By Dorothy Tucker

CHICAGO (CBS) — The biggest names in the hotel booking business…may not offer the best deals. Dorothy Tucker tells you where to search to save hundreds of dollars on your next trip.

They promise the best deal or the deepest discount.

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“I’ve used Travelocity, Orbitz. I used Trivago one time,” says traveler Sally Minnix.

“I find it’s cheaper to do Travelocity, Expedia,” says traveler Rosemarie Sheridan.

But this fierce competition may be nothing more than a smokescreen.

“What most consumers don’t know is that almost all these companies are owned by one of two big huge holding companies,” sayd Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor of Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook.

Expedia Group owns several sites, which include Hotels.com, Orbitz and Travelocity. Booking Holdings owns others, among them, Kayak and Priceline. In a recent test, Chicago Consumers’ Checkbook looked at 3500 hotel stays.  They concluded:

“More than 85% of the time we were quoted the same price over and over and over again,” says Brasler.

That’s exactly what we found. We searched for rates here at the Westin checking in June 26th and checking out the 27th.

Four sites – same price $194 a night.

But, there are ways to save.

“The biggest savings come from when you book what’s called a mystery deal … from Hotwire and Priceline Express,” says Brasler.

At both sites you book a hotel without knowing the name or exact location. Brasler says you can save 38% or more and even avoid a bad hotel.

He says, “The key is to bump your star level up to four stars or more.”

Through Hotwire we found rooms near the water tower on Michigan Avenue for just $120 a night.

You can also find deals on the independent booking sites goSeek and SnapTravel.

We searched goSeek for rates in mid-July. For Philadelphia’s La Meridien goSeek’s secret rate was $169 while the other sites were charging $263, a savings of $94. In Miami, a room at 1 Hotel South Beach was $305 on goSeek versus $488 for the others, saving $183.

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“Might stay an extra night somewhere if you can save money like that,” says one frequent traveler.

And no matter where you book, don’t be pressured.

A lot of the hotel sites they say only 3 rooms left, 19 people are looking at this site. Should you believe the hype?

Brasler says, “No, there’s no reason to be in a hurry. When it comes to hotel stays, prices may very well go down if you don’t act.”

Full statements:

Expedia Group:

“The foundation of our business and our brands is matching travelers with the best hotel for their needs at the best price available for us to offer. For example, travelers can save up to 10% on over 175,000 participating hotels just by logging in – a greater selection of hotels in such a multi-brand program than anyone in the industry. The Hotels.com Rewards program offers members one reward night for every 10 nights stayed and Hotwire.com Hot Rates offer travelers 4-star hotels at 2-star prices.  We know customers like to be informed about promotions and when they’re ending, as well as when availability is limited.  We list this information clearly on our sites based on promotion prices and parameters entered by hotels as well as the availability hotels provide us for rooms at their properties.”

Booking Holdings:

“Booking.com has absolutely no control over prices, which are determined by the hotels themselves. If and when hotels choose to use Booking.com as a distribution platform to reach more global customers, they determine the prices they want to set their rooms at, not Booking.com. Booking.com is merely a platform to connect travelers to properties all over the world. Properties set their own prices and customers make decisions on if/when/where they want to book.”

Links:

https://www.snaptravel.com/

https://www.goseek.com/

www.hotwire.com

www.priceline.com

Checkbook report: (active only until 7/19)

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https://www.checkbook.org/wbbm/hotels

Dorothy Tucker