservation is fine. (That said, contacting hotels directly after a booking is a good idea.)

      Hong Kong is one city where I would definitely book in advance regardless of the time of the visit.

      I hope that helps. Good luck.

  17. Hello David,

    I’d love to know your opinion on booking hotels from mobile devices. I’ve uploaded a bunch of apps on my Android phone, but I’m not sure if that is trustworthy. What do you think?


  18. Hi David,

    Great post, I use Agoda and Hotelscombined all the time. Which booking sites would you say are untrustworthy, so that I know which ones to stay away from?

    • Hi Sofia.,, and are all great – so use them without worry. For the ones I’ve heard not so great things about I’ll drop you an email as I don’t want to libel myself :)


  19. We’re going to Paris in September and would like to stay in a flat. What are the best websites for booking apartments in Europe? Thank you.

  20. I’m taking my daughter to Europe with me in the fall and am wondering how far in advance I should book hotels. And advice? I’m mainly concerned about Italy as we’ll be staying with friends in Paris. Can you recommend a website for hotels in Venice and Rome?

    • I would book as soon as you’re sure about your itinerary. Book trains and flights first and then hotels second. Use these pages for hotels in Rome and Venice. Good luck.

  21. I am going to Greece in September with my husband and have not been able to find any affordable hotels. I though Greece was cheap! Help. You seem to know Greece well. What are the best websites for Greek hotels?

    We’ll be visiting Mykonos, Santorini, and Paros.


    • Greece has not been a cheap destination for 10 or 20 years. It got progressively more expensive through the 90′s and then took another big jump with the introduction of the Euro. That said, there are some good deals to be found and it offers better value for money than Southern France or the Italian coast.

      For your specific destinations use these pages:
      Hotels in Mykonos
      Hotels in Santorini
      Hotels in Paros

      Focus on Santorini first as that is the most unforgiving island for late bookers.

      Good luck.

  22. What is the best luxury hotel in Athens, Greece? This is a business trip and I’ll be meeting and greeting some clients in the lobby so it needs to be nice. Actually, nicer than nice. So what’s the best in your opinion?


    • I think everyone would agree that the Hotel Grande Bretagne is the classiest, most well regarded and exclusive hotel in Athens. Get a suite with a view of the Acropolis if you really want to go all out.

      For a 5 star hotel that specifically has business travelers in mind (with meeting rooms and conference suites) then go with the Hilton Athens.

      Good luck.

  23. Will be in Bangkok for 4 nights and would like a lovely place to stay with a nice pool – but (and I’m sure you hear this all the time) but not too expensive. Any ideas? Thank you for your time and your wonderful website. Very helpful.

    • The Amari Watergate Bangkok is one of my favorites in the city. Great outdoor pool, awesome restaurants, good location – and yes, not too expensive.

  24. I’ll be arriving on a evening flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. I’m not usually a five star gal but I think I’m going to splurge on something nice for the first 2 nights.

    What are your suggestions for a luxurious Tokyo hotel? And what website would you use for Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe to find 3 or 4 star hotels? (Preferably with good rates or deals.)

    Thank you so much.

    • A couple thoughts:

      If you’re looking for a luxury hotel that will make getting from Narita to your hotel fast and easy then I’d recommend the Four Seasons Hotel at Marunouchi. They offer a special service that will greet you at the airport and guide you all the way to your hotel. And even if you don’t, the hotel is very close to Tokyo station and its direct train connection to the airport.

      If getting to or from the airport doesn’t concern you (or if you’re just jumping in a taxi anyways) then the best hotel in Tokyo is the Park Hyatt. (If you’ve seen Lost in Translation it’s the hotel that Bill Murray stays at.) It’s amazing. Love the restaurants around there too, though it does lack easy access to the subway (the hotel does offer a free shuttle to the Shinjuku station).

      One last idea. To leave the city behind and pamper yourself with Japanese hospitality in a park-like setting then go for the
      Four Seasons Hotel at Chinzan-so.

      Hope that helps. Enjoy and Good luck.

