Getting the Best Hotel Rates in San Francisco

Nob Hill, San Francisco

TripSavvy / Melissa Zink

If you have 30 minutes to an hour, you can get excellent rates on San Francisco hotels. At the very best, a four-star hotel can be purchased for the price of a one-star or at least the best rates possible.

Consumer Reports magazine has reported that they more frequently got the best prices for big hotel chains by going directly to the hotel website rather than through a consolidator such as Expedia, Orbitz, or However, they also noted that prices for small hotel chains and independent hotels are often found through the consolidator.

Our process lets you compare the two prices. It includes checking directly with the hotels by phone, which can get you the best rate of all almost half the time.

Hotels in a Known Area

An excellent hotel price can be found by using Hotwire or Priceline if you are comfortable with their limitations:

  • Know the area you will be staying in
  • The name of your hotel won't be revealed until after you've paid for it
  • Reservations are not refundable
  • You are guaranteed a double room, but cannot make any special requests
  • You cannot earn frequent stay points for hotels reserved through these services.

Using these services, you can often get a four-star hotel for the price of a one-star. Are you game? A simple strategy for using them is to choose the nicest hotel class available and bid $10 to $15 less than the best rate you've already found.

Too much uncertainty? Follow the steps below.

Known Hotels

Using this approach, you'll know the hotel name in advance, and in many cases, you can make a reservation with no prepayment and no cancellation fees (as long as you follow the rules).

  • Set a budget for your hotel rate per night. Remember that hotel tax is 14%.
  • Choose the area(s) you want to stay in.
  • Choose three or four hotels that meet your needs. Note the cost/value of their extra fees and freebies.
  • Go to the hotel websites.
    • Check for their lowest rates.
    • Check for special rates for any organizations you belong to such as AAA and AARP.
    • If you are eligible, check for government, military, or corporate rates.
    • If you are a member of the hotel chain's rewards program, enter your membership number to check for special rates and extras.
  • Go to one or two booking websites such as Expedia, Orbitz, or and check their best rates. Or try Tripadvisor, which checks the rates at several booking services with one click.
  • Consumer Reports also reported that they often got an even better hotel price by calling the reservations desk on the telephone. Call your top two or three choices, using our tips for how to get a better hotel rate on the phone.
  • Choose the hotel with the best overall price. Don't forget to factor in extras such as parking fees and resort fees, and things that might save you money such as free breakfasts or free internet access.
  • Make your reservation. Print the confirmation page and confirmation email and set them aside to take along with you in case of any questions. If you reserve by phone, write down your confirmation number and the name of the reservationist. Grab your calendar and make a note of the last day you can cancel your reservation without a penalty, just in case things change and you forget.

Want to save a little more money? Call the hotel again on the day you'll arrive and see if they've lowered their rates. It happens more often than you might think, and they'll often be willing to give you the lower rate if you ask.

Getting a "Suite" Deal at a Luxury Hotel

Try this technique to get a suite at a San Francisco luxury hotel for less cost:

  • Pick one of the slight-less-lavish San Francisco luxury hotels (say the Westin instead of the Ritz-Carlton).
  • Reserve a standard room, and then upgrade to a suite when you arrive.
  • Upgrade costs range from free to $100, depending on the property and location, but you can save compared to reserving a suite right away.
  • Arrive in the early afternoon for the best chance of an upgrade, before business travelers get there and snatch up all the suites.

This strategy works even if you've made your original reservation through a consolidator or an auction website.

To boost your chances of an upgrade, join the hotel's rewards program. Members often get the first choice at free and fee-based upgrades.

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