Lodging needs to be the first priority b/c where you stay can determine how much of the festival you can partake in.
First factors to consider.
1) Traveling party. Are you alone or are you going with someone? This determines your budget and what size room you need. If you are alone, as I have been, you know you are footing the entire bill, so your choices narrow. Going with others helps you to split the price, so you can afford more.
2)Location, location, location. Yonge St. should be the focus. Varsity, Ryerson and Elgin theatres are all located off Yonge. The most high profile films play at these venues. You can go as far north as Bloor and as far south as King. You can go as far west as Bay St. and as far east as Jarvis. If you find a place in this box, you are within either a) walking distance of or b) a subway stop of every TIFF venue. This is key. You may want to catch a nap between films, or go take a shower, etc. You can't do that if you are staying outside this box.
Next: What type of festivalgoer are you?
a) Want to see as many movies as possible?
b) Want to see as many stars as possible?
c) Want to see some film, some stars and what Toronto has to offer?
If a) then you really don't need a fancy place. You just need a bed to sleep (at most 8 hours), a drawer to throw your T-shirts and shorts in and a shower to get yourself going.
If b) then you do want a fancy place where you might see that stars brewing in the lobby, plus you'll need a private restroom, big closet to hang up your best clothes, and room service for any last minute items.
If c) you need a standard hotel room with a hotel desk that knows where the popular places to visit are and maybe host a tour to Niagra Falls.
If you are a b) then check the TIFF website under Plan your stay and Festival Hotels. These are the hotels that will typically have industry people staying at them. They are also the hotels that are very expensive. So plan on dishing out plenty. Your paying for status.
a) and c) can search the same way, which is as follows.
1) If you are determined to stay in a hotel, start looking as early as you can. Check Yahoo Travel, hotels.com, orbitz.com, etc. Check at least once a week in each by typing in your planned days of travel. Specials show up all the time and without notice. They will vanish just as quickly. Twice I've been able to book rooms at hotels on Yonge for $75 CAD a night that normally go for $135. When you see something that seems too good to pass up, read the fineprint, then reserve it. I normally am booked for TIFF by December.
2) Don't shy away from B&B's. There are tons of B&B's in Toronto. At least 20 that are within the box that I talked about above. Tripadvisor.com is a good source for B&Bs. You can usually find rooms from $60-90. You will have shared bathrooms. You probably won't have a TV. But the bed will be comfortable. Again, if you are there to see movies, a B&B is perfect b/c you're not planning on spending much time in the room. I've never had to wait on using a restroom, b/c my timetable will be different from the normal tourist that are staying there. Most even provide breakfast, where you can bond with the fellow guest.....or not.
I've always been somewhat nomadic in that I've never stayed in one place twice. But that is mostly because I'm always looking for the best deal. There really hasn't been a place that I've stayed at that I wouldn't go again. The rooms have always fit or exceeded my needs.
Places I've stayed.
1999 - Hotel Shelby (Clarion) - two far north east to be of much use.
2000 - Days Inn (on Carlton Street) - central perfect location, College TTC stop.
2002 - Victoria Inn - too far south. Below King St.
2003 - Bond Place - got a great deal on a room, under $90, and have never seen it anywhere near that price range again. Location is great, right by Eaton Centre.
2004 - Courtyard by Marriot. One block north of Days Inn. Centrally located.
2005 - House on McGill - My first venture into a B&B. Never bumped into anyone. Nice and quiet. Perfect location a block away from the Ryerson. Made friends with the house cat.
2006 - Les Amis B&B - On the other side of the street from McGill. Block away from Ryerson. Owner made breakfast every morning. Comfortable bed.
2007 - Days Inn. This will be the first year that I return to a previous location. A block further away from Ryerson than the B&Bs. But the $75 CAD a night price was too good to pass up. Essentially what I was paying at the B&Bs but I get my own restroom and two beds.