The ten secrets of getting a bargain hotel deal

The best sites, tips and tricks for slashing your hotel bill

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Hotel

Whenever you stay in a hotel, you will have been quoted a fixed price, and been given the impression that this was the going rate. However, whatever you paid for your room, there's a strong chance it will be very different to the sums paid by the people in the identical rooms either side.

It may seem unfair, but the art is to make sure you're paying the least.

1. Check the comparison sites
There are a number of big sites including booking.com, hotels.com and lastminute.com, which bring together offers from a large number of hotels. There are also sites like Trivago.co.uk, which compares offers from the comparison sites as well as the hotels. Each site will have its bargains, and you can get up to 40% off the cost of a stay by shopping around.

2. Check the hotel sites too
The comparison sites are a brilliant shortcut to shopping around, but it's worth checking the websites of the big chains too, as many of them will run special offers that are only available from their site. This may be cut-price deals, or free nights if you stay for a particular length of time.

3. Join the loyalty club
If a hotel runs a loyalty scheme (like Hilton and Marriott), then make sure you sign up. Not only does this mean you will be offered deals that are reserved for loyalty card members (which in some cases can mean another 10% off the price), but you also increase your chances of being upgraded when you book in.

4. Consider a secret hotel
A number of sites offer this, including lastminute.com and hotwire.com. The sites will publish details of the star rating of a hotel, the services on offer, and the approximate location, and will offer a massive reduction - of as much as 35%.

You will only discover the name of the hotel after you have paid and booked. The idea is that this allows the hotels to sell off rooms for less - so they don't have empty rooms - without having to advertise the fact they are offering bargains.

5. Get cashback
A number of the biggest cashback websites offer cashback on hotel bookings. One of the most generous at the moment is the 4% cashback Topcashback.co.uk is offering on hotel bookings through Booking.com. However, they also offer deals from hotel chains and travel agents, so always check for cashback before you book.

6. Check the apps
Some of the cashback sites have specific deals only available to users of its apps, and so do some travel sites - like lastminute.com. You can snap up a real bargain if you're prepared to spend some time on your phone.

7. Time your booking carefully
You'll need to decide whether to book as early as possible or as late as you can. If you book months in advance you will usually get a better deal. If you start looking months in advance, then you can time your booking to coincide with a sale or special offer too.

If you miss this slot, then you could get an even better deal by leaving your booking to the very last minute. If you call and book on the day itself you are likely to get the best deal. Of course, the downside is that if the hotel has hit its occupancy targets, prices will remain high.

8. Time your trip carefully
If you travel out of peak times, you can save significantly. If, for example you are prepared to take a city break in the summer, you will be competing with fewer business travellers and fewer tourists (as many will be off to the seaside). In cities like London, where there's no real off-peak, it may be a case of choosing your area carefully. If, for example, you are travelling at the weekend, then if you are prepared to stay in the City or Canary Wharf, you're likely to get a better deal than staying in the West End.

9. Bid for a hotel room
If you have some time to set aside for booking a deal, you can use Priceline.com to bid on a room. You just enter the area you want to stay in, the number of stars you want for your money, and how much you are willing to pay, and the site will put it to the hotels.

It will tell you if you are bidding significantly lower than previous successful bids - but don't let that put you off, because some people have secured as much as 75% off. The catch is that you only have one bid per email address per day, so if you lowball them too many times, you may have to come back the next day.

10. Offer to test hotels
This is one for the dedicated bargain-hunter. You can read specialist hotel news sites like hotel news resource, and look for news of hotel openings. Then call and ask if they want you to test a room for free - or a very reduced rate. Some hotels will offer this in the first few weeks of operation to ensure they are getting everything right for their paying guests. Of course, as with any advanced bargain-hunting, you need to be prepared for a refusal.

But what do you think? Have you used these tricks? And what kind of a bargain did you get? Let us know in the comments.

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