Travel App Review: Hotel Tonight

Hotels Tonight Review

How well does Hotel Tonight deliver on this promise?

What is it? Hotel Tonight is a free smartphone app available on both iPhone and Android platforms that promises great deals on same-day hotel bookings.

Who does it work for? The last-minute traveler wanting an easy option for booking accommodations for a single night at a discount.

Who should look elsewhere? The traveler seeking the best value, or lowest price, on stays of any length.

How does it work? Beginning at 9:00 a.m. each day, Hotel Tonight provides a listing of unsold rooms available at participating hotels in dozens of cities around the world. The app includes a map showing each hotel’s location and provides useful details on each booking. Hotel Tonight helpfully disclosed prices for things like parking and wifi that we couldn’t find even on certain hotel’s websites. You can purchase rooms directly through the Hotel Tonight app but only for single night bookings.

Our Take: We were originally quite excited by the idea of Hotel Tonight. After all, empty rooms are a huge missed profit opportunity for hotels. Theoretically, they should be willing to fill those rooms for little more than the cost of servicing an additional guest (somewhere around the cost of maid service and wear and tear on the facilities). An app that matches guests looking for last-minute accommodations with empty rooms is the kind of thing that should unlock huge savings for travelers and provide some additional revenues for hotels too.

Hotel Tonight Atlanta

From our studio apartment rental in Midtown Atlanta we checked Hotel Tonight and found only more expensive rooms in the area.

To test that theory we compared Hotel Tonight same-day pricing in four different cities we visited with the prices for rooms we researched and booked several days or weeks in advance. As is typical for us, we explored and booked various types of accommodations ranging from hostels to apartment rentals. In some cities we were looking for the cheapest rooms available. In others, like Washington D.C., we were willing to pay more to be where the action is. It goes without saying that we choose each room to suit our specific needs and that other travelers might prefer something different.

Our overall conclusion is that while Hotel Tonight offers some great deals off list price for traditional hotels, those deals skew heavily toward higher end rooms and, even then, are somewhat hit or miss. Some days we saw deep discounts, other days not so much. Some days Hotel Tonight offered the best rate, other days competing websites like Hotels.com had better prices on the same rooms.

To us, that inconsistency undermines both reasons to use the Hotel Tonight app. An app that restricts bookings to a single night and only after 9:00 a.m. on the same day the way Hotel Tonight does really has to deliver some incredible prices. Why else would we bother? And if it doesn’t do that, then I have to research other sites for better prices, which undermines the convenience of using a single app to grab discounted rates.

Hotel Tonight Asheville

Hotel Tonight’s map feature is great. Unfortunately it showed us we had just one option anywhere in downtown Asheville and it was significantly more expensive than the room we just checked in to.

The bigger problem we had with Hotel Tonight is that the rooms we researched and booked ahead were always better values than the best deals we found on the smartphone app. We never paid more for the rooms we booked ahead, and sometimes paid a third less than comparable locations offered by Hotel Tonight.

In Atlanta, for example, we booked a hip studio apartment that was walking distance to the High Museum of Art with a full kitchen, free parking, and free wifi for $88.35 per night including taxes. We checked Hotel Tonight on several different days during our stay, and the best rate for a hotel in our location was the Double Tree Downtown for $87 per night.

However, if we wanted to use wifi at the Double Tree that would run us another $15 per day. If we also wanted to park a car, which we did, that would cost another $35 per day. Both of those extra charges brought the total nightly cost to $137. So the best deal we found in Atlanta over several days of searching from Hotel Tonight would have cost us 55% more than the price we actually paid.

A comparison of Hotel Tonight prices and what we booked ahead in four U.S. cities

Hotel Tonight Rate Comparison Chart

And even then, our cheaper apartment came equipped with a full kitchen, something the Double Tree room lacked. That feature allowed us to save even more money by preparing most meals ourselves.

We had similar experiences in each of the three other cities we visited. The day we arrived in Asheville the only downtown room available through Hotel Tonight cost 60% more than what we actually paid at the nearby Renaissance.

In D.C., Hotel Tonight had a sweet deal on a room at the posh Palomar in Dupont Circle. We could have booked there for $148 per night instead of the $227 listed on their website. And that discounted rate wasn’t too much more than the $133 we paid on our AirBnB apartment rental located right next door (although we did have a full kitchen in our pad).

Of course Hotel Tonight only guarantees that rate for a single night’s stay. We enjoyed D.C. for five nights and slept easier knowing we wouldn’t have our rate hiked the following morning.

The promise of Hotel Tonight is that by waiting until the very last minute travelers can snap up incredible deals from hotels desperate to fill rooms. In our experience, that’s not what it delivers.

