(WMC TV) - Finding a nice hotel room at a great rate takes some work.
Consumer Reports' Tod Marks said these days, a good place to start is the hotel's website.
"Hotels have taken back the night by imposing best-rate guarantees," said Marks. "That is, find an advertised price lower anywhere else, and we'll match it plus give you a bonus."
Book at the hotel site, then keep looking online for a cheaper rate. Marks said it also pays to look for special deals on hotel sites -- deals like "Up to 20% Off" and "Complimentary Parking."
"Now if you really want to save and get the rock-bottom, drop-dead low rate, do what I do," teased Marks. "Use Hotwire, Priceline's 'Name Your Own Price' program or use Travelocity's 'Top Secret Hotels' (to shop a cheaper rate). They don't reveal the name of the hotel until after you've committed to purchasing that room for a given night."
Marks said he booked a room through Hotwire at what turned out to be The James Chicago, a high-end hotel in the Windy City.
The rate: $133 a night.
The best rate that the hotel's website or any other site offered was $234.
While budget hotels are the cheapest place to stay, Consumer Reports said some are no bargain. Its survey of almost 23,000 subscribers found America's Best Value Inn among the worst.
A much better bet, according to the magazine's survey, is top-rated Microtel Inn and Suites. Consumer Reports said rooms there can go for as little as $59. "They offer decent upkeep, they're clean, and check-in, most of the time, it's a snap," Marks said.
Consumer Reports recommended Hotel Tonight, a free smart phone app for the iPhone and Android, when you're stuck having to book a hotel the same night. Hotel Tonight shares lodging deals in 30 cities. You can start checking rates at noon on the day you need to book in any of those cities.