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(National) June 17, 2004 - In hotels you can pay vastly different prices for the same kind of room on the same night, depending on how you go about booking a reservation.
Consumer Reports' Tod Marks is an expert at getting great hotel deals. He and his team checked rates for 100 rooms in five cities to find the best way to get the best price, "Hotel rates are like airline rates. They vary all the time. You've got to call around. You've got to visit the Web sites."
Tod says checking travel Web sites has gotten easier with new services like TravelAxe.com, which searches many travel sites at once to help you compare prices, "In this instance we have a room priced $335, $253 and $149, and it's all the same place."
But, Consumer Reports had the best luck dealing with the hotel itself, "Three out of four times we got the best deal going to the hotel's own Web site or calling the hotel directly."
But, Tod says don't make the mistake many people do and take the first price you're given. It pays to negotiate. Tell them, "That's a little out of my budget, but I really like your hotel chain." He says Consumer Reports got a better deal when it negotiated 44 percent of the time.
Consumer Reports says to get the best rate make your reservation as far in advance as possible, but call back a few days before departure to see if the rate has gone down. You can usually cancel without penalty 24 to 72 hours before arrival and rebook if something better has turned up.