The hotel booking site, Hotwire.com, is one of my favorite sites to use when traveling. Among the deals I’ve received recently on Hotwire: InterContinental in Tampa, $99 over New Year’s Eve; Westin Jersey City, $129, at the end of January (neither price includes tax)
I like Hotwire better than Priceline because you don’t have to guess on what price to set. Even though the site is “opaque” – meaning that you commit to buying your room without knowing exactly what hotel it is – I find it easier to decipher what I’m getting with Hotwire. Plus you don’t have to go through the machinations of Priceline’s bidding process, which can take a while if your original offer is rejected.
Here are some tips if you want to use Hotwire for your next trip:
1. Figure out what hotel you are getting before you buy. It’s easier to do this on Hotwire than Priceline, because Hotwire offers more clues. Here’s how to do it: Look at the hotel’s amentiy list. That’s a group of icons that appear under the hotel’s location. Then open up another browser window to BetterBidding.com. That’s a forum where frequenty Priceline and Hotwire users post recent buys and lists of what the different hotels offer.
Let’s use my Tampa trip as an example. The hotel that I was considering had an airport shuttle service icon on Hotwire. BetterBidding told me that of the 4-star Tampa hotels listed on Hotwire, only the InterContinental had shuttle service. So I knew that I was going to end up there.
It may take a few extra minutes to do this, but if you are like me and you want to know where you are staying, it’s worth it.
2. Don’t forget tax. Both Priceline and Hotwire show prices without tax, which can easily add another $20-$30 to your per night rate. Factor this in to your budgeting.
3. Use it for car rentals too. I’ve found prices on Hotwire for as low as $15 a day. Hotwire’s car rental is more flexible than their hotel purchases, as they don’t charge you until you pick up the car. (In contract, hotel purchases are non-refundable and must be paid immediately).
4. Be realistic about the kind of hotel you are getting. Both Hotwire (and Priceline) specialize in getting rid of unused inventory – the rooms that hotels haven’t sold. These hotels are going to be the larger chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton that often appeal to business travelers (which is why weekend rates can be so low). If your goal is to stay at the hippest hotel in town, you will be unhappy with Hotwire. Five star properties such as the Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental are usually not listed either.
But if you are simply looking for a good deal on a city hotel that has basic four-star amenities, give Hotwire a try. My favorite Hotwire deal came last year when I was able to book my sister a room at the Wynn Las Vegas for $89. She was thrilled with both the hotel and the price
Looking to find the best deals and travel tips? Visit travel writer Chris Gray Faust’s website Chris Around The World: A Travel Journalist’s Tips from the Road.