Travel tip: Finding the best last minute hotel deals website or app

Finding the best last minute hotel deals website or app, Miami, Florida
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures ©Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Do last minute hotel deals websites always have the best deal? Sure they say they do, but does one really have the best deal?

Recently a last minute adjustment to our itinerary caused us to find ourselves in need of a hotel for two nights in Miami, so I quickly began searching for the best deal on a hotel. I set some criteria and then shopped five hotel discount sites to compare rates. Here’s how it went…

The comparison criteria

For our two nights in Miami, we set a maximum of $160 per night base rate that we were willing to pay for a hotel in the Miami Beach area. Knowing the devil is also in the details, in addition to the night rate, I checked out parking, resort fees, and any other fees or freebies.

The hotel discount websites and apps

I’d heard quite a bit about HotelTonight, but never used them, so I decided to select five hotels on HotelTonight and check their rates against other discount hotel websites. For each hotel, I compared the rates directly on the hotel’s website and also on Expedia, Hipmunk, JetSetter, Priceline and RocketMiles. While on the other websites, I also briefly looked to see if they had any offers that looked like a better deal than the first five.

Expedia and Priceline are fairly well known and I generally drop by their sites when shopping for rooms. Hipmunk was founded in 2010 and compares posted prices on multiple travel websites.

After being purchased by TripAdvisor in 2013, Jetsetter transformed from an invitation-only community to a discount travel website. Jetsetter also features limited-time sales that last 5-14 days until sold out in addition to their regular listings.

Rocketmiles is owned by Priceline, offers airline rewards with bookings, and can be a great way to pick up significant points. Last November, we spent three days in Puerto Rico at a luxury resort, picking up 16,000 Rapid Rewards points in the process – enough to put us over the top for a companion pass for this year and also enough points for a free long distance flight on Southwest.

Are there more last minute hotel deals website or apps? Absolutely – and I have a long list at the bottom of this article – but, for time’s sake, when shopping for a hotel, I generally check three to five sites to compare rates and go with those results.

HotelTonight

HotelTonight is an app for iOS and Android (you can’t book on their desktop website) that connects people that need a hotel room within the next week to hotels offering discounts on unsold rooms. Scrolling through the Miami Beach offerings on the HotelTonight app on my iPhone, using the criteria outlined above, the best deals appeared to be:

Riviera South Beach

  • HotelTonight price: $143, showing a discount from $223 per night
  • The good and the bad: Not on the beach, has a rooftop pool. Stay includes beach access, use of beach chairs, free WiFi, nightly cocktails, free airport shuttle
  • Parking fee: No self-parking, valet parking $35 per night
  • Resort fee: $18 per night
  • The price comparison: Rate shown on Expedia $156, Hipmunk $216, Not listed on JetSetter, Not on Priceline, Rocketmiles $163 + 3,000 RapidReward points
  • Rate is shown on the Riviera South Beach website for the same dates: $146.70 per night

Best deal for Riviera South Beach: HotelTonight at $143 – total of $196 per night with parking and resort fee.

The Hall South Beach

  • HotelTonight price: $149, showing a discount from $234 per night
  • The good and the bad: One block from the ocean, has a pool with cabanas. Rate includes the use of house bikes, fitness center, free wifi. The hotel is under renovation with a construction noise warning.
  • Parking fee: No self-parking, valet parking $40 per night
  • Resort fee: $22.80 per night
  • The price comparison: Rate shown on Expedia $189, Hipmunk $189, JetSetter $189, Priceline $189, Not on Rocketmiles
  • Rate is shown directly on the Hall South Beach website for the same dates: $179 best available, $143 with AAA discount

Best deal for The Hall South Beach: The Hall website with AAA discount at $143 – total of $205.80 per night with parking and resort fee

Villa Italia Hotel

  • HotelTonight price: $139, showing a discount from $271 per night
  • The good and the bad: Not on the beach, free WiFi, breakfast buffet included
  • Parking Fee: No self-parking, valet parking $25 per night
  • Resort fee: $12.95 per night
  • The price comparison: Rate shown on Hipmunk $236, JetSetter $255, Not on Priceline, Expedia or RocketMiles
  • Rate is shown on Villa Italia Hotel website for dates shown: $231.50 for a room with twin beds, which showed it was the last room available for our dates (the hotel is very small)

Best deal for Villa Italia Hotel: HotelTonight – total of $176.95 per night with parking and resort fee.

