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Hotel booking has gotten a severe makeover in the digital age.
People used to rely on travel agents to make reservations, or called hotels directly to book rooms.
Now, the internet has made it possible to review hotel rooms, compare them to get the best price, and find hidden gems in their destination, all instantly.
One of the more exciting companies to enter the space in the last decade is HotelTonight, an app that specializes in last-minute hotel booking by allowing hotels to list unsold rooms at discounted rates for booking that day (or that week).
For people whose travel plans change, or those who don’t mind a bit of unpredictability and like to save, it’s a great choice for finding rooms in great hotels at surprising rates.
In this article we’ll look at the history of HotelTonight, compare it to other competitors, show how to use the app, and offer a promo code to save you $25 off your first stay.
What Is HotelTonight?
HotelTonight is a service which lets you book last-minute hotel rooms using the HotelTonight website or the HotelTonight app.
The company partners with hotel chains and boutique hotels all over the world to give special, often discounted rates on hotel rooms for people who book that same day, or in the next week.
For people with travel disruptions or late changes — a plane cancellation, a business trip that needs to be extended for a day, a chance to spend some time in a new city — the app lets you find last-minute deals on hotel rooms and saves you the unpredictability and hassle of calling around to hotels to try and find an empty room at the last hour.
The last-minute booking model may be a bit unpredictable for some users, and hotels don’t love to rely on it.
They would rather be able to plan ahead and get full rates on rooms.
But the model does offer a chance for hotel deals on rooms that would otherwise go unsold, and for many hotels, it’s worth it to get someone in the room, even at a slightly discounted rate.
How Long Has the Company Been Around?
HotelTonight was founded in December 2010 by Sam Shank, Jared Simon, and Chris Bailey, all entrepreneurs who had previously launched successful businesses.
It was first available in 2011 only on Apple devices and with rooms only in the United States, though they quickly expanded to not only include Android devices but allowed you to book outside North America.
It’s now available worldwide, and has been downloaded by over 15 million users.
While it started with only allowing you to book hotels that the same day, in 2014 HotelTonight expanded its service to allow you to book up to seven days in advance, depending on the hotel.
So if you have an unexpected trip pop up for next week to Boston, for example, you’re covered.
The company was founded in Silicon Valley, and its main office is still in San Francisco.
But it now has 378 employees spread across seven locations, including offices in Washington, D.C., New York City, Paris, London, Berlin, and Australia.
Where Is HotelTonight Located?
The list of cities that the app is located in is daunting — the website currently has awesome deals highlighted for Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Orlando, and Boston, but the total list has cities in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and more.
Safe to say, if you’re in the need of an emergency hotel room somewhere in the United States, you’re going to be covered.
And if you’re stranded anywhere on Earth, there’s a decent chance HotelTonight can take care of you.
The easiest way to find out if it’s available where you are is to open the app and allow it to see your location via your phone.
From there, it’ll take care of you and let you know what’s available in the surrounding areas.
How Do I Use HotelTonight?
To sign up, all you have to do is go to www.hoteltonight.com or download the booking app on iOS or Android, then provide them with your first and last name, an email address, and a password.
From there, the app will instantly provide you with hotels near you (provided you allow the app to see your location), and you can start browsing hotels for booking that night.
Hotels are separated into four basic categories: basic, solid, hip, and luxe.
“Basic” hotels are more economical options, while “solid” hotels are more in the 3-star and 4-star range.
“Hip” hotels tend to be boutique hotels with cool amenities, while “luxe” denotes luxury hotels (think 4-star and 5-star experiences).
Here’s what it will look like on the mobile app on an iPhone:
“Geo Rates” are special deals for people booking same-day located near the hotel.
Once you’ve found a hotel you like, you select the date (you have up to seven days ahead to book on most rooms), lock in the rate, provide them with a form of payment (they accept Apple Pay, or your credit card or debit card), and you’ll be all set.
