I took a business trip to the Northern Border (almost to Canada) from last weekend to today. It was... interesting. And learned quite a few things:
1) Unless you go to a VERY popular destination, FORGET about one-way car rentals
I was trying to rent a vehicle one-way to Billings, Montana, the largest city in the state. The answer was... $800 if I can make it in 2-3 days. Yes, that's EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS... if the company even permits one-way drop-offs. Some don't. Apparently some state franchises are "locally owned", and thus vehicles rented elsewhere cannot be left with them, and thus a crew must be dispatched from nearest office to retrieve the vehicle, leading to extended charges.
2) If you're hosting a visiting friend and plan to rent a car for a trip, let your friend make the reservation
Car companies don't like "local rentals", i.e. you live in city X, you rent from city X. You get a different deal, and I don't know why. (If someone can explain the reason, I'm all ears) I tried to get a mid-sized sedan, and was told it's NOT available as a local renter. And I was going through Hotwired, which has deals from EVERYBODY. I ended up with a mid-sized SUV.
3) NEVER go into a hotel and just check-in (i.e. get the "walk-in rate")
With smartphones, you can get a reservation made through Orbitz, Expedia, etc. ANYWHERE. I literally made a reservation just outside the door of one hotel then walked in the door and got my keys two minutes later, and got a suite for $70 (bed, recliner, 2 small work tables, kitchenette w/ sink and 2 burner stove) The previous night I was completely beat 2AM in the morning and walked into the first hotel I saw and got a tiny room for $99.
4) Consider those "extended stay" inns, but understand their limitations
The place I stayed at, Extended Stay America in Billings, Montana, was an excellent place for very reasonable prices. Walk-in rate is $75, and if you pay through Hotwire you can go as low as $70. The only catch is you don't get daily room cleaning (though if you want more towels just ask front desk for some) and the bathroom doesn't have stuff like toothbrush and shampoo (just soap). However, the room *does* come with kitchenette with coffeemaker, microwave, 2-element stove, two pots for cooking, plates, bowls, and other utensils, full size fridge, and so on. Great if you want to cook your own meal and save money instead of eating out every day and night (and bring your own personal toiletries). There's even a coin-op laundry.
5) UNTESTED TIP: If you're afraid of bed bugs, turn up the AC to the max
Had a friend who shared this tip: he claimed that bed bugs are afraid of the cold, so he always sleep with full set of cloths on... max blankets, and AC on full blast (62 or as low as the AC will go) all night. He claims he learned this through personal experience. As I've never seen bed bugs I have no comment on this tip. :)