In the listings, Ive tried to give you an idea of the kind of deals that may be available at particular hotels: which ones have the best discounted packages, which ones offer AAA and other discounts, which ones allow kids to stay with Mom and Dad for free, and so on.
But theres no way of knowing what the offers will be when youre booking, so also consider these general tips:Choose your season carefully.
Room rates can vary dramatically--by hundreds of dollars in some cases - depending on what time of year you visit.
Winter, from January to March, is best for bargains, with summer (especially July and Aug) second-best.
Fall is the busiest and most expensive season after Christmas.
All bets are off at Christmas - expect to pay top dollar for everything - but Thanksgiving can be great for bargain hunters.
Go uptown or downtown.
The advantages of a Midtown location are highly overrated, especially when saving money is your object.
The subway can whisk you anywhere you want to go in minutes; even if you stay on the Upper East Side, you can be at the ferry launch for the Statue of Liberty in about a half hour.
Youll get the best value for your money by staying outside the Theater District, in the residential neighborhoods where real New Yorkers live, like Greenwich Village,
Chelsea, Murray Hill, or--my absolute favorite for space-seekers and bargain hunters--the Upper West Side.
These are the neighborhoods where real New Yorkers hang out, too, so you wont want for good eats, nightlife, or Big Apple bustle.
Or hoof it to the Financial District for weekend stays.
Visit over a weekend. If your trip includes a weekend, you might be able to save big bucks.
Business hotels tend to empty out, and rooms that go for $300 or more Monday through Thursday can drop dramatically, as low as $150 or less, once the midlevel execs have headed home.
These deals are especially prevalent in the Financial District, but theyre often available in tourist-friendly Midtown, too. Look in the Travel section of the Sunday New York Times for some of the best weekend deals.
Theyre also often advertised on the hotels Web site. Or just ask when you call.
Hotels often offer "Internet only" deals that can save you 10% to 20% over what youd pay if you booked over the telephone.
Also, hotels often advertise all of their available deals on their Web sites, so you dont have to rely on a reservation agent to fill you in.
Whats more, some of the discount reservations agencies have sites that allow you to book online. And consider joining the Playbill Online Theater Club (www.playbillclub.com), a free service that offers some excellent members-only rates at select city hotels in addition to discounts on theater tickets. Investigate reservation services. These outfits usually work as consolidators, buying up or reserving rooms in bulk, and then dealing them out to customers at a profit.
They do garner special deals that range from 10% to 50% off; but remember, these discounts apply to rack rates, inflated prices that people rarely end up paying. Youre probably better off dealing directly with a hotel, but if you dont like bargaining, this is certainly a viable option. Most of them offer online reservation services as well.
A few of the more reputable providers are Accommodations Express (tel. 800/906-4685; www.accommodationsxpress.com) and Hotel Reservations Network (tel. 800/715-7666; www.180096HOTEL.com).
Another good bet is Hotel ConXions (tel. 800/522-9991 or 212/840-8686; www.hotelconxions.com), a consolidator that handles hotels in only a few select destinations, including New York.
Not only can they check pricing and availability on a number of hotels with just one phone call, they can also save you up to 60% off rack rates.
Also, because Hotel ConXions has guaranteed room blocks in select properties, they can often get you into a hotel thats otherwise sold out.
Important tip: Never just rely on a reservations service.
Do a little homework; compare the rack rates to the discounted rates being offered by the service to see what kind of deal theyre offering--that way youll know if youre actually being offered a substantial savings, or if theyve just gussied up the rack rates to make their offer sound like a deal. If youre being offered a stay in a hotel I havent recommended, do more research to learn about it, especially if it isnt a reliable chain name like Holiday Inn or Hyatt. Its not a deal if you end up at a dump.
Buy a money-saving package deal.
A travel package that gets your plane tickets and your hotel stay for one price may just be the best bargain of all. In some cases, youll get airfare, accommodations, transportation to and from the airport, plus extras--maybe an afternoon sightseeing tour, or restaurant and shopping discount coupons--for less than the hotel alone would have cost had you booked it yourself.