I am planning my 2 week trip through California and I was tempted to use Priceline.com and Hotwire to book my accommodation needs. The business model and how they work are not necessary the most transparent and easy to understand stuff. Both Hotwire and Priceline sell a variety of travel related products like air tickets, hotels, car rentals etc.
How Hotwire works is by showing you a few available hotels after you provide some details of your travel(i.e. Date of stay; where you want to stay and how many people will be needed a room). Hotwire then shows you their partner hotels in the area. You can see the description of the hotel, the amenities it has and an approximate location. What you cannot see if an exact name of the hotel. They do this so that with the low prices, people will still purchase hotels rooms that have not been sold. Hotwire will tell you the name of the hotel once you have paid for the booking. (Note: Hotwire does not do refunds. Once the hotel is booked, you had better be there to use your Hotwire booking. This is important!)
Because you cannot see the name of the hotel you are booking, this brings a lot of unease in most people because they want to be sure of the quality of the hotel. With that we provide our first tip.
1) How To Guess The Hotel Which You Might Be Booking
It is pretty likely that you can figure out which hotel you are booking if you go through the steps below.
Step 1: Look for the list of hotels on Better Bidding.com
For this example, I will use Los Angeles as an example. To access BetterBidding’s Hotwire list of hotels in California, just click here. BetterBidding’s list shows you by area the names and the amenities of the hotels in that area.
By comparing BetterBidding’s information and the description that Hotwire gives you after you filled in your travel details, this should allow you to pinpoint the name of the hotel to a 60% correct guess.
Step 2: Compare with TripAdvisor
Of course one is never satisfied since we are talking potentially a few hundred bucks here. So in our quest to make our guess close to 100%, Hotwire(Most of the time) also provides you a TripAdvisor rating and the number of reviews the hotel has.(Yippee!)
Now go to Tripadvisor.com and enter the hotel name that you have previously guessed. Hotwire will show an approximate number of reviews the hotel has. Just make sure the number of reviews on TripAdvisor and Hotwire matches up and you should have a 99.99% chance of getting the hotel. (I.e. Don’t ask me for a refund if this doesn’t work.)
2) Protection Is Unnecessary (Well…Not This Protection Anyway)
Hotwire has a new feature called Trip Protection. The protection protects your Non-Refundable booking against unexpected events such as medical emergencies, strikes, natural disasters and bad weather. From what I have seen, the approximate cost is about 10% of your booking. It is also highly unlikely that you will even use this protection. For its cost, you are better getting travel insurance from an insurance provider.
3) Get Starwood Preferred Guest For Free Upgrades
Starwood Preferred Guest is like a frequent flyer miles for hotels. Hotwire does not earn you points when you book a Starwood hotel through them but when you check in, sometimes the hotel will upgrade you for free if you tell them that you are a Starwood preferred guest. The membership is free so go ahead and register here.
4) Timing Is Everything
Hotwire changes their prices frequently. It has been reported that new users get a slightly better rate than returning users. ($10 at most) So if you are looking to book a hotel, clear your cookies from your web browser first before going to hotwires website.
Hotwire also has a useful chart to check when the hotels are the cheapest. In some months, hotels in an area will be 50% cheaper than their peak period.
In General, when booking a hotel, booking earlier is almost always cheaper.
5) Caveats About Hotwire
Hotwire is not the hotels’ website so they don’t really know and can’t control which room the hotel gives you when you check in. This is true even though they ask for how many people are coming with you; they do not confirm that the number of beds the hotel gives you on check in is appropriate. What they suggest you to do is that you call the hotel once you have made your reservation and quote your confirmation code, then give them your details of the number of beds required, whether you want a smoking or non smoking room and any other features you care about.
6) Pick Up The Phone And Call Directly
Compare prices on Hotwire, Tripadvisor.com, and the hotel’s website before booking. It has been reported that the hotels sometimes have promotions that make booking through the hotel itself cheaper. Also if you don’t book through hotwire, you can still cancel your reservation later on without a penalty.
Also Hotwire’s retail price is way off…so take that with a large pinch of sodium.
And if you have already made your purchase, you can ask for a refund within 24 hours of booking if you find a price that is cheaper online. You do have to screenshot and save this for proof.
7) Prices Are Higher Than Priceline
Hotwire prices are about 20-30% more expensive than Priceline. However for Priceline you have to spend time bidding for the hotel. Everytime you bid and do not receive a winning bid, you cannot rebid in 24 hours so you will need a few days to try to get the 20%-30% discount. This might mean that the hotel room might be sold while you are waiting to rebid. So if you are a patient man, go with Priceline.com(It’s fun too!)
8) Book Hotels With At Least 3.5 Stars
Hotwire gives you the most savings if you use it to book for hotels that are better than 3.5 starts. Anything lower than that and the savings become marginal and you are better booking through the hotel itself. Don’t expect Motel 6 pricing on Hotwire. Plus it is well know that Hotwire’s star rating is not entirely industry standard. Check the Tripadvisor rating and google the hotel after you have obtained the name from tip #1.
9) Check To See If The Hotel Double Charged You After You Leave The Hotel.
I am hoping this doesn’t happen to you but hotels can make mistakes. They might have missed that you already paid on Hotwire and they will still charge you again. Just make sure you look at your credit card statement. If this happens, call the hotel instead of hotwire. If that doens’t works then call Hotwire.
10) Check Out These 2 Sites
So there is the 10 tips I promised. I haven’t checked into my hotel yet so I will update you guys later on my experience. I just hope I do not get a “special room”