Save On Last-Minute Bookings With Hotel Tonight

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While I’m doing my best to avoid it, there are increasing odds I might need a hotel in London on Thursday night.

As we’ve discussed quite a bit recently, London has myriad options for points hotels, though none of them are particularly great. I’ve enjoyed the more-boutique properties I’ve stayed at in London, and am always up for trying a new one, even on a short stay.

So I’ve been trolling around on Hotel Tonight, which is a great app for last-minute hotel bookings (they only search availability within seven days). It occurred to me that while I’ve used the service in the past, I don’t think we’ve ever discussed it here on OMAAT, and thought it might be helpful to some of you.

Why Hotel Tonight?

What I like about the Hotel Tonight app in general is that it’s super fast, and offers a more curated collection of properties. As someone who has been known to spend hours deliberating over the “most perfect hotel option ever,” there’s something refreshing about going from knowing you need a hotel to booking one of a dozen selections in moments.

The general premise of Hotel Tonight is that properties with high vacancies negotiate with Hotel Tonight for screentime in exchange for reduced rates. You’ll see some chain hotels on here (particularly near airports, airport hotel markets being what they are), but for the most part the offerings seem to include more boutique and independent hotels.

For example, the Town Hall Hotel, (which I had previously never heard of, but thanks to commenter Imperator am dying to try), shows up near the top of the list, with a rate of $249. That’s a bit steep for a one-night hotel stay, but it is London, and it’s a property I’ve heard good things about, so let’s use that as an example.

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Besides, booking hotels via an app is apparently a pretty hip thing to do, and the Town Hall is decidedly hip.

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Typically, I recommend people book directly on the hotel website — most brands offer some kind of Best Rate Guarantee nowadays, so there’s not always an advantage to using a third-party service. In the case of boutique properties that isn’t always the case, and there’s not always time to go through that paperwork process at the last-minute.

Interestingly though, the Town Hall doesn’t show availability at all on their website, much less at the Hotel Tonight rate:

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For comparison purposes, I also checked hotels.com (which is typically my go-to if I’m considering a third-party booking), though their rate was higher:

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And just to be thorough, I looked at booking.com, as I’ve had luck there in the past as well, but their rate was outrageous:

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So Hotel Tonight is clearly the better option here, which has generally been my experience when it comes to last-minute rates.

Price Tracking

One of the things I quite like about Hotel Tonight is the option of tracking rates for a given date and location. Left to my own devices I’ll either obsessively refresh websites or flat out forget, so it’s nice to get a notification if rates drop:

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Or even just a reminder that everything is holding steady:

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Using Hotel Tonight

This is exclusively available on mobile (or if you’re using a mobile emulator on your desktop), so you’ll have to install the app to get started.

From there, the signup process is pretty simple (and you can add promocode TFUNK13 to save $25 on your next booking).

Enter the dates of your trip and the destination city, or Hotel Tonight will also provide recommendations for nearby cities:

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You can also search using the map icon — this lets you pull up a map of the area, so you can either see where the suggested hotels are in comparison to the other, or search a specific part of town.

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If I wanted to stay closer to Heathrow, for example, I could move the map over that way and redo the search.

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Labels rather than stars

If you’ve ever been a victim of the European “Oh, we have a restaurant, so we’ll give ourselves another star even though it’s rarely open and the food is horrible” system of star ratings, you might appreciate the approach Hotel Tonight has taken.

Rather than a system of stars, each hotel has a label to tell you more about what kind of property you’re looking at:

  • Luxe | An upscale hotel with stellar service, lavish amenities and serous comfort, for when your feelin’ swanky.
  • Hip | A stylish, sometimes quirky hot spot that’s as popular with in-the-know locals as it is with travelers.
  • Solid | A comfortable, reliable hotel with all the gotta-have-em amenities.
  • Basic | A modest hotel with limited extras, perfect for when you need a place to lay your head.
  • Charming | A hotel, B&B or guest house that’s quaint, intimate and delightful.
  • Crashpad | A budget hostel or inn without many amenities, for those nights you don’t need ’em.
  • High Roller | An over-the-top, tricked-out suite or penthouse for VIPs and high rollers.

