Check the hotel website

Many hotel websites will offer seasonal offers or last-minute discounts (Photo courtesy of Fielding Hotel, London)
Many hotel websites will offer seasonal offers or last-minute discounts

Hotel sites often feature special sales and promotions you won't find on the booking engines and aggregators

Not only will a hotel's own website (usually) give you the rack rates (the top going prices for each type of room, often broken down by season)—which will allow you to comparison-shop prices better at the booking engines—but it will also feature sales and promotions found nowhere else.

You can find some amazing bargains, especially in the off-season, offering up to half off the rack rates.

In fact, in order to find a screen grab to illustrate this page, I started by going to the websites of four random hotels recommended on the Reid's List: London page, hoping to find at least one that had a "special offer" section. Of those initial four, three were offering some kind of direct discounts—I didn't need to dig any further.

But was it worthwhile? Yes. The lovely burgundy image of special spring rates pictured above came from the Fielding Hotel, where the rack rates for a double are normally £140 on Sundays, so this £96 deal is, indeed, a savings. I also checked, and the third-party booking websites were charging £118 for a double on spring Sundays—less than the rack rate, but more than the hotel website's sale price—so in this case, going directly to the hotel would definitely have paid off.

One caveat: Some hotels do put their rack rates online, but many only offer dynamic pricing—you only get to see the costs once you search your dates. I immediately mistrust any hotel that isn't willing to post its official rack rates on its own website, the way they must do in the rooms or at reception. What are they hiding?

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