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HotelTonight

When you want something chic or fancy, try HotelTonight. The list of properties is small – consider it a curated list of the best available – and divided into various categories: hip, charming, luxe, solid and basic, with the latter two reserved for more run-on-the-mill stays (think DoubleTree). A same-day search for April 3 revealed the Broadview Hotel, a Toronto hot spot, for $272, as opposed to $361 when booked directly.

Hotwire

Willing to take a bit of a risk? Hotwire shows you a list of properties, along with star rating, amenities and neighbourhood for each. The catch is you don’t know exactly where you’re booking until you’ve made a non-refundable payment. Hotwire offers more clues now – select a property and it often tells you which one the last person got – and if you book one night you can usually add more after the reveal. What was likely the Broadview was listed for $281.

Priceline

Priceline is best known for its “Name Your Own Price” gimmick, which allows travellers to bid blindly on properties. Unlike Hotwire, you don’t have a list to choose from: You just choose your criteria and price and hope for the best. That option still exists – and yields great deals – but Priceline now promotes Express Deals, which offer savings of up to 60 per cent on unnamed hotels. It’s similar to Hotwire, but the variety isn’t as good. The Broadview wasn’t showing.

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Booking.com

The beauty of Booking.com is that it offers a wide variety of accommodation. Often – especially in Europe – it will turn up independent guest houses and BnBs that don’t appear on other online travel agencies. In smaller communities, this can yield a result when all hope was lost. Signing up for the free Genius loyalty program gets you discounts after just two stays in two years; the Broadview Hotel came in at $36 cheaper with member pricing (for $327).

Hotels.com

Hotels.com makes the cut because it sometimes shows availability for properties that are listed as sold out elsewhere – even on their own websites. So if you have your heart set on a particular place, check here before giving up, although you might not score the best deal. (The Broadview came in at $326.) The loyalty program is also good: After 10 bookings you get a free night at eligible properties (value up to the average price of your previous reservations).

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