You don’t have to leave your lodgings to sightsee in San Antonio: This city has the highest concentration of historic hotels in Texas. Even low-end hotel chains are reclaiming old buildings—many examples in all price ranges are covered in this chapter, from a converted seminary to a revamped brewery. Most visitors to San Antonio want to stay downtown so they can be close to the River Walk and many other major tourist attractions. As a result, that’s where you’ll find the greatest number of hotel rooms, many of them high-end. The most convenient of the lower-priced chain hotels and motels are clustered in the northwest near the Medical Center, as well as in the north central area around the airport.
If your main objective is a family vacation, consider staying at a resort or hotel on the west/northwest side of town, near the two big theme parks, SeaWorld and Six Flags Fiesta Texas—you can combine days at the parks with swimming, golfing, shopping, and spa treatments, making the drive into San Antonio when you’re ready for a change of pace. On the northeast side, Morgan’s Wonderland theme park is close enough to the airport to make lodgings there a good bet.
Want to get a feel for the city outside the tourist zones? Consider a B&B or inn in the historic King William and Monte Vista neighborhoods—both close to downtown and interesting in their own right, with lots of dining and entertainment options. The San Antonio Bed & Breakfast Association (www.SanAntonioBB.org; tel. 888-272-6700) lists several places that are vetted by the organization; keep in mind, however, that they’re rarely kid- or pet-friendly. Travelers who prefer crowd-vetted arrangements like Airbnb (www.airbnb.com) and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner; www.vrbo.com) will have plenty of choices all around the city.
For a full alphabetical listing of the city’s accommodations, mapped by area and including rate ranges as well as basic amenities, phone Visit San Antonio (tel. 210/244-2000) to request a lodging guide, or go to www.visitsanantonio.com and click on the Lodging section, which is linked with TripAdvisor.com, so you can book directly online.
Getting An Online Deal
Before going online, it’s important that you know what “flavor” of discount you’re seeking. Currently, there are three types of online reductions:
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 the hotels resort to deep discounts to get beds filled). As these companies use only major chains, you can rest assured that you won’t be put up in a dump. For more reassurance, visit the website BiddingTraveler.com. On it, actual travelers spill the beans about what they bid on Priceline.com and which hotels they got. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of many of the hotels that are offering these “secret” discounts.
Discounts on chain hotel websites. In 2016, all of the major chains announced they’d be reserving special discounts for travelers who booked 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 the hotels in question, though discounts can range widely, from as little as $1 to as much as $50. Our advice: Search for a hotel that’s in your price range and ideal location and then, if it is a chain property, book directly through the online loyalty portal.
Use the right hotel search engine. They’re not all equal, as we at Frommers.com learned in the spring of 2018 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 hotels in the city center, 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 make for a frustrating shopping experience). For top-end properties, again in the city center only, both Priceline.com and HotelsCombined.com came up with the best rates, tying at 14 wins each.
Or skip hotels altogether. Nowadays, on such sites as Airbnb.com, Wimdu.com, Homeaway.com, VRBO.com, and others, it is often possible to get a room in someone’s home for half of what you’d spend for a hotel. Or a complete apartment for the usual cost of a hotel room. The key to making this sort of option work is to look at all the fees involved. Sometimes “cleaning fees” and user fees can wipe out the savings.
Last-minute discounts. Booking last minute can be a great savings strategy, as 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 #3 of this list.
Most importantly these days: Go to the last page of the booking widget before hitting “pay.” Some hotels now tack on “resort fees” to the nightly costs, a fee you won’t usually see right away. The average fee is now $21, not an insignificant amount, and it can go up from there. It’s a lot of surfing, but in the hothouse world of lodgings pricing, this sort of diligence can pay off.
A few words about the listing info: Rates included here are those that prevail for most of the year, before taxes (16.75%); some resorts also tack on a daily fee. They can go higher or lower, depending on occupancy. By now, almost all large hotels are nonsmoking; when smoking rooms are available, it’s noted in the review. Parking fees are always per day, before taxes (and the fact that they’re often exorbitant in the downtown area helps make the case for forgoing a rental car in favor of using ride services). Pet fees are per visit, unless the listing specifies otherwise. Rates for Internet use are noted, but many hotels will waive the fee if you sign on to their member’s club. You can decide whether the savings are worth adding to your glut of emails.
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.