You can beat the high cost of a hotel in the Big Apple three ways.

* Consider one of the countless weekend packages offered.

* Stay at a smaller, lesser-known hotel.

* Try one of the 200 Bed and Breakfast deals now available.

All, however, require advance reservations, since the city is host to 900 conventions and 17 million visitors annually, according to Preston Robert Tisch, chairman of the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Tisch feels very strongly about the package deals available and points out that the bureau has published a free directory detailing every one of them.

"We have a reputation to maintain," says Tisch. "And all hotels do their best to protect guests and offer the best accommodations. If budget is a concern, then a package plan is the answer."

Yes, the package plan is worth considering, but a word of caution. Read all literature you receive carefully. A good package includes taxes, tips, one or two meals, discount tickets for sightseeing or even a free ticket to a hit show. Some of the packages available add extras like champagne, a free cocktail and sightseeing -- but none includes transportation to New York. Such all-inclusive packages are sold by transportation companies and travel agents.

Most packages are based on two people sharing a room with each person paying the full package price. Most packages usually represent a savings over the regular room rate (which some hotels are now in the process of raising), but in some cases the savings appear to be slim upon closer inspection. Even better is the package that's priced per couple.

Look for restrictions. Some packages are limited to certain times of year or certain arrival days. Others are available year-round. All prices quoted are subject to change. In most cases your travel agent can handle arrangements if you prefer, and there's no additional charge.

Here's a sampling of what some hotel packages offer:

The 1,407-room Grand Hyatt of New York, Park Avenue at Grand Central, has regular double occupancy rates of $120-$175 (for two people) per day. However, two packages available through Dec. 31 are worth looking at. A "Weekend at Hyatt" is for one night/two days, costing $63 per person, double, and covers the room, $30 in vouchers for two for hotel dining and entertainment plus taxes. The "Spirit of Romance" is for two nights/three days and costs $259 per couple, covering taxes, room, champagne upon arrival, a steak and egg breakfast, and $25 vouchers per couple for hotel dining and entertainment. For details call: (800) 228-9000.

Loews Hotels has a one night/two day "Summit Weekender" valid through Dec. 31 at the Summit Hotel, E. 51st Street and Lexington Avenue, good for either a Friday or Saturday arrival, costing $76.25 per person, double. It covers the room, complete choice of menu for dinner at its restaurant, Maude's, complete American breakfast in the room or Sunday brunch at Maude's, and storage of your car if you drive. Taxes and tips are covered only when the package has been prepaid. Room rates alone are $77-$97 daily for two.

Loews also has a "Broadway Theatre-Go-Round" package at the Summit, Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge and Ramada Inn (on the West Side), valid to the end of the year. Prices vary, but if you stay at Ramada Inn, a two night/three day package will be $160.50 per person double with arrival any day and covering room, guaranteed seat (orchestra) to a hit musical, drama or comedy and free storage of your car. It also covers taxes and tips to bellman but not to the chambermaid. Details: (800) 223-0888 (Loews handles reservations for the two Howard Johnson and Ramada Inn properties).

Sheraton has five hotels: The Sheraton Centre, the New York Sheraton, the Sheraton City Squire, St. Regis-Sheraton and the Sheraton-Russell. All offer packages at varying costs. The very elegant St. Regis, now wearing a $20-million facelift designed to restore it to the days of founder John Jacob Astor, has five packages for either one or two nights. For example, there's "Astor's New York" costing $159 per person double for two nights, three days, covering room, fixed-price gourmet dinner at the hotel's King Cole Restaurant either Friday or Saturday, a cocktail, sightseeing, taxes, tips, and even a helicopter flight over the city. This is valid through March 31, 1983.

The other is a three-day/two-night. "Simply St. Regis" plan costing $89 per person double and is for the visitor who wants a good night's sleep and a light continental breakfast. Regular room rates are $125-$165 double occupancy.

The Sheraton-Russell Hotel, Park Avenue at 37th Street, though part of a large chain, is a small hotel with lots of appeal and charm. It's conveniently located in a quiet and nice part of town. It is offering a two night/three day "Park Avenue Weekend" for $175 per couple year-round. It can start any Friday, Saturday or Sunday on a long holiday weekend and covers room, special breakfast, cocktails for two, taxes and tips. The same package is available for one night (Friday or Saturday) costing $87.50 per person double with breakfast, tips and taxes included. As of Feb. 9, the hotel's daily room rates, double, are $115-$120. For all Sheraton packages, call (800) 325-3535.

