Even as hotel prices increase, "the number of not-good-deal packages is at an all-time low," said Bjorn Hanson, New York-based hospitality consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international accounting company. You can thank the Internet and yourself for that. "Guests can do research so easily," Hanson said. Hoteliers, he explained, are wary of alienating customers.

Amy Ziff, editor at large for online travel seller Travelocity , put it this way: "Travelers are pretty savvy. They know the game." In this contest, your best weapon is a calculator. "People have to do the math," Ziff said.

You'll need patience too. Evaluating packages can be tedious. With rates shifting by the minute and information available from multiple outlets, such as third-party sellers, the hotel's reservations number and its website, Hanson said, "guests have more work to do now than ever before."

But the work can be worth your time or worth paying a travel agent to do. In my research, I found packages that saved quite a bit, a little or nothing.

Get the full story at the Los Angeles Times