Hotel rates vary wildly across the year in different parts of the state. In the north, winter is cold and it’s the slow season. In the south, summer is boiling and that’s the slow season. If you’re coming to Phoenix and have some leeway, aim for very early or very late summer, where there are good deals and the weather’s still decent. The real deals at Phoenix resorts are in summer; if you can stand the heat, you can enjoy highly swanky environments for a fraction of the usual price.
Then there are resort fees, which start at $15 per night. These mandatory fees make posted room rates a fiction, but resorts continue to charge them. Definitely complain if the amenities included, from Wi-Fi to spas, aren’t up to snuff. Otherwise, poke around for properties that don’t have such fees—they deserve the business. You can get a bit more for your money in smaller towns off the interstates, where you’ll find unfancy but clean, high-value lodgings. The farther you drive from resort areas, the more you’ll save.
The new accommodation apps work here as they do elsewhere. Look to Airbnb.com and VRBO.com to see a wide range of options.
Turning to the Internet or Apps for a Hotel Discount
Before going online, it’s important that you know what “flavor” of discount you’re seeking. Currently, there are three types of online reductions:
1. Extreme discounts on sites where you bid for lodgings without knowing which hotel you’ll get. You’ll find these on such sites as Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, and they can be money-savers, particularly if you’re booking within a week of travel (that’s when hotels and resorts do deep discounts to get beds filled). As these companies use only major chains and depend on repeat business, you probably won't feel ripped off. My only caveat is that they work best with four-star hotels. The downside to cheaper rooms is that they are sometimes in a less-desirable corner of town; in Phoenix, for example, you might end up in a place along the somewhat grimy I-17 corridor.
2. Discounts on chain hotel websites. In 2016, all of the major chains began to reserve special discounts for travelers who book directly through the hotels’ websites (usually in the portion of the site reserved for loyalty members). They weren’t lying: These are always the lowest rates at these hotels, though discounts can range from as much as $50 to as little as $1. Our advice: Search for a hotel in your price range and ideal location (see the Note below for how to do that), and then, if it’s a chain property, book directly through the online loyalty portal.
3. Last-minute discounts. Booking last minute can be a great savings strategy; prices sometimes drop in the week before travel, as hoteliers scramble to fill their rooms. But you won’t necessarily find the best savings through companies that claim to specialize in last-minute bookings. Instead, use the sites recommended in the Note, below.
Note: Use the right hotel search engine. They’re not all equal, as we at Frommers.com learned after putting the top 20 sites to the test in 20 cities around the globe. We discovered that Booking.com listed the lowest rates for centrally located hotels, and in the under $200 range, 16 out of 20 times—the best record, by far, of all the sites we tested. And Booking.com includes all taxes and fees in its results (not all do, which can be frustrating). For top-end properties, both Priceline.com and HotelsCombined.com came up with the best rates, tying at 14 wins each.
It’s a lot of surfing, I know, but in the hothouse world of AZ hotel pricing, this sort of diligence can pay off.
If you’ll be traveling by RV or with a tent, you’ve got loads of camping options all across Arizona. However, be aware that campgrounds at and near Grand Canyon National Park fill up nightly during the summer and often in spring and fall as well. Make a campsite reservation as far in advance as possible. To make campsite reservations at national park and national forest campgrounds, contact the National Recreation Reservation Service (www.recreation.gov; tel. 877/444-6777 or 518/885-3639), where you can generally reserve a site 6 months in advance. To find out about campsites in state parks, contact Arizona State Parks (www.azstateparks.com; tel. 602/679-2757). If you’re in the north Phoenix area, the state has a wonderful visitor’s center just off I-17, at 23751 N. 23rd Ave. (tel. 602/542-4174).
If you want to rent an RV, try Cruise America (www.cruiseamerica.com; tel. 800/671-8042), which has offices in Mesa (a suburb of Phoenix), Tucson, and Flagstaff. Expect to pay between $300 and $1,300 per week (plus taxes) depending on the time of year (summer is higher) and size of the RV you rent. In central Phoenix, the family-owned Elite RV Rentals, 2204 W. Fillmore St. (www.elitervrentals.net; tel. 928/446-1833) charges rental rates from around $660 to $1,200 per week.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.