How to find the cheapest hotel rates
Travel at the best time
The dates of your travel have the most critical impact on the price you pay. Some basic research can make a big difference here, because many hotels still use tourist 'seasons' as benchmarks to underpin their pricing. Some are quite obvious: in Venice, the beginning of November sees a steep change in rates.
But they are not always what you might expect. For city hotels autumn is often high season, but even within that season there are variations.
September is an excellent time to visit Paris, and it is usually possible to find good rates and plenty of availability. But leave it until October and the annual series of commercial events, including the art fair and fashion weeks, mean that all the good hotels are booked solid and have been for months.
Try a few hotel websites in your chosen destination and before long you will find one that still quotes seasonal prices -- and you will be able to work out when the best times for bargain-hunting are.
- Book at the best time
While the biggest bargains go to late bookers, you can still get a decent deal if you book three months or more in advance. And, more to the point, you can be sure of getting into a better hotel or B&B.
Many of the best -- especially the smaller ones -- do not operate fluid pricing. They don't need to, because demand for their rooms is consistently high.
Bargain-hunters might find this off-putting, as it means you can never get a discount. But look at it another way -- it means, by definition, that you are guaranteed to get good value. You know you will be getting an excellent room that you can book well in advance, knowing that you could not have got a better price.
- Booking late
The good news is that specialist websites have made it virtually impossible for you not to find a room at a discounted rate in most major destinations, no matter how late you book. The questions are: will you get a good hotel and will it be in a good location? That is the risk you run.
- Check the extras
Breakfast can represent 10 to 20pc of the cost of the room. Make sure you know what is and isn't included.
- Look at what tour operators are offering
Some hotels -- especially those in long-haul beach destinations -- promote their special offers through tour operators instead of, or as well as, on their websites.
So it's worth checking the price of a package holiday, as well as looking at room rates.