BOSTON (CBS) – If you still have not planned your summer vacation, you may be able to save big on your hotel room if you are willing to be a bit flexible.
Online booking sites used to be the go-to for savvy consumers looking for a deal. But according to Consumers’ Checkbook editor Kevin Brasler, those bargains are not as good as they used to be.
“We found that over 85% of the time you’re going to get that same rate over and over again from these different websites because they are all owned by the same company,” he said.
We found a hotel in New York’s Union Square neighborhood that was advertised at $249 on the hotel website. The same price was offered by Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Kayak, Orbitz and Travelocity.
But according to Brasler, there is a way to save money if you book what is known as mystery deals. For example, Hotwire.com offered a rate of $170 in that same New York City neighborhood, but you don’t know exactly what hotel you are going to get until after you book.
The site guarantees it will be one of four hotels listed on the search page. We checked out the ratings of all four hotels and they were all pretty good. But those four hotels vary from one minute to the next, as can the price. You also have to be careful of a resort fee, which can fluctuate.
During one search we noticed it was $24, but a few minutes later during a different search of the same area and night, the resort fee jumped to $40.
Priceline offers a similar mystery deal but does not guarantee the hotel, it just shows you the type of hotel you could get.
These deals worked out well for one woman we spoke to who had just flown into Boston from Seattle. “I actually just booked,” she told WBZ-TV. “I’m pretty sure it’s the Westin.”
We also had a producer who booked a mystery deal though Hotwire for a Friday night stay in Boston. She was guaranteed to have one of four Back Bay hotels and ended up with the Park Plaza at $75 off the rate listed on the hotel’s website.
The one thing to keep in mind is that these rates are not refundable. Once you book it, there’s no canceling.