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How to Get the Best Hotel Room Rate

Graph illustrating how to get the best hotel room rate.

Photo: Oliver Munday

What you pay for your hotel depends on when—and how—you book. We tested seven methods (from online travel agents and aggregators to the hotels’ own reservation channels) on five different U.S. hotels over a six-week period. The lessons learned? Always shop around, and waiting is (usually) worth it.

Four Seasons Resort: The Biltmore Santa Barbara

6 Weeks Out: $525 *
5 Weeks: $525
4 Weeks: $425
3 Weeks: $425
2 Weeks: $425
Final Price: $395

The Takeaway: True to its word, Four Seasons matched rates on third-party websites—and even beat them. Three weeks out, the hotel yielded a rate $70 lower than anywhere else.

Westin Copley Place Boston

6 Weeks Out: $359
5 Weeks: $359
4 Weeks: $359
3 Weeks: $359
2 Weeks: $359
Final Price: $260

The Takeaway: After five weeks of near-consistent rates everywhere, all third-party sites dropped by $100—a full $70 less than what the hotels’ toll-free reservation numbers offered.

JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa Ko Olina, Oahu

6 Weeks Out: $318
5 Weeks: $299
4 Weeks: $299
3 Weeks: $299
2 Weeks: $299
Final Price: $299

The Takeaway: Six weeks out, Expedia and Kayak offered $80 less than all other channels. But we’re glad we waited. A week later, prices dropped to $299 across the board.

Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park

6 Weeks Out: $239
5 Weeks: $239
4 Weeks: $239
3 Weeks: $239
2 Weeks: $291
Final Price: $239

The Takeaway: Aggregators had the better rates in the early weeks, but in the end (after a brief spike), prices on all channels ended up here.

Hotel Monaco Portland

6 Weeks Out: $199
5 Weeks: $189
4 Weeks: $169
3 Weeks: $169
2 Weeks: $149
Final Price: $149

The Takeaway: Rates dropped in small increments across all booking outlets, eventually landing at $50 less than the original price.

* Lowest available price (across all booking channels). Booking methods included Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, and Hotels.com, as well as the hotel’s own website, toll-free number, and front desk. Figures indicate average occupancy and room rates from Feb. 2011 through Jan. 2012, versus Feb. 2010 through Jan. 2011. All data provided by Smith Travel Research.

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