i recently discovered several apps that will help you get a deal on last-minute hotel reservations — Hotel Tonight (btw, if you sign up using that link, you can get $25 off your first booking and i’ll get $25 credit as well [transparency!]) and old hotel-deal-standby Priceline (as in, The Negotiator, as am i, as am i).
of course, there are some restrictions–you have to book the day of your first night, and you don’t know what hotels will be available and at what price until a certain point in the day, in the case of Hotel Tonight, noon in the time zone of the hotel (not sure about Priceline, but i think it’s likely similar since i didn’t see any Tonight-only deals when i checked early this morning).
i’ve included some screenshots of both applications below. Hotel Tonight is definitely the snazzier-looking app and has more deals than Priceline — thirteen today in the NYC area compared to three Tonight-only (though, of course, Priceline also has regular and name-your-own-price rooms available through their app as well). Priceline has the benefit of user reviews, whereas Hotel Tonight may give TripAdvisor ratings in the description of the hotel but often does not, so you may have to do some switching between this and TripAdvisor or Yelp or whatever you use for informed decisions, although they claim they listen to user feedback and remove hotels that aren’t up to snuff.
UPDATE (2012-01-29): a Hotel Tonight customer service rep replied (a personal reply to your post-stay survey!) that they are working on adding TripAdvisor ratings to the majority of their hotels.
i can’t say for sure which app i like better, though i know i will definitely be comparison shopping with both. by the way, i booked at the Affinia. i didn’t give much thought to the Priceline hotels this time since i had a $25 sign-up credit with Hotel Tonight to use.
UPDATE: not only did i score a deal with Hotel Tonight, but i got upgraded at check-in for no reason at all* (as far as i know) to a suite! not like i know what to do with two bathrooms and two closets and a kitchen, but i like it!
* i have a feeling the staff is well-trained (she noticed i booked via Hotel Tonight), and she wanted to nab me as a repeat customer and thus gave me the upgrade. they even hint at the power of the “Impulse Book” as a marketing tool on their site:
We only sell rooms for the same day, so once those Impulse Bookers are introduced to your hotel they’ll book directly through you in the future. HotelTonight will never compete with you for their business again.