The highly-publicized Helmsley Hotels, the Palace and the Harley, both are in the package business as are their four other hotels. The Palace is plushy and the Harley less so but pleasant. At the Harley of New York, 212 E. 42nd St., you can buy a one night/two day "New York, New York" plan for $35 per person double until March, and you'll get a nice room plus one free cocktail with taxes and tips covered. Daily room rates are $105-$160 per day double.

The Helmsley Palace, at 455 Madison Ave. across from the rectory of St. Patrick's Cathedral at 50th Street, has a two night/three day "Weekend Magic" package, available through March 31, costing $250 per person double. This covers deluxe digs (Friday arrival only), Saturday brunch for two and Sunday continental breakfast for two -- and that's it. Daily room rates double occupancy are from $135 to $200. Remember, this package does not include taxes and tips. (800) 221-4982.

But the most expensive package is not at the Helmsley Palace but almost diagonally across Madison Avenue to 52nd Street at the Dunfey Classic Hotel, the Berkshire Place. The hotel actually boasts that it offers "the most expensive weekend package in New York City." It costs $2,500 per couple for two mights and accommodations are in the exquisite Penthouse with a master bedroom, guest bedroom, dining room, living room-study, ultra modern kitchen, bar, several bathrooms (all with phone extensions and one with a jacuzzi) plus a redwood terrace extending around the outside of the Penthouse.

The package includes a private helicopter tour of the city, dinner at Windows on the World Restaurant at the World Trade Center, and a candlelight dinner prepared by the hotel's chef and served in the suite's dining room. There're also limousine transfers to the hotel.

Don't panic. The hotel has a cheaper package, "Classic Weekend," for $180 per couple for two nights, breakfast each day, a free newspaper delivered to the room, bottle of wine, Kron chocolates and fresh flowers.

The other Dunfey Hotel is the New York Statler, just across from Penn Station, very convenient for Metroliner passengers. The hotel is close to the city's fashion center and two department stores, Macy's and Gimbels. It's also across from Madison Square Garden atop Penn Station. The hotel has four packages ranging from $26 per person double for the two-or-three-night "Big Apple on Sale," to $75 per night per person double for the "Shopper Hopper," which includes a luxury suite, continental breakfast and free cocktail. Taxes and tips extra. This hotel, however, offers a special $49.50-per-night rate for all government workers, federal, state or city. (800) 228-2121 for either Dunfey hotel.

The new downtown Vista International New York at the World Trade Center is the city's first major hotel in lower Manhattan since 1836. The 23-floor property is part of Hilton International Vista International hotel group in this country. Especially interesting is its executive fitness center, a club for corporate business types but also available to the hotel's weekend package buyers. Recently introduced is the "Happy and Healthy" package costing from $99 to $120 per person double and also entitling the guests to use the facilities and equipment in the center as well as the pool. The fitness center is located on the top two floors of the hotel. The package includes jogging on the cushioned and banked track, swimming, racquetball games, massage and sauna. The hotel has three other packages, geared to history in Lower Manhattan. (212) 938-9100, Hiltron Reservation Service.

Still another package, "Rainbow Weekend" at the New York Hilton at Rockefeller Center, is valid to the end of the year. It's for two nights/ three days, costs $95 per person double, and includes continental breakfast, buffet brunch, taxes and tips (but not for the bellman and maids). It also includes lots of discounts on sightseeing trips and a 10 percent reduction on theater tickets purchased at the hotels' theater desk. (212) 586-7000.

Also valid throughout 1982 is the "Priceless Weekend" available Friday through Sunday for $99 per night, double, in a suite at the Hotel Inter-Continental New York, 111 East 48th St., just east of Park Avenue. Formerly The Barclay, the hotel made its formal debut this month after completion of a $30-million restoration program as the flagship of Intercontinental Hotels Corp. The package price, which is one-third of the regular $300 rate for suites, includes all taxes, a continental breakfast each morning in the suite or at the 1920s Barclay Restaurant, breakfast gratuities, and complimentary movies and shows (HBO) in the suite. No additional charge for one child under 14 accompanying parents, but any breakfast is additional. (212) 755-5900.