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And you also get a quick summary of all the amenities and features, which can sometimes be tricky to find on independent websites:

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All rates are non-refundable

If you’re following the premise of the app, and booking something for tonight then this probably doesn’t matter much, but it’s worth pointing out.

However, even Hotel Tonight offers a Best Rate Guarantee, so if you do find a cheaper rate an hour later they’ll make it up to you with credits for your next stay:

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Again, probably not the best option for chain properties, but you can save a lot of money here on independent hotels.

Do these stays qualify for points/elite benefits/etc.?

Nope. But the best rates are typically for non-chain hotels anyway.

Will you actually save money?

It depends.

I definitely have, and if you like the idea of booking upscale, quirky, or charming hotels closer to arrival, you likely will too.

If you’re just looking for any hotel at the cheapest possible price, and don’t care much about the caliber of the property, there are probably ways to save even more.

Bottom line

While the bulk of my hotel stays go to chain hotels with elite benefits and points-earning options, I do have the occasional stay where an independent hotel is the better choice. Hotel Tonight is great in those cases, and I find the rates to be much lower than the competition when booking last minute.

If you’re someone who doesn’t care about hotel status, and is interested in trying new properties, Hotel Tonight is absolutely worth trying.

Has anyone used Hotel Tonight? What did you think?

If you don’t already have an account with Hotel Tonight, you can receive a $25 credit when you sign up using the promo code TFUNK13We receive a credit as well, which we of course appreciate. Feel free to share your code and thoughts below if you’re a current user!

Comments

  1. Hi Tiffany, great post as always!
    As someone who has worked at a Front Desk at a hotel, if you call the hotel and tell them you see the Hotels Tonight rate online, they are more than likely to honor it. Hotel Tonight will charge hotels in the 10% – 20% commission so it is much smarter for them to take the room at the same rate over the phone and avoid those fees. No paperwork needed, just a quick chat with the Manager on Duty and they should honor it. That way you get the points/benefits and are more likely to get better treatment since you booked directly with them.

  2. I’m not a fan of HT. Used it a couple times. Last time was in Brooklyn once and HT made it seem like the hotel was really hip when in reality it was basically a glorified $300 a night Holiday Inn Express. On top of that, the hotel put us in a room right off the lobby. All in all, after that experience and after using HT a couple times, I realized that hotels know that the rates for HT are non-refundable so there is nothing you can do if the property isn’t up to par or if they give you the worst room in the hotel. Unless you really need a room and have no other options, I would stay away from HotelsTonight but that is just my 2 cents.

  3. Definitely stay at the Town Hall Hotel, it’s in my neighbourhood and very chic – the cocktail bar (Peg & Patriot) is ace and the staff are generally very pleasant, as a visitor to the public areas at least. Plus tons of drinking and dining options in that area, including a relatively new row of places in the railway arches beside Bethnal Green tube.

    And back on the main topic, this app is probably best for exactly the boutique type places Tiffany mentions, where you can find some value (but its never going to be a rock-bottom price).

  4. I just got an email with some promotion that HT has with B6. You can earn B6 miles on bookings made on HT. Might be targeted but worth checking

  5. i’ve only used HT in emergency circumstances (such as having an airbnb host cancel on me last minute). it’s convenient then because the app has your data pre-loaded and thus makes booking a roughly 30 second process. but i agree with the above posters that the real value of the app is finding good rates at boutiques that you can then just call and book directly.

  6. I have used HT for those “want to get away” moments, to get out of town to a nearby destination, like Napa from San Francisco: It’s a nice way to get a good deal. I agree that the independent, quirky hotels are the best!

  7. My agent Rita was amazing. She embodied the energy Hotel Tonight wants to project out to the masses… Cool, Calm, and on top of it!!

    Rita made the process easy and clear. And I swear she just might be my adopted sister lol

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