If you’re really allergic to planning ahead and don’t particularly care whether that discounted room is really the best value for your money, Hotel Tonight offers a convenient portal for booking a room. With a little more research, though, we were able to grab better spaces at better prices than anything we found through Hotel Tonight.

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25 Comments on “Travel App Review: Hotel Tonight”

  1. Betty Londergan February 21, 2014 at 10:26 am #

    This is so informative — and I really admire the way you’ve made it so clear that planning ahead is sometimes a far better (and cheaper) way to go! Kudos!

    Like

    • Brian February 22, 2014 at 9:15 am #

      Hi Betty,
      With so much information out there and so many “life hacking” options available now it seems to us that if you want to grab the best deal on just about everything a little advanced planning is really necessary. We had high hopes that Hotel Tonight would be an exception to that (and it really should be) but from everything we’ve seen, it just isn’t.

      Like

  2. Jason February 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    Some good points, but in cities where hotel rooms are abundant (and no particular event is going on) you can really score big with this app. I recently used it in Vegas and got some crazy good deals at places like the Cosmopolitan and Palazzo. You can stay in vegas for $20/night on the strip at some places!

    You also missed a big point – huge bonuses! Right now they’re giving away:

    FRUGAL – use this code when you sign up for $25/£15/€20

    Then, go into Credits, Redeem a Promo Code and enter:

    BOOKEUROPE – £15/€20 and some report getting $25
    MOMENTS – £15/€20

    So as you can see, taking this into account, plus some killer deals in other cities, you can score pretty well with HT.

    Like

    • Brian February 21, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Yeah, still not seeing it.

      Just checked rates for Vegas and the best price “On the Strip” on Hotel Tonight came up as $65 for a room at the LVH-Las Vegas Hotel out near some golf course. Meanwhile Hotels.com has a $55 room for next Friday at Hooters Casino right across from the MGM Grand.

      Yeah, Hooters is weak but it actually gets better reviews on Tripadvisor than the LVH, is in a much better location, and it’s $10 cheaper. And if I really wanted to stay at LVH, I can book a room there on Hotels.com for $50 instead of the $65 Hotel Tonight is charging. Or I can book the Quad Resort through Hotels.com for $40 instead of paying Hotel Tonight $82 for the same property.

      I think when people talk about “great deals” what they’re often really saying is that “I paid a lot less than list price.” Only those list prices are inflated. Sure you can “save a ton” off list getting a room through Hotel Tonight but from everything I’ve seen so far, you can get better values elsewhere.

      Having said that, you bring up a good point about the promo codes. It’s true that new users can get $25 in credits using codes like FRUGAL when they sign up. But mostly the codes I’ve seen are for new accounts, which won’t keep me using the app.

      BOOKEUROPE and MOMENTS are not available for US Dollar accounts, so I can’t really comment on them. Maybe Hotel Tonight is more generous with its European customers, but I’m just having a hard time seeing the value here.

      Like

  3. Jason February 21, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

    Oh, and you can stay more than 1 night, as you see in your own photo select that drop down that says ‘1 Night’ and change it up to 5 nights.

    Like

    • Brian February 21, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

      There is (maybe) that option, but you don’t get the same price if you book multiple nights and multiple night bookings are not available for all hotels. Of course you won’t know what you’ll get or what you’ll have to pay until the day you need the room . . . but it is Vegas so let ‘er roll. 🙂

      Like

  4. B.Wright February 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    HotelTonight made a good move changing the booking to 9am. It used to be 12.

    However, I tend to find better rates on BestTravelCoupon.com. I use the site mostly but the app does have a “HotelTonight-type” feature for same day booking.

    The one thing to keep in mind when comparing rates is many of these apps/sites do NOT include the hotel taxes and fees. You have to click and get to the booking page to see the total cost. BestTravelCoupon posts the total cost instantly.

    Like

  5. Kings On the Road February 22, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Thanks for sharing an app that doesn’t deliver. We always think we should try that next approach and appreciate saving us the trouble on Hotel Tonight. We love your posts.

    Like

  6. hermitsdoor February 24, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    Thanks for doing the research for us. We generally plan ahead. We have had good success with Air BnB. Friend’s of my parents often do cruises at the last minute (retired), and claim to get good rates the week of departure. Cruises are not our style, and we do have the work schedules/vacation request time to contend with.
    Oscar

    Like

  7. Nan April 1, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

    Shouldn’t you be comparing booking with exactly the same hotels as the ones in Hotel tonight as well? say same hotel booking per hotel tonight vs orbitz or hotels.com?