Aloft South Beach

  • HotelTonight price: $157, showing a discount from $269 per night
  • The good and the bad: .1 mile from Miami Beach, free WiFi
  • Parking fee: No self-parking, valet parking $42 per night
  • Resort fee: $23 per night
  • The price comparison: Rate shown on Expedia $161, Hipmunk $152, Not on JetSetter, Priceline $152,
  • Rate is shown on Aloft South Beach website for dates shown: $143 prepaid rate

Best deal for Aloft South Beach: The Aloft website at $143 with a total of $208 including parking and resort fee.

Hilton Cabana Miami Beach

  • HotelTonight price: $154 showing discount from $239 per night
  • The good and the bad: Direct beach access, pool, fitness center, free WiFi, North Beach vs South Beach
  • Parking fee: No self-parking, valet parking $40 per night
  • Resort fee: $25 per night
  • The price comparison: Rate shown on Expedia $159, Hipmunk $159, Not on JetSetter, Priceline $159,
  • Rate is shown on Hilton website for dates shown: $159, $155 for HHonors members, $131 with AAA discount

Best deal for Hilton Cabana Miami Beach: The Hilton website at $131 AAA rate for a total of $196 including parking and resort fee

Which hotel did we choose?

From an overall financial standpoint, the Villa Italia was the lowest priced at $177 all in. However, we didn’t really want a room with twin beds and because the hotel is so small, we took them at their word with the information they had published on their own website that a twin room was all that was left. The Hall is a lovely hotel in a great location near the Fontainebleau, but the construction noise warning was a bit concerning.

Hilton Cabana, Miami Beach, Florida
Hilton Cabana, Miami Beach, Florida
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures ©Chasing Light Media

The other three all came in from $196-$208. Having stayed in South Beach numerous times, we decided on the Hilton Cabana in North Beach at $196. The only one of the five located directly on the ocean, we decided we would prefer to return each evening to the quieter North Beach setting. The Hilton Cabana opened in 2014 and has a contemporary, upscale style with a great bar overlooking the pool and ocean.

Additionally, because I booked direct on the Hilton website, we received HHonors points for our stay and with HHonors gold status, free breakfast each morning at the hotel.

Miami Beach, Florida
Miami Beach, Florida
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures ©Chasing Light Media

So, does it always pay to book directly on the hotel website?

Absolutely not. But, what the comparison does show is…

  • You always need to compare properties with a fully-loaded cost (i.e., parking, resort fees, WiFi fees, etc.)
  • The “regular price” shown on many discount websites and apps may be the price they charged once when a convention or major event came to town and filled up every room in the city – and, tends to be exaggerated.
  • Searching for deals for hotels in cities can be quite a bit easier than in smaller towns since many times small, independent hotels aren’t listed. An example – when looking for a full month of hotels in Europe last summer during the Tour de France, the selection in small, remote locations was limited or non-existent.
  • Several hotel brands have recently begun advertising that you can receive the best deal by booking direct and they do appear to be offering more competitive pricing on their own websites.

Discount hotel websites and apps

While not an all-inclusive list – many of the discount hotel websites and apps. The list is in alphabetical order and we have no affiliation with any of them.

Agoda
BookingBuddy
BookIt
CheapTickets
DealBase
Expedia
Hipmunk
Hotel Hunters
HotelTonight
Hotels.com
HotelsCombined
Hotwire
Jetsetter
Kayak
Last Minute Travel
LuxuryLink
Orbitz
Priceline
Rocketmiles
Trivago
Travelocity
TravelZoo
Trivago


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Cool Adventures

Photographers Kim and Greg Hull travel the world full time looking for cool adventures. CoolAdventures.com is the site for exploring amazing places to go and things to do across the world. From mountains to cities to beaches, join us as we roam the globe in pursuit of the best experiences the world has to offer.