  25. I’ll be visiting Seattle in October and would like to visit Pike Place market. Problem is I have trouble walking long distances. What hotels are close to the market and are they any good? Thank you.

    • Inn at the Market is a fantastic hotel and located right in the center of Pike Place Market. The delicious Steelhead Diner is literally right across the street. Hope that helps.

  26. What hotel in San Francisco has a nice swimming pool? We’re not picky about the location as we’ll have a rental car but definitely need a pool (the bigger the better) for the kids.

    Prefer something mid-range, not super expensive.


    • The Best Western Corte Madera Inn has a wonderful pool. It’s not in the city – just across the Golden Gate bridge in Corte Madera – but if you don’t mind a 15 minute drive into the city it’s a great option. Free breakfast (admittedly not great), huge pool, grassy lawn, nice jacuzzi. A short walk from an upscale mall and grocery store. Plus, when it’s cold and foggy in the city it can be warm and beautiful out in Marin.

      Good luck.

  27. What’s a good hotel at London Heathrow? It will be 2 adults and a 6 year old child.


    • The Hilton London Heathrow is great. – A covered walkway connects with terminal 4 of Heathrow (and from there a free express train to other terminals). The hotel has a great pool and several restaurants (and many more within the terminal).

      Hope that helps.

  28. What part of Athens would you stay in? And could you recommend a good hotel? I guess 4 or 5 stars though not really picky. Location is more important than quality but would like to have both.

    Thank you for your time.

    • The best neighborhood in Athens for visitors is the Plaka district. It can be a bit on the touristy side but it’s very pedestrian friendly, has lots of good restaurants, is close to the Acropolis and other key attractions, and has the highest concentration of hotels.

      A great hotel in the Plaka is the Electra Palace Hotel.

      Hope that helps.

  29. Would you book hotels in advance for the Greek Islands in September?

    • It depends the island. It’s starting to slow down by September but the most popular islands are still pretty busy. It also depends what you’re looking for and how many people you’re traveling with. A solo backpacker happy with a roof over their head will be fine on almost any island in September (as long as you don’t leave it until 8pm at night to start looking for a place). But a family of 4 – or 2 couples that want to stay at the same hotel would be wise to book at least a few days in advance.

      All that said, I would book in advance for Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, and Chania in Crete. As long as I arrived early in the day, islands such as Naxos, Paros, Milos, Ios, Lesvos, or Samos (or any islands less popular than those) should be ok to arrive without anything pre-booked.

      A good compromise is to book the first night in advance online, and then use your first day searching around town for that perfect hotel or a great deal.

      Good luck.

  30. We have 3 nights that we’re able to get out of Bangkok and hit the beach. Can you recommend the best island to get to for a weekend visit – and a hotel that will make us think we’re in paradise. Thanks.

    • Koh Samui is the quickest island to get to from Bangkok. It’s a one hour flight and the airport is within minutes of the beach. Choeng Mon and Bophut are my 2 favorite beaches on Samui. But if you’re looking for an awesome hotel in a tranquil, idyllic setting I’d have to say the Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui Thailand is the top choice.

      Good luck.

  31. Could you recommend a website for booking hotels in Puerto Vallarta? What section of town would you stay in to be close to the beach?


    • For hotels use

      The Zona Hotelera (just north of downtown PV) and the area south of the Rio Cuale, around Los Muertos beach (within the city) have the best beaches. Many other small towns north and south of PV also have great beaches.

  32. Hi, i’m flying from Dublin to Chicago at beginning of August, spending a few days there and then onwards to Denver, San Francisco, LA, Vegas and Toronto. As this is probably peak season, should I be looking to book hotels asap or would a month or two in advance suffice?

    • Hi Martin. No guarantees but I would wait. Hotels are not actively managing those months yet (they’re on auto-pilot with standard rack-rates). When it gets closer, say 2 to 4 months, they start taking a closer look and discounting some rooms if need be. If there was a particular hotel you wanted to stay in, then yes, I’d book that in advance. But if you’re simply looking for the best rates then wait until the spring.

      Good luck.

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