Many consumers find and book rooms online, but they may not know how bargains land on different websites.
Hotel companies usually maintain their own sites. There also are third-party travel sites such as Expedia and Travelocity that allow consumers to choose from many hotel brands. "Opaque" sites such as Hotwire and Priceline allow consumers to book lodging of a certain rating such as three- or four-star but not of a certain brand. Finally, there are "meta" sites such as Kayak.com that allow users to shop rates but click into another site to book.
In many cases, the price offered on a hotel's own site will be lower because the hotel doesn't have to pay any commission, Mandelbaum says.
However, in some instances the third party may "have prepaid room inventory for a particular night and may be in need of getting rid of the excess inventory," says Natasa Christodoulidou, an assistant professor of marketing at California State University.
Still, some chains maintain "best rate guarantees" to match third-party site hotel deals.
Matthew Stone, assistant professor of hospitality management at Lone Star College in the Houston area, warns that booking with a third party may mean you don't receive loyalty points from the hotel chain.
Lastly, opaque sites offer low rates, but these discounts usually mean you won't get hotel loyalty points and have to commit to the room purchase.