Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Don't overpay for your overnight stay

Does anyone ever pay full price for a hotel room? • If you do, you shouldn't. • Savvy travelers have been using for years to bid for rooms that hotels would rather heavily discount than leave unfilled. •, a Canadian startup, put the process in reverse, letting hotels bid for your business once you've already booked with a competitor, assuming you're up for canceling your reservation and starting over.

One thing is certain: You'll always find the best deals closer to the time of travel as hotels look for any way possible to put heads in beds.

For those willing to wait until the last minute, there's HotelTonight, a free app for the iPhone, iPad and Android market. Think of it as the digital equivalent of walking up to the front desk at noon and seeing what kind of a deal you can strike.

The app displays discounts for same-day stays at a rotating selection of hotels in 37 locations, from Seattle and Portland to San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and Boston.

HotelTonight names the hotels, labels them as "hip," "solid" or "basic" and shows the price next to a crossed-out rate offered by hotels for comparable rooms. The discounted rate is available at noon or after for that night and sometimes longer.

Priceline, which lets you name your own price for hotels but doesn't disclose the hotel name until after your bid is accepted and credit card charged, also offers same-day deals as well as alerts on winning bids accepted within seven days of departure.

It's a crapshoot if you do it old school and phone hotels directly to ask if they offer last-minute bargains.

Some won't

The Maxwell Hotel, near the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offices in Seattle, quoted a best-available rate of $139 on its website and on the phone for a same-day reservation. HotelTonight had rooms for $99, a rate the reservation agent said the hotel could not match.

The Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas quoted $199 on its website and by phone. No luck there, either, getting a reservation agent to match HotelTonight's rate of $159. Instead, she offered me a room for $151 at the Encore, its sister hotel next door.

But some will

I did better calling the Villa Florence hotel near Union Square in San Francisco. The agent offered me a best-available rate of $129 versus $135 on the website. When I mentioned that HotelTonight had rooms for $119, he agreed to match it.

Room Mate Grace, a boutique hotel in Midtown Manhattan, agreed not only to match HotelTonight's rate of $159 (versus $229 on its website and $189 quoted on the phone), but also offered an upgrade to a deluxe room that normally sells for $259.

Bottom line: There are lots of ways to score a better-than-expected rate on a hotel room. Prepaying too far in advance probably isn't one of them.

And a caveat: Hotel websites usually don't include taxes and fees in their initial price displays. Be prepared for the small print when you go to book.

Carol Pucci, Seattle Times

Check out, where you bid in the dark for rates, where they'll bid for your business

HotelTonight, an app that rotates deals like Groupon

Are you a globetrotter?

Take this quiz to see.

1. Do you know your passport number by heart?

2. Do you know the names of the airport parking lot drivers?

3. Do the TSA people know you — and not because you tried to smuggle a kitchen knife through security last week?

4. Do you have a suitcase in the closet that is pretty much always packed?

5. Do you have euros or yen or pesos or rubles in your wallet?

6. Have you achieved airline elite status for at least four years in a row?

7. Do you know the airport codes for obscure airports around the world, like Hanoi or Edinburgh?

8. Do you have enough hotel points to take your family to Hawaii?

9. Do front-desk managers at certain hotels welcome you like a long-lost relative?

10. Can you say "thank you" in multiple languages even if you don't speak them otherwise?

Quiz scoring

(No peeking.)

• If you answered yes to 7 to 10 of the questions, you are a god of the road and sky (even if your family can't remember your face).

• If you answered yes to 3 to 6 questions, you are a rugged traveler who knows the ropes — and where the best parking spots are at the airport.

• If you answered yes to 0 to 2 questions, you need to get out and travel more.

Source: McClatchy

Don't overpay for your overnight stay 04/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. How Rays' Chris Archer is branching out on Twitter

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RHP Chris Archer has made a name for himself on the mound. And at a time when some athletes work to steer clear of any issue with a tint of controversy for fear it could damage their brand, Archer has used that platform to weigh in on some topical social, political and news events.

    Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer (22) leans on the railing of the dugout during the All-Star game at Marlins Park in Miami, Fla. on Tuesday, July 11, 2017. WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  2. Candidates for governor get emotional talking about their gay siblings


    Occasionally in today's hyper-rehearsed and contrived world of political campaigns one witnesses moments that are so honest and real, we can't help but understand we're not just listening to another politician give his or her stump speech; We're listening to a human being who understands personal pain at least as well …

    Chris King talking to reporters in Tallahassee
  3. Southern heritage groups sue to keep Confederate monument at old Tampa courthouse

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Groups that say they support Southern heritage filed a lawsuit late Friday trying to halt the removal of a Confederate statue from downtown Tampa.

    Workers place boards around a Confederate monument on Hillsborough County property in Tampa on Thursday, August 17, 2017. It took 24 hours to raise private funds in order to move the statue from its current location.
  4. Bucs mull options at right tackle as Dotson awaits MRI


    Right tackle Demar Dotson, the Bucs' most experienced offensive lineman, will undergo an MRI on his injured groin Saturday, three weeks before the season opener.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneer Demar Dotson, offensive tackle, brought his coffee and breakfast to One Buc Place, 7/31/15, as he reported to training camp.
  5. For starters: Rays vs. Mariners, with another new look


    Having lost 11 of their last 14 games and dropping to a season-worst four games under .500 at 60-64, the Rays continue to search for ways to get out of their extended offensive slump.

    And with the M's starting LHP Ariel Miranda today, that means another new look to the lineup, which includes having struggling …