    Like

    • Brian April 1, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

      Not necessarily. What you compare depends on the question you want to answer. If you’re asking “will I get the best value for a room by waiting until the last minute and booking through the Hotel Tonight app or can I get a better deal some other way?” then you’d want to do the comparison the way I did. If you’re asking “does Hotel Tonight give me the best deal on a specific last minute room booking?” then you’d do it like you suggest. Personally I’m much more interested in getting the best absolute value so the first question is far more relevant to me than the second.

      Like

  8. joe May 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm #

    use code AHARTS takes $25 off and works great!

    Like

    • Brian May 20, 2014 at 2:29 am #

      Thanks. Is that a code just for first time users?

      Like

  9. george egroeg July 21, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    KPERRY86 for $25 dollar credit for new users one time deal

    Like

  10. Johnc794 August 21, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    I really enjoy the blog post. Great. eedbagekkadd

    Like

  11. tonjavarela October 8, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    If you book through hotel tonight you can use promo code tvarela2 for an additional $25 credit

    Like

  12. JD January 13, 2015 at 10:58 pm #

    I have had this app for about a year and don’t travel too much but I always like to do price comparing. I found that this app offers competitive prices and at time is slightly better and at other times slightly worse. Its a good resource to have but not a catch all.

    I just used the app for the first time on the way from New York to Virginia on an over night stop in DC. While in the car I pulled up the app and typed in Washington DC and boom about 20 hotels to pick from. I zoomed in on the map around the area of interest and looked through the options, which were great and affordable. Once I found that hotel I liked best I clicked book, read the details, and just like that was done. I show up at the hotel a few hours later and and find out I have a room with two queen beds and ask if there is any way to change to a room with a king bed and the hotel was very accommodating. The room was great, big, and just as advertised. Loved it and now I recommend the app to all my friends (along with my promo code that gets them and me $25 off).

    Like

    • Brian January 14, 2015 at 5:18 am #

      No one disputes that the app can find and book last minute hotels. What we tested for this article is whether those last minute bookings through the HotelsTonight app offer users the best value versus doing a little research and booking ahead. In every city we tested HotelsTonight gave us fewer and worse choices at higher prices then the rooms we booked in advance.

      Of course if you don’t care to plan ahead, then paying more for your hotels is always an option offered by this app. 😉

      Like

  13. Strongly regret using ap March 21, 2015 at 8:42 am #

    They are thieves. Overpriced by FAR you’re better off calling the hotel directly for a better rate. I will NEVER USE THEIR “service” again.

    Like

  14. Melissa May 27, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    Very poor costumer service, will never use again.

    Like

  15. Rashid July 29, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    Hoteltonight is the worst app for booking reservations. This company is a illegitimate start up. I made a reservation through their app and when I arrived at the hotel I was told that my reservation was never sent through. I then called hoteltonight and they told me that they canceled my reservation (after I already paid for it) and couldn’t give me an explanation as to why. Embarrassing and time consuming experience. My lawyers will be contacting them.

    Like

  16. elyssa October 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    use ebucceri for 25$ off.i use this app at least2-3 times a month as I travel a lot for work. I have never had an issue with it, and ive had it for years.

    Like

  17. Jay July 27, 2016 at 11:40 am #

    Had the t-mobile tuesday code so thought id give hotel tonight a try. The instructions said to enter the code at the confirmation page. When i got to the confirmation page there was no option to enter the code; just a notice that my account had been charged the full value of the hotel. Customer service wouldnt do anything to help. I didnt need this hotel, i booked it to take advantage of the promo and got bait-and-switched. They found a great way to turn a first-time customer into a one-time-only customer.

    Like

  18. Troy September 15, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    Buyer beware!!! This app is great for getting cheap hotel rates, but the second time I used it my Visa information was hacked by someone in Kenya and a fraudulent transfer of nearly $3,000 was made from the associated checking account. I immediately contacted Hotels Tonight via email (which was totally ignored by them) and telephone. I had two of the poorest conversations I ever had with a customer service department. Their representatives made it clear that they only wanted to state that I had no recourse through Hotels Tonight and that there was nothing that they could do for me, not even open a fraud claim, complaint, etc. My overriding goal was to get assurances through them that whatever security issue caused this breach would be addressed so I could feel confident using their app in the future. But their position is that they have “the highest security” in the industry. Not a compelling claim when $3,000 was taken from me the second time I used the app…

    Like

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  1. The Strange Math of Traveling Without a Plan | Everywhere Once - July 23, 2014

    […] saw the same thing when we reviewed the last-minute booking app Hotel Tonight. It’s a program that really should deliver great deals […]

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