For the theater-minded, the New York Milford Plaza, on West 44th Street in the heart of the city's theater district, offers a show tour package. However it's for groups of 20 and the price is based on that. If you're ambitious and can convince 19 others to go Broadway, call the hotel: (800) 221-2690.

Also in the theater district but at Seventh Avenue and 50th Street is the 50-year-old Hotel Taft, celebrating its birthday by offering daily room rates of only $25 per person, double, for unlimited stays and arrival any day of week through this March 31. The 1,300-room hotel, a Broadway landmark, recently redecorated its rooms and added color TV. The hotel is also offering special single and family rates, available by phoning (800) 223-9844.

If a taste of these packages failed to impress you, then consider staying at one of the city's many smaller hotels. "Small" in this city can be 500 rooms. For example:

The Hotel Tudor near the United Nations caters to overseas visitors. The 500-room hotel recently spent $1 million on renovation and its restaurant is now open. The 21-floor property was originally part of Tudor City, a $25-million apartment complex that included the hotel when it was built over 50 years ago. Room rates are $66 and $75 for two.

The Halloran House, Lexington Avenue at 49th Street, has a two night/three day "Welcome to Our House for the Weekend" package for $69 per person double. Sunday 1 p.m. checkout time is extended to 3 p.m. for this package. It includes an American breakfast daily and two free cocktails, but taxes and tips are extra. (800) 223-0939.

The American Stanhope is a small luxury hotel across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Fifth Avenue and at the foot of the city's famous Museum Mile. A weekend for two here costs $180 per couple and includes tips, free passes to all the museums on the Mile including the Metropolitan, plus a Saratoga Morning Breakfast. Taxes are extra. This deal is subject to advance reservations, since the hotel's daily double rates are $120-$160. (212) 288-5800.

The little-known Excelsior at 45 W. 81 St. near the Museum of Natural History, is another favorite with overseas visitors. Although off the beaten path, it is close to both subway and bus transportation. Though it has only 60 rooms, it does have a coffee shop. Double rates are from $43-$52 and singles, $33-$42. (212) 362-9200.

Especially charming and famed in earlier years as the meeting place of celebrated writers and authors, is the Algonquin, 59 W. 44th St. Broadway theaters and elegant shops on Fifth Avenue are within easy walking distance. The hotel has been described as "a country inn in the heart of mid-Manhattan." It has 200 rooms, excellent eating facilities, top cuisine, and tea and cakes are served every afternoon. Double room rates are $73-$90, singles $70-$80. They plan to offer a weekend package. (212) 840-6800.

Another small mid-town hotel is Pickwick Arms, 230 E. 51st St. This 360-room hotel recently underwent extensive redecorating. It has a restaurant and lounge. Double daily rates start from $38 and singles, $22-$28. (212) 355-0399.

If weekend packages and small hotels haven't moved you, then perhaps you'd prefer a Bed and Breakfast accommodation. Urban Adventures offers 200 possibilities, ranging in cost from $24 and up per day in private homes and apartments throughout Manhattan and in Brooklyn's fashionable Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope areas. The company, headed by Frances Dworam and Mary McAulay, has been in business only a few years and is doing well.

Upon request they'll send you a brochure, "Bed & Breakfast in the Big Apple," containing a map of Manhattan divided into four sections and indicating where the rooms and apartments described as "palatial" are. You decide where you want to be and tell them how much you want to spend.

Prices quoted (always subject to change) for Budget Range are $38-$40 double, $24-$28 single with shared bath. The Comfort Range offers baths that are private and room rates from $40-$54 double and $30-$36 single.

Breakfast may or may not be included, despite the name . . . ask about this. Where breakfast is offered, you make your own (if there's a kitchen) or the host will it do for you. Previous customers claim they received royal treatment.

As a teaser, Dworam stapled four possibilities to my brochure. One was on upper Fifth Avenue at 97th Street, facing Central Park. The owner is a designer and rates are $32 single and $50 for two with private bath.

Another was on West 70th Street and the apartment hosts were described as curators at a nearby museum. They have a large room costing $44 for single or for two. Still another mentioned sleeping in Japanese bedrolls for $60 per day for two.

Folders and details are available from Urban Ventures Inc., 322 Central Park West, New York, N.Y. 10025; telephone: (212) MO 2-1234.

Copies of the city hotel weekend package directory can be obtained from the New York Convention & Visitors Bureau, Two Columbus Circle, New York, N.Y. 10019 or telephone: (212) 397-8200. All literature is free.