Timing matters. In sun-drenched Miami, lodging prices soar as temperatures plummet across the rest of the U.S. At most hotels, rates return to normal after Easter and rise again around Thanksgiving. The weather in early summer is surprisingly pleasant, so you may want to bypass spring and visit the city in June or July. Farecast Live Search, a website that tracks trends in hotel and airfare prices, predicts that Miami will charge an average nightly room rate of $156 this summer-not bad, and with a little persistence you should be able to find even cheaper rooms. But be careful of extending your booking into mid-summer and fall, when the city can face hurricane threats.
If your heart's still set on a winter break, expect to pay upwards of $274 per night on average. Mid-January often yields the best winter deals.
Be flexible on your travel dates. During the Art Basel fair, the Miami International Boat Show, the Sony Ericsson Open tennis tournament, and other major events, hotels can charge pretty much whatever they want. Try alternate weekends to find cheaper digs, or call a hotel directly to inquire about package deals.
Be aware of hidden costs. Ask about any mandatory "resort fees," which can add up to $20 a day to the bill. Expect hotel room taxes of 13 percent. And factor in transportation costs: Mass transit is limited to the downtown business corridor, and some hotels charge between $15 and $40 per day for parking. Taxis in this town are reasonably priced for short runs, but not for long distances.
Location matters. It's not worth it to book a hotel that's cheap if it's too far from the action. Key neighborhoods to look for include South Beach (ideal for "people watching" by the water and in the clubs), Mid-Beach (close to the nightlife, but quieter), Downtown (flush with new restaurants and upscale hotels, and near the Port of Miami, where cruise ships dock), Coconut Grove (noteworthy for its café scene) and Coral Gables (chock full of historic mansions and fine dining.)