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HOTEL DEALS IN U.S., ABROAD

CROSSWORD PUZZLE/TIPSNow that we've all booked summer flights at fabulously low prices, what we need is a place to stay that won't break the bank.

Most chains above the bare-bones level periodically offer nationwide good-value packages to stay competitive. Sharply reduced weekend rates are customary at hotels in major business cities such as New York and Washington that tend to empty out at the end of the work week. And rival hotels in specific cities or resort areas typically have occasional skirmishes.Local tourist offices usually keep up on these deals and discounts, or can refer you to private lodging bureaus that search out the best value for your needs.

Some of these services merely act as clearinghouses for the local hotel association; others negotiate special prices in advance for blocks of rooms at certain hotels.

Here are several of the largest free reservations services offering discounted rates at assorted hotels nationwide (two also have discounts abroad - guaranteed in U.S. dollars). You can usually book - or cancel - with U.S. properties up to noon on the arrival date; most lodgings abroad require more notice for changes.

Hotel Reservations Network, (800) 96-HOTEL, offers discounted rates at about 450 lodgings in major U.S. cities and leisure destinations, including at Orlando's Disney World. Most major chains are represented along with small, independent so-called "boutique" hotels. The network's negotiated discounts run from 40 percent to 65 percent off the standard, or "rack," rate. Most prices wind up between $59 and $99, a spokesman said. You book and pay in advance by credit card, then get a confirmation voucher to present to the hotel. At some properties the best rate is one that's nonrefundable - no problem if your trip is set in stone.

Steigenberger Reservation Service, (800) 223-5652, offers discount rates at more than 350 independent three- to five-star hotels throughout the world (about 20 in the United States). Guaranteed U.S. dollar rates of up to 45 percent off standard rates are available at more than 125 hotels in 75 cities throughout Europe this summer.

Quickbook, (800) 789-9887, offers discounts of 20 percent to 60 percent off rack rates at about 200 hotels in 21 U.S. cities, including several in Florida. Hotels range across price categories and include both nationwide chains and independent properties. Prepayment isn't necessary; Quickbook guarantees your reservation at its specially negotiated rate, and you pay the hotel directly when you get there.