Check in at the hotel will work like any other booking — you provide them with a photo ID and a credit card to cover any incidentals, and you should be all set.
Run into trouble? The company does encourage you to work with the hotel directly, but they do have HotelTonight customer service.
To access a live chat, click on “Account” in the app (the person avatar in the bottom right-hand corner), then click on “Customer Support” under “We’re Here To Help.”
From there, it asks you to select the issue you are having from a list of possible problems, then provides a link to start a live chat with a help agent.
If all else fails, the company’s phone number is 1-800-208-2949, though wait times will usually be considerably shorter in a live chat.
How Does It Compare to Competitors?
HotelTonight competes with other online booking sites like Priceline, Orbitz, Expedia, Hotels.com, and others.
The main differentiator is that HotelTonight specializes in things booked at the last minute.
While you can book on those sites for same-day hotel rooms, HotelTonight has specially negotiated deals with hotels, so odds are that in the case of an unexpected need for a hotel room, you’re going to find a better rate with the app.
HotelTonight also specializes in hotel rooms, so unlike the other apps, it won’t offer rental cars, airfare, vacation packages, etc.
For people who are booking long trips and have a need for all those things, HotelTonight probably isn’t the right app for you.
But some users do prefer the simplified process of the app — you won’t get bombarded with offers for rental cars, vacation packages, etc. when using the app.
Say you’re in Las Vegas and want to extend the trip a day. You open the app, you find a hotel you like for that night, you book at a good rate. That’s it.
Where Can I Use HotelTonight?
There are few major cities on Earth where you can’t use HotelTonight.
The app has hotels available in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and more, and you can read a complete, exhaustive list of locations on their website.
A brief list of countries where HotelTonight is currently available: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and United Kingdom.
Visiting a particular city?
The app has search options which allow you to narrow down what you’re looking for, plus you can navigate a map to find the neighborhood you want to be in.
Say you’re in NYC and decide to stay an extra night. The app will allow you to navigate to see what is available near Central Park, or what’s open in Brooklyn, Times Square, or the Financial District, not to mention what has the lowest price among all of those places.
You can size up a Hampton Inn not far from the Empire State Building, look at a Doubletree property near shopping on Fifth Avenue, or lock in a room at a Hilton on the Upper West Side.
Is There a HotelTonight Promo Code to Get Me Started?
A first-time user can get $25 off their first booking by using a HotelTonight promo code.
To enter the promo code, simply sign up for the app, select a hotel room, then when checking out use code “LIVETHENIGHT” where it asks for your promo code. It looks like this:
(HotelTonight reminds you that there is a minimum spend, the promo code is only for new accounts, and it has to be your first hotel booking and first stay.)
Already have the app and looking for a lower rate?
If you try to use that code, you will probably find an “invalid” message.
But fear not: If you refer a friend and they book a hotel stay with your promo code (which also gets them that $25 off lower rate), on your next booking you will get $25 off your rate as well.
To find your personalized discount code, click on the little “Gift” avatar in the bottom right hand corner of the app, and it will tell you the code you can share with your friends.
There are other promotions out there, but the app asks that you avoid “sketchy” coupon websites and instead use code “LIVETHENIGHT” when opening a new account.
Book Last Minute and Save
For last-minute hotel deals, whether due to a travel emergency or you’re someone who doesn’t mind a little unpredictability with your travel, it’s never a bad idea to try HotelTonight.
There’s no up-front cost — just download the app or visit the website, and you can start browsing to find amazing hotel deals.
While it began as a way to book rooms that same day, the app now lets you look up to a week in advance, so for any late or surprise travel, you can use the app to try to find a great price at a hotel, wherever you are going.
It may not be the solution for planning that trip to Europe in the fall, as it is limited both in time and what is available for booking.
But if you find yourself with a little flexibility and want to score a good rate on a hotel you’ve never been to, it’s an app that’s worth a look.