default logo

Save on your next hotel booking with these helpful online services

When Amy Eisen originally booked a week’s vacation to celebrate her 30th birthday, she had a hotel bill of $3,749.

But Eisen booked his room at the all-inclusive Sanctuary Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic through a new travel site, Tingo.com. Every day, the booking site automatically checked to see if the hotel had lowered its price for the nights Eisen was staying there. Eventually the price fell. Tingo canceled Eisen’s original reservation and rebooked it at the new, lower rate. His savings: $1,874.

“I wouldn’t have considered that you could keep asking: are there any discounts? Are there any discounts? Are there any discounts?” said the psychologist from Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. “I don’t think most people would. You book and think it’s the best price I can get.”

Tingo is one of a growing number of services that aim to save travelers money on their hotel stays.

The site, which is owned by TripAdvisor, says travelers have a 20% chance of getting at least some of the money back. The typical discount is $50, depending on the company, but sometimes travelers like Eisen get a lot more in return.

The site requires room prepayment and focuses on fully refundable rates. Sometimes cheaper rooms may be available through other booking channels, but they usually cannot be cancelled.

Tingo isn’t the only site changing the way travelers book. A host of new apps are offering deep discounts on hotel stays, especially last-minute bookings.

HotelTonight offers discounted rooms at over 2,000 hotels through its iPhone and Android apps. Every day at noon local time, a rooming list is released for each of the 80 cities it currently serves. There are luxury hotels, trendy hotels and those classified as “solid” or “basic”.

The savings can be substantial.

A recent search revealed the Bryant Park Hotel in New York. HotelTonight said a room there should cost $345 but was offering it for $239. (A check of the hotel’s website showed that $285 was the lowest rate.) Two hours later, the room was offered for $199. Two hours later, HotelTonight was out of rooms at the Bryant Park Hotel.

A search of Chicago revealed the Wyndham Blake Hotel. HotelTonight said the going rate was $179 but it could offer a room for $129. The cheapest standard rate on the hotel’s website was $169; a room could be reserved for $152 for AAA members.

HotelTonight users can’t request a room type, so it’s best used for solo travelers or couples. And while many hotels offer spacious non-smoking rooms, nothing is guaranteed by using the app.

Travelers can reserve rooms until 2 a.m., which is perfect for unforeseen travel delays or for those who may have partied too hard and just don’t want to go home.

Rooms can be booked for up to five nights, but check-in must occur on the day of booking.

But as with all travel deals, be sure to shop around. Rates are not always cheaper on these apps. For example, HotelTonight was offering a room at Caesars Atlantic City for $49 a night, down from the regular rate of $62 for that night. However, a quick visit to the hotel’s website found a $39 room thanks to an online promotion that automatically applied to all bookings. As a bonus, guests could choose a smoking or non-smoking room.

Priceline – one of the first discount hotel sites – has also embarked on the same-day hotel sales frenzy.

Through its iPhone and Android apps and mobile site, Priceline now offers “tonight-only deals.” The service covers approximately 150 cities and towns in the United States on a typical evening. It only applied to three and four star hotels. Offers start posting at 11 a.m. and rooms can be reserved until 11 p.m. local time, or until they are sold out.

Unlike Priceline’s traditional service where travelers bid on unknown hotels, Newyork0 hotel names are displayed with descriptions, maps, photos and guest satisfaction scores.

A recent search of a room in Memphis turned up the Madison Hotel. Priceline said the room should cost $242 but was listing it for $184. The hotel website was charging $242.

Sometimes deals through Priceline’s mobile app Tonight Only specials are even better than those on Priceline’s website.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel in New Orleans recently had a room for $229 on its own website and on Priceline.com. However, Priceline’s mobile app had a $183 Tonight Only deal.

According to Priceline, Thursday night stays tend to yield the biggest savings, while Sunday is the most popular check-in night among last-minute mobile bookings.