1. QUIKBOOK: We've loved Quikbook for a long time now, especially for New York City hotels, because they offer great rates at properties you want to stay at. Plus, your credit card isn't charged at the time of booking, there are no booking fees and the site has reasonable cancellation policies. The site also does Secret Sales where you don't know the name of the hotel until after you book the further- discounted rate as well as Invitation-Only sales which also help save a few more bucks if you book within a specific time window.
Real-Life Example: After we recommended Quikbook to a friend looking for a Times Square hotel around $200 a night, she ended up booking one of their Secret Sales for just under $200 and was more than happy with her stay at Hotel Mela.
2. HOTELTONIGHT: What were we doing before HotelTonight? Probably paying way more than we needed to for last-minute hotel stays. If you still haven't tried HotelTonight, the smartphone app works like this--every day at noon, discounted rates are released for that night. The app gives you three different hotel options to choose from such as hip, solid or luxe as well as least one or two bonus options. And you can now lock in that rate for more than just one night. Yes, your credit card is charged in full and no, the stays aren't refundable or cancellable but it's definitely a heck of a lot cheaper than booking anywhere else. HotelTonight has all the major U.S. cities covered and is now making its way across Europe.
Real-Life Example: We recently nabbed a room at the scene of "The Hangover" aka Caesars Palace in Vegas for just $91 on a Friday night.
3. POINTSHOUND: PointsHound is new to the hotel booking game but with a chance to earn airline miles/points every time you book a hotel room, it seems like a no-brainer. And in some cases, you can earn points for both a hotel program and your frequent flier account. Once you make five bookings through PointsHound, you start to earn even more points or miles for every hotel stay. Read all about the ins and outs of PointsHound here.
Real-Life Example: We used Virgin America's Elevate points to book our flight to NYC and now we're about to click and book a hotel room on PointsHound to get some of those points back.
4. TINGO: Tingo is another newcomer to the booking game, having arrived about a year ago. But the site doesn't just offer the lowest rate available, it will actually give you money back if the room rate drops before your stay. Tingo also helps guests get room upgrades or better-positioned rooms where possible too. If you're like us and love the sporting aspect of booking a hotel, then Tingo is for you.
Real-Life Example: We used Tingo to book a two-night stay at the New York, New York casino hotel in Vegas. We didn't get any money back nor did we get a room upgrade but we did get the lowest rate for that property. And that helped us sleep a little better at night.
5. THE HOTEL'S OWN WEBSITE: Now, this might surprise you but booking through the hotel's own website is another great way to get not just the best available rate but also the best treatment. When times are lean, hotels rely on third-partying booking sites like the ones listed above to help cast a wider net of potential guests. But when times are good, like they are now, hotels don't like those low rates the booking sites offer up nor do they like paying that pesky commission fee. So the hotel might put a guest who booked through a third-party site in a lesser room while they go out and get top dollar from someone else. (Not all hotels do this of course, but it does happen.)
Yet nowadays, most hotels offer a Best Rate Guarantee, so if you find a rate lower than the one you booked, you can let the hotel know and they will adjust your reservation. Then you won't have to worry about being stuck in the worst room in the house. Still, if you like the wider scope of a booking site, try out RoomKey.com which aggregates all the hotel options from big chains like Marriott, InterContinental Hotel Group , Hyatt, Hilton, Wyndham and Choice Hotels, who also helped create the site.
Real-Life Example: A friend found a lower rate on one of the sites listed above for a recent hotel stay in Santa Monica, Calif. She called up the hotel and let them know and they honored the lower rate instead. Done and done.
Got a hotel booking site you love? Share it with us in comments below!