You say they direct you to “priceline scammers” but Priceline is a very legitimate website, and one you can actually probably save the most on if you name your price for a hotel room. People getting 4-star hotel rooms in major cities for $80-100 a night is not uncommon.
I was a bit confused as well. Although I use the travel websites to shop, I don’t book with them. Although the prices are good, they charge a fee and are often times not refundable or charge an cancellation fee. What I do is shop for the best price of the hotels in the area I want to be in using the travel sites, then I choose a hotel and go to their reservation webpage. Many hotels will match the travel site’s price plus give you an additional 5 to 15% of on top of that with no fee and a normal cancellation policy.
Although Priceline is great for the gambler type person who doesn’t mind getting burned once in a while with a hotel that it not up to their expectations, I can’t do it anymore because my wife and kids will taunt me if I miss the mark.
If you want to go really low-budget, I’ve had success in the past with hostels.com and hostelz.com - not only are some of the hostels amazing, but not all of the “hostels” are hostels either - there are B&Bs, guesthouses and small hotels on them as well.
The above mentioned websites are how you do it now. Many people unfamiliar with how the hotel industries evolved want to look up individual hotels and book though more traditional methods, you tend to pay more going that route.
This is how I do it as well. Use the travel websites to see what is in the area and the general prices and then book directly at the hotel’s website. I don’t think this has ever been more expensive for me, and a normal cancellation policy is a plus.
While the other sites can give you a baseline, you can usually get a better price than all of them if you just go to the hotel website. I just recently got a room for $100 a night from the hotel that was at least $20 more anywhere else. NB: I’m a AAA member, which usually helps.
It also helps to book early.
My father swears that the best solution is to just show up at a hotel and ask for a room. If it’s too high, start to walk away. You’d be surprised how low they’ll go if it looks like the room might go empty (though, obviously, this doesn’t work if the hotel is booked).
Always check tripadvisor.com before booking a room and make sure you’re seeing recent reviews. Don’t think just because it’s a nationwide chain that it’s going to be the same as other ones you’ve stayed at.
I’ve never booked a room through tripadvisor.com though (I think that’s a very recently added feature). I just go to the official websites of several different motels and check the prices like that…tabbed browsing helps so you can switch back and forth to compare rates and reviews.
Yeah, this method has always worked for me while travelling the interstate. Get tired and decide to stop driving for the day, pull off at almost any exit, find the nearest motel and be sure to ask for the “executive rate”. It’s about 10% off the regular rate.
Just a note about the “best available” rate for hotels: They generally do not beat what “surprise me” booking sites like Hotwire can offer you. If you don’t care which particular chain you get shacked up at, these sites let you specify a general vicinity and a star level and give you a price based on that… often much lower than the hotel’s website.
But not always. So I usually combine Hotwire and Kayak to get the best of both worlds.
I check out hotels on tripadvisor (heck, I even post reviews… I’ve done the Burlington VT Hilton and the Coeur d’Alene Resort in Idaho among others) but never book through it. As others have mentioned, I check out what there is on the travel sites then go to the chain/hotel site to see if I can beat them. But once in a while the travel site will have a great deal and I’ll go for ir specially if I’m travelling on my own dime (Og bless expense reimbursements). (I will also book at the travel site things like air tickets if, for instance, my best itinerary involves different non-codesharing airlines.)
One thing that’s sometimes annoying about hotel bookings at the travel sites (Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) is that at times the best deals on the site will actually be pre-buy offers rather than reservations. I’m not too sanguine about those, I like paying for services when I get them.