I like to research a lot and sometimes I probably spend a little too much time depending on the trip. But I will provide tips for everyone because lets face it, we all have different ideas of what makes a good hotel.
When to Book?
Many might think booking the farthest out will get you the best deal, but this isn't always the case. I will say that you need to book as soon as you know your plans and dates. You can always go back and re book if you got a rate that allows such. I use a couple guidelines. If my trip is farther out and plans may change or I want to make sure I get the best deal, I book a rate that can be canceled. Its not going to be worth saving that $20-30 for a pre paid, no cancel option when plans change and you're out hundreds of dollars possibly.If I know I will be there and plans wont change then use any option. I have re booked several times on some trips when rates are always changing. This seems to work well for me in Vegas a lot.
Secondly, if the hotel stay is for a night when there is a big event in town (Such as game or concert) I like to book early. You are competing with others that are going to be in town for the same event.
Finally, always remember that in most cases you will always be able to get a hotel and usually some kind of deal even last minute(see below!)
Booking Quickly, last minute, & still getting great deal:
I am guessing most fall into this category. If you're like me, sometimes something comes up, you need a hotel, you want a deal, and still want a nice hotel. There are plenty of options:
Quickest- This falls under that 5-10 minute booking and you have some sites that make it easy
This is a smart phone only app that gives you hotel deals for tonight only, one night stays in hundreds of cities at a low rate. Once you download the app, click on sign up with promo code, enter RFOJTIK, and you start off with a $25 credit. Each day at 12PM (time zone hotel is in) the deals go up. They are first come, first served or book right at noon and snag a deal!
This is the most simple method. Simply click on your city and dates and how nice of a hotel you want(3 star, 4 star, etc) and Hotwire gives you the price and amenities.You wont know the name until you pay, but I have never been disappointed. Hotwire works great even if booking far away too. If you have some time you can go to betterbidding.com and actually see not only what hotels Hotwire uses, but with research you can usually narrow down(to within 1-3 hotels) which hotel you will get. Hotwire breaks down into which neighborhoods or section of the city as well. Just keep in mind what Hotwire might consider "downtown" you might not. If you ever want help researching just let me know. I have usedbetterbidding.com several times to do this.
Priceline has some great options. They have the most well known option which is similar to Hotwire in that you pick city, dates, and stars. However with Priceline, you can bid on what price you want to pay for your hotel. You cant figure out exactly which hotel but againbetterbidding.com gives lots of tips on how to bid, how to get free bids, and what hotels are being used by Priceline. They also have started the express deals which are a lit of hotel you get the name of with a lower price.
Other quick options?
Just Google the website or hotel and the word promo code. Usually the search engines will get to you blogs like mine or common discount sight like retail me not.
Call the hotel and ask about rates. Sometimes you can get a deal since they know how many rooms they have. This can work day of as well.
Short story time. This doesn't always work. One time a hotel in Seaside, OR( where we really wanted to stay since it works well for us with a toddler) wouldn't quote me a lower price kept telling me $179 was the lowest they could go. Well, risking it we drove all the way there. I walked in and was given a rate of $129 for the same room I was trying to get! I don't highly recommend this way, but it can work. I knew the place had rooms, it wasn't a weekend, and I risked it. I figured worse case we would go somewhere else or just book online once in town.
Other discounts people don't think about or forget to ask about?
(AAA, Government agency, military, Costco member)
These don't always work for last minute, but check out Groupon getaways, Living Social escapes, Amazon Local, or Travel Zoo.
I know it can be annoying to get the emails, but signing up for various hotel programs can save you money and get you a better room. Usually being a member of a plan will get you a nicer room or even an upgrade if the hotel isn't busy. I have even been upgraded at a hotel where I am a member but using a Groupon!
Being loyal can still get you rewarded. Hotel rewards are getting less and less but programs can give you deals if you book with one company. I like Expedia rewards (point based) and Hotels.com (1 night free for every 10). I like them over specific hotel programs because I can book any brand and get rewarded still.
Hopefully this has reminded you of some options to try out. As always, I am available for contact if you need help researching or any suggestions. I have posted links below to some of my affiliates that I use to save money. With hotels, I am not loyal to one hotel, but a nice hotel where I want to stay who will give me the best deal.
As always, please book through one of my links!