You want to book your next hotel room at the best possible rate.
Should you make a reservation directly with the hotel? Or should you book your hotel room through a third-party website?
That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.
Can You Book Cheaper Hotel Rates With a Hotel Chain or a Third-Party Site?
A Clark listener says he finds better rates booking directly with a hotel chain rather than with a third-party travel site. What does Clark think about that?
That’s the question the listener posed on the March 27 podcast episode.
Asked David in Utah: “Clark, I have heard you say many times that you consistently get cheaper hotel rates through discount websites like Priceline, and you have discouraged booking hotels directly through the hotel’s website.
“I see the opposite. Most of the time I see the cheapest rates directly through the hotel’s website, especially if you sign up for the hotel chain’s free memberships. Am I doing something right or wrong?”
Clark says that unfortunately, the way to get the cheapest price on a hotel room varies by company, date and location. But David is on track with his process.
“You’re doing something right. It’s working for you, David,” Clark says.
How Clark Searches for and Books the Cheapest Hotel Rooms
Clark owned multiple travel agencies earlier in his life. He may be even more of an expert in travel now, as he spends so much of his life traveling around the United States and the world.
He also is famously obsessed with finding deals, whether it’s on a polo shirt that he wears during podcast recordings or on a hotel room.
It makes sense, then, to quiz Clark on the process he uses to hunt for deals on hotel rooms.
1. Check the Third-Party Travel Sites
“I do my surveying first on third-party websites like Priceline. I’m looking to see what’s out there. And I’m looking to see what kind of deals there are,” Clark says.
2. Look Through Reviews To Figure Out the Quality of the Hotel
“Then I start cross-referencing by checking out the quality of the hotel. Because as I’ve shared with you, the brand name on the building doesn’t mean much anymore,” Clark says.
3. Visit the Hotel’s Website and Compare Prices
At this point, Clark checks the price on the hotel chain’s site.
4. Dig for Deals Everywhere Possible
“I’m a member of every hotel program on earth. I’m a member of hotel programs that I don’t even remember when I stayed at that hotel chain,” Clark says.
“I’ll look and see what they have. And I’ll check: What do they have for AAA members? And I’m old, so what do they have for senior citizens? I’ll try all these things.”
5. Re-Shop Your Rates
“I re-shop my travel bookings before I go. Because so often for car rentals, probably 90% of the time, the rates drop closer to the rental,” Clark says.
“For hotels, it’s kind of a 50/50 shot that you’ll find a better deal close to travel than what you already have. But if it’s the other 50% — it’s not cheaper or it’s more expensive — you already have what you have that’s cancelable.”
The Verdict: How Do You Secure the Cheapest Hotel Prices?
Back to David’s original question. Do you find the cheapest hotel prices through third-party sites or by booking directly, especially with the benefit of a hotel loyalty program?
Despite all his hard work, Clark typically finds better prices on third-party travel sites.
“But then again, I just stayed at a Marriott. I got my best deal with Marriott on a refundable room rate. So it does vary,” Clark says.
“That’s why what you do checking both and what I do checking every possible place known to humankind is what will ultimately save you money. And I know a lot of people don’t have the patience to do the constant shopping that I do.”
Finding the cheapest hotel prices involves some old-fashioned effort. You may find the best rate directly through a hotel. Or you may find the best rate by booking through a third-party website.
The only way to know for sure, Clark says, is to look everywhere for potential deals and comparison shop.
Where do you find the best hotel deals? Tell us how you save on hotels in our Clark.com Community!