Living on the Road

Hotel Tonight


Last-minute hotel room details

Last year my wife and I found ourselves in Scottsdale, Arizona without a hotel room. We came across a hotel that looked good (The Saguaro) and asked the front desk attendant about the price: $279 a night. I was about to pull out my wallet when I remembered that a week earlier I’d installed a free app called Hotel Tonight, so I pulled out my smartphone instead to see if I could get a better deal. It was quite a bit better: $89 a night. I showed the price to the attendant and asked if he could match that price. He said no.

I stepped aside from the counter and made the reservation through Hotel Tonight. Then my wife and I sat in the lobby for a few minutes sipping water drawn from a chilled glass urn with citrus slices floating in it. I returned to the desk and told the clerk I had a reservation. He looked at my driver’s license, tapped something on his terminal and smiled as he handed me my room key. I don’t think he remembered me.

I’ve used Hotel Tonight several times since then. It offers its service in most major cities. Here’s the deal: you can’t use the app until noon local time, so if you are in a city during a busy time of the year, the pickings will be slim. Also, the deals in traditionally expensive cities like New York or San Francisco are not nearly as good as places like Portland or Reno. Still, if you ever end up in a city without a room, it’s worth checking Hotel Tonight to see if you can save a few bucks.

-- Mark Frauenfelder